The River Nethy, RSPB Abernethy nature reserve, August 1997

The RSPB in the uplands

The RSPB acquired its first nature reserve in 1931. We now manage more than 200 nature reserves extending to more than 1,510 square kilometres. Almost 60% of our reserve area is upland.

Our upland reserves

We acquired our first major upland landholdings at Geltsdale (Cumbria), Abernethy (Highland) and Lake Vyrnwy (Powys) more than 30 years ago.

In February 2011, the RSPB joined forces with The National Trust to jointly manage Eastern Moors in the Peak District on behalf of the Eastern Moors Partnership. Eastern Moors is owned by the Peak District National Park Authority and is a major gateway to the fabulous Peak District National Park. 

More recently, the RSPB has entered into an agreement with United Utilities to manage a large area of land at Haweswater in the English Lake District to secure joint objectives. Our management will include grazing the management with an in-hand flock and rights to graze common land.

Our upland reserves are special places for wildlife and comprise a variety of nationally and internationally protected sites. Some of our key reserves are National Nature Reserves and are also inside National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

View across lake, RSPB Lake Vyrnwy nature reserve

Managing our upland reserves

Our nature reserves are managed with the help and support of a wide range of interests. These include landowners, farmers, crofters, gamekeepers, woodland managers, local contractors, volunteers, neighbours and a range of statutory interests.

We manage our nature reserves to maintain, restore or create important habitats for wildlife such as blanket bog, upland heath, native pinewood and upland oakwood.

The UK holds an estimated 10-15% of the global resource of blanket bog with an amazing 320 square kilometres of blanket bog found on RSPB nature reserves. 

Together with our partners, we are involved in major peatland restoration projects in Forsinard (Highland), Geltsdale, Bowland (Lancashire), Dove Stone (Peak District) and Lake Vyrnwy.

Throughout our peatland estate, we have been blocking drains to restore hydrology and in the flow country, we have been removing inappropriate forestry both to restore the underlying peatland and to remove forest edge effects on adjacent habitats and birds. 

Dove Stone RSPB reserve, view across the reservoir and surrounding hills


A new beginning for Scotland’s majestic Flow Country. PDF, 3.2Mb.

Bringing life back to the bogs

The importance of the uplands for moorland birds, improving water quality, and achievements. PDF, 451Kb.

Restoring bogs for water quality and wildlife: The positive effects on moorland birds

Ecological research and monitoring

The RSPB has a long-history of conducting applied ecological research in the uplands both on our own estate and elsewhere.

Our research, often carried out in partnership with others, provides the foundation for much of the practical conservation work we undertake and is also at the heart of how we develop policy.

Much of our work in the uplands is aimed at monitoring breeding bird numbers and carrying out ecological research to help us better understand why a species might be declining and to identify management solutions to reverse declines. 

A number of upland birds including black grouse, curlew, lapwing, ring ouzel and twite are the focus of species recovery work across the UK. We also undertake research on priority habitats to learn how habitats respond to a range of management interventions such as grazing, re-wetting, the removal of trees from bogs, tree planting and the impact of the construction and operation of windfarms on birds.

Our research informs the development of our policies and advocacy and shapes the land management advice we give to land managers on land management (eg agri-environment schemes), habitat restoration and species recovery work.