14 Feb 2008

Bingley South Bog

The Bradford district has four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

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South Pennine Moors - several huge areas, "part of the Southern Pennines lying between Ilkley in the north and the Peak District National Park boundary in the south. The majority of the site is within West Yorkshire but it also covers areas of Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire. The largest moorland blocks are Ilkley Moor, the Haworth Moors [both Bradford], Rishworth Moor and Moss Moor. [...] Extensive areas of blanket bog occur on the upland plateaux and are punctuated by species rich acidic flushes and mires. There are also wet and dry heaths and acid grasslands. Three habitat types which occur on the site are rare enough within Europe to be listed on Annex 1 of the EC habitats and Species Directive (92/43) EEC. [...] This mosaic of habitats supports a moorland breeding bird assemblage which, because of the range of species and number of breeding birds it contains, is of regional and national importance. The large numbers of breeding merlin , golden plover and twite are of international importance." Almost all of Bradford's share is assessed as 'Unfavourable', the causes being Air pollution, Inappropriate weed control, Overgrazing, Vehicles, Forestry and woodland management, Inappropriate stock-feeding, Drainage, Moor burning, and the disastrous Ilkley Moor fire of 2006. Besides all that, the ring ouzel is apparently dying out due to climate change. However, some areas are said to be recovering.

Trench Meadows at the bottom of Shipley Glen: "The meadows are of special interest for their neutral grassland, which occurs with smaller areas of acid grassland and rush pasture. [...] Unimproved speciesrich lowland grassland of this type is now a nationally rare habitat." But the site's state at the last assessment in 2003 was "Unfavourable declining": "The grazing tenants finished in November 2002 after 30 years therefore the site has not been grazed since then. New tenants will have to be found as soon as possible or the site will continue to deteriorate. "

Yeadon Brickworks And Railway Cutting - a geological site, shared with Leeds: "The rock exposures within this site provide a most important cross-section through shales and sandstones of the Namurian Series, originally formed about 350 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period of geological history. [...] This site has been proposed as the standard for one of the major subdivisions of the Carboniferous Period, named the Yeadonian Stage." Thankfully there's not much that can be done to wreck such a site, though the most recent assessment notes of the Leeds side: "An increasing amount of fly-tipping at base of slope including a burnt out car, ideally all of which should be removed." Lovely.

Which brings us to the star of tonight's exposition:

Bingley South Bog "This small mire occupies a peat-filled hollow in undulating ground between the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the River Aire, at Bingley, north of Bradford. Despite drainage and hydroseral succession, the surviving wetland provides a transition from fen to dam neutral grassland, maintained in a species-rich condition, probably by grazing." There are a profusion of relatively rare plants, including the marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris).

A new road, the A650 Bingley Relief Road, was built right across this site. There's no denying that a new road was desperately needed. It opened at the end of 2003, and won the 2004 Prime Minister's Award for Better Public Building. A special low level elevated section was built to cross the SSSI ("Particular features of the solution included: innovative jetty-style precast integral structure over Bingley South Bog SSSI", in Arup's PHB-speak. They also boast of "effective public relations and exhibitions dealing with sensitive ecology and environment in a busy, semi urban context".) A press release gloats: "South Bog Viaduct is an excellent example of what can be achieved in a design-and-build context, using innovative thinking throughout the team. The design, which had started life as a steel concept, was radically rethought, making extensive use of precast concrete to achieve an elegant, practical, and low-cost solution. Many aspects of the design were driven by environmental issues, which were difficult to reconcile. The triumph of this structure lay behind how these were overcome to result in a simple structural form that complements its surroundings and absolutely minimised any short- or long-term effects on the natural habitat."

So what happened next?

"04 Jan 2005 Destroyed The strip of land beneath the new road bridge is now devoid of vegetation therefore the habitats that were there previously have been destroyed."