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Biodiversity - Heathland

Gorse and birch Eston Moor, despite its elevated situation, comprises 108 hectares of lowland heath (the highest point being Eston Nab at 242m above sea level). This triangle of land is a mosaic of wet and dry dwarf shrub communities, patches of silver birch woodland, gorse and birch scrub, wetlands and acid grassland. It is this range of habitats that make the site so valuable for wildlife. Most lowland heath is found in the south of England, making this example particularly unusual. The UK has around 20% of the international total of this habitat, but only 17% of that present in England in 1800 still remains.

As with other such areas, Eston Moor is on sandy soil, which makes life difficult for the resident flora, since drought is a constant problem. The dominant vegetation - heather, gorse, broom and silver birch is adapted to cope with such conditions, by and large through having resinous foliage.

Among the many species found on Eston Moor are found roe deer, brown hare, common lizard, frogs, toads and newts, a wide range of invertebrates and many different birds from raptors like tawny owls and kestrels to the diminutive gold crest.

Origins & archaeology

After the last Ice Age (~10 000 BC) the climate warmed up, woodland developed and large, slow moving mammals declined. Human populations were increasing and they needed a reliable source of food all year round. Thus, the hunter-gatherer tribes began to practice agriculture.

From the late Stone Age, forests were cleared to prepare the land for cultivation; light sandy soils were favoured, as they were easiest to work. Farming provided regular food and encouraged people to settle in one place. By 1500 BC, the climate had improved to the point where uplands could be occupied and by 1400BC, farming was well established on Eston Moor. Livestock and cereals were farmed here for over a thousand years.

By the 5th century BC, however, the land was exhausted and people moved down to the Tees Valley, where the clay soils yielded better results. This trend was repeated across the country. Upland areas were given over to grazing and the light, free-draining acid soils were colonised by grasses and dwarf shrubs: heathland. Many were never cultivated again, the result being the preservation of ancient field systems, barrows and hillforts across the country, including Eston Moor.

Uses & management

On 1st May 2006, Eston Moor became the first site in Redcar & Cleveland to be entered into DEFRAs Higher Level Stewardship scheme. Under the terms of the agreement, the site is managed to preserve and enhance its mosaic of habitats, and thus maximise its potential to support a wide range of resident wildlife. The archaeological remains are also maintained in their current condition, to enable them to be studied and appreciated by visitors. To learn more about this site, follow the link below.


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Biodiversity - Woodland
Biodiversity - Farmland