Williamston Estate is located south of the River Tyne in Northumberland and is 432 hectares in extent. It comprises approximately 310 hectares of moorland, 86 hectares of rough grazing, 16 hectares of unimproved pasture and 20 hectares of native broadleaved and conifer woodland. The 310 hectares of moorland is designated as part of the Whitfield Moor, Plenmeller and Ashholme Common SSSI, as it supports an extensive area of blanket bog, dry heath and a diverse upland breeding bird assemblage. The land is also designated as part of the North Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area, that recognises the importance and quality of these habitats and species.
Natural England has worked with the landowner for over 14 years and in 2016 / 2017 they worked together to agree and develop a vision and long term plan for the SSSI. The owner has always embraced ideas of tree planting for black grouse, erecting exclosures to tackle erosion issues, grip blocking to restore the hydrology of the blanket bog, managing the hill flock sustainably to recover the condition of the dry heath and blanket bog vegetation. The plan effectively builds on the positive conservation work that has been undertaken over the past 14 years (funded through various agri-environment schemes). The main focus of the long term plan is to restore the condition of the blanket bog. The plan will be trialling new techniques of sphagnum propagation and cutting to remove the dense heather canopy that occurs on the blanket bog. This is very much a working document with the plan being regularly reviewed and the new forms of management being monitored to gather much needed evidence. If the techniques are proving unsuccessful, the plan is flexible to change direction and trial new techniques or approaches when evidence or research becomes available