Ourea Events races are located in Britain’s most striking upland areas that typically contain features of outstanding biodiversity conservation value and importance. Occasionally, the features that provide this interest can be vulnerable to the wear and tear that may result from the passage of event participants. The risk of ecological damage is carefully assessed during early stages in the planning process for each event, when every effort is made to avoid sensitive ecological interest areas that could be disturbed by the event.
We are keen to encourage personal route selection choices by participants on our events to further avoid the risk of local ecological disturbance. This Ecological Briefing Note has been prepared for the 2017 SILVA GL3D event to identify key ecological interest features that contribute to the special character of the event area, with route selection comments to help minimise the risk of localised ecological disturbance.
A 2016 Silva GL3D runner ©iancorless.com
The 2017 SILVA GL3D event area is located within the southern and central fells region of the Lake District National Park, mainly comprising hard, acidic rocks of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group of strata. The character of the event area landscape is strongly influenced by glacial action, creating a variety of distinctive ice scoured valley systems with glacial moraine deposits on lower slopes and ice-shattered ridges and boulder fields on the highest mountains. A legacy of copper mining has resulted in the creation of several distinctive post-industrial mining sites that are of geological and earth science importance.
A variety of distinctive upland wildlife habitats and vegetation types are present within the 2017 SILVA GL3D event area. These include 21 areas of National nature conservation importance and four areas of International nature conservation importance. Competitors may need to cross some of these areas, potentially passing through various types of special upland habitat. In addition to areas of special interest recognized by formal designations, the event area is also characterised by extensive tracts of notable upland vegetation and wildlife habitat. These areas also include locations that are potentially vulnerable to disturbance from trampling by Ourea event participants.
Careful route planning will help! ©iancorless.com
It is possible to complete most of the 2017 SILVA GL3D courses by following existing paths and tracks, helping to avoid the risk of damaging undisturbed hill vegetation. However, in the event that participants choose to leave hill paths and tracks the following considerations will help to ensure that the risk of habitat, vegetation and wildlife disturbance is minimised.
- Dry acid grassland is a widespread vegetation type within the event area, where centuries of livestock grazing has converted heather moorland to open grassland. These areas provide a relatively robust vegetation type that can generally withstand the trampling effects of fell running.
- Extensive areas of dry acid grassland can include mosaics of other upland vegetation types such as blanket bog, heather-dominated heath vegetation and wet acid grassland creating areas of local vulnerability to a concentration of trampling by participants.
- Blanket bog is a localised but important feature within the event area. Some of these areas comprise patches of degraded blanket bog where bog vegetation has been lost and peat erosion gullies (peat hags) have formed where the underlying peat is being eroded.
- Disturbance of blanket bog by runners churning through peat hags has the potential to trigger further peat erosion by de-stabilising the peat surface. Wherever possible, these areas should be crossed using existing hill paths. If crossing blanket bog vegetation is unavoidable, route choices in these areas should try to link strips and patches of surviving moorland vegetation between peat hags. These are often quite well-drained, providing areas of relatively robust vegetation and resistant to the trampling effects of running.
- In contrast to areas of degraded blanket bog, some locations on plateau landforms within the event area contain patches of high quality blanket bog and deep wet peat with an intact vegetation surface that lack eroding peat hags. These are typified by areas of wet heath vegetation interspersed with shallow pools, often associated with Sphagnum mosses. As with areas of degraded, eroding blanket peat, these areas should be crossed using existing hill paths wherever possible. Intact blanket bog areas typically comprise a mosaic of vegetation types that will include slightly raised areas of better drained peat with drier heather moorland vegetation. These will be far less vulnerable to disturbance through vegetation damage by trampling and should ideally be selected when making route choices for running through these intact blanket bog areas.
Off-piste at the 2016 SILVA GL3D ©iancorless.com
- Areas of wet acid grassland will be encountered where impeded drainage occurs within relatively level hill grassland areas or where groundwater emerges at the surface as seepages across more steeply sloping ground. Wet acid grassland can be of special nature conservation interest, in particular where groundwater seepages provide conditions for communities of specialised mosses, liverworts and other plants. These vegetation types can be vulnerable to persistent disturbance effects of trampling and should ideally be avoided wherever possible by selecting routes that keep to dry acid grassland to by-pass wet grassland patches.
- Wet acid grassland at groundwater seepages on steep ground can be difficult to avoid where they cross valuable contouring lines. Avoidance of these areas could involve a significant route change and deviation from the desired contour level. Despite this, it would be ideal if damage to seepage zone vegetation could be minimised, often located within shallow gullies, re-entrant features or associated with ground level rock outcrops that cross steep slopes.
- On fellsides, soil movements within dry and wet acid grassland areas can develop well-defined micro-terrace systems, often referred to as sheep walks. These typically follow contours and can provide extremely useful running lines. Grassland vegetation at the edge of these micro-terraces is often friable and easily broken off. Care should be taken when using these features for contouring to avoid running on the edge of these terraces to minimise grassland damage.
- Distinctive semi-natural woodland of very high conservation interest is present at several locations within the event area, including broadleaved woodland within steep-sloping ravine landforms associated with upland streams and rivers. Many of the broadleaved woodlands are of great importance for the mosses and liverworts that grow on tree trunks and boulders on the woodland floor. The microclimate of ravine woodlands often maintains vegetation comprising highly specialised mosses, liverworts and other plants that are restricted to cool, damp and shaded woodland conditions.
- The woodland moss and liverwort communities are fragile features that could be easily disturbed by SILVA GL3D participants. When routes require participants to cross woodland sites it is important that existing paths are used. Routes that negotiate steep-sided, wooded ravines should be avoided.
- A variety of boulder field and scree habitats are present within the event area that are potentially vulnerable to disturbance. Boulder fields on the highest mountain tops within the event area include some locations that contain patches of montane scrub vegetation of extremely high nature conservation value. Wherever possible existing paths through these areas should be used to minimise disturbance of these communities. Blocky scree often supports specialised plant communities that utilise the microclimate of sheltered spaces within the scree. Routes that cross these features should use existing paths where possible and should always minimise disturbance of scree blocks.
- Specialised rock ledge plant communities are present on outcrops at a number of locations within the event area. If participants need to negotiate low rock outcrops great care should be taken to minimise disturbance of ledge vegetation.
- The event area includes several lakes and hill tarns that are generally of considerable nature conservation interest. Often this interest is associated with specialised vegetation areas that develop at the margins of both large lakes and smaller hill tarns. There is no need for participants to enter any water body within the event area, and all lake and tarn margins should also be avoided.
- The event area contains a complex network of streams and rivers, some of which are potentially vulnerable to ecological disturbance from repeated crossing by runners. Some of the watercourses have the potential to provide habitat for animal species of special nature conservation value such as otter and water vole. In many cases, the nature conservation interest of these rivers and streams concerns use of the banksides by these and other animals. As a consequence, great care should be taken by participants at stream crossings, minimising bank disturbance when entering and climbing out of stream channels.