The River Nethy, RSPB Abernethy nature reserve, August 1997

The RSPB in the uplands

The RSPB bought its first nature reserve in 1930. We now manage more than 200. Almost 60% of the land covered by our nature reservesis classified as ‘upland’.

Our upland reserves

Our upland nature reserves are special places for wildlife. They’re located right across the UK and include a variety of nationally and internationally protected sites. Some are National Nature Reserves, and some are inside National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

We bought our first major upland reserves at Geltsdale, Abernethy and Lake Vyrnwy more than 30 years ago, but we’re still working on new upland sites and partnerships today.

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. We work in partnership to manage the site for people, water and nature, with active farms running alongside thriving upland wildlife.

In the western Cairngorms at our Abernethy nature reserve, we have joined forces with private and public landowners to form Cairngorms Connect. This partnership aims to restore upland habitats and native woodlands, including native Caledonian pinewoods and montane scrub woodlands. At Forsinard in the Flow Country of Sutherland and Caithness, we are part of the wider Flows to the Future partnership, restoring the largest extent of peatland habitats in the UK for both wildlife and carbon storage at a truly landscape scale.

View across lake, RSPB Lake Vyrnwy nature reserve

Managing our upland reserves

We work alongside local communities to manage our nature reserves, and do so with the help and support of a wide range of individuals and businesses. These include landowners, farmers, crofters, gamekeepers, woodland managers, local contractors, volunteers and neighbours.

We manage our nature reserves to maintain, restore or create important habitats for wildlife, such as blanket bog, upland heath, native pinewood, and the ‘Celtic Rainforest’ or western Atlantic woodlands.

The UK holds an estimated 10-15% of the world’s blanket bog, with an amazing 320 square kilometres of this special habitat found on RSPB nature reserves.

Together with our partners, we are involved in major peatland restoration projects in Forsinard, Airds Moss, Geltsdale, Bowland, Dove Stone and Lake Vyrnwy.

Throughout our peatland estate, we have been blocking drains to restore hydrology and in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland, we have been removing inappropriate commercial 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


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 land and elsewhere. We have our own team of reserves ecologists, as well as the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, who support this work.

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, carrying out research to help us better understand why a species might be declining, and identifying management solutions to reverse declines.

A number of upland species including black grouse, curlew, lapwing, ring ouzel, whinchat and twite, are the focus of conservation work across the UK. We also undertake research on priority habitats to learn how these respond to a range of land management, 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 advice we give on land management (eg agri-environment schemes), habitat restoration and species-recovery work.