British Science Festival: Bringing the Uplands to the City

Posted: 15.09.11

What are uplands and why are they our local equivalent of a rainforest? On Thursday 15th September, scientists from the University of Leeds working with Pennine Prospects and other organisations will host a free event called “A Whole New World – On Your Doorstep” at the British Science Festival in Bradford to explain what uplands are and why they are important locally and nationally.

Uplands are areas of high or hilly country. Examples abound locally, including the South Pennines to the west of Bradford, the Peak District to the south and the Yorkshire Dales to the north. While they make up almost 80% of land in Scotland and Wales, uplands contribute 17% of England’s less mountainous ground cover.

Although not heavily populated, upland regions are important for livestock farming, and are now centres for tourism and leisure activities. It was a combination of sheep farming in the uplands combined with the large amounts of soft water running off this higher ground that fuelled the development of the wool industry in West Yorkshire and the growth of towns and cities like Bradford, Keighley, Halifax and Leeds.

While the textile industry may not be so dominant in the region today, the uplands around our cities and towns are no less important. They are valuable areas of biodiversity, home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, and also provide much of the water that we use in the region. In fact, the uplands across the UK provide about 70% of the nation’s drinking water.

As well as providing us with water, peat soils found in the uplands can help reduce the impact of climate change by storing carbon. Water-logged soils found in blanket bogs slow the decay of plant material, trapping carbon and preventing its release to the atmosphere. In fact, peat traps more carbon across the UK than all the trees and vegetation combined – they are our equivalent of the Amazonian rainforests!

The event on Thursday 15th September explores the importance of our local uplands for water provision and their potential to reduce the impacts of climate change. Scientists from the University of Leeds and speakers from other local organisations, including Pennine Prospects, will talk about their work in the uplands and there will be demonstrations to find out more about water, climate change and biodiversity in the countryside around Bradford.

On Saturday 17th September there will be an opportunity to join environmental charity Groundwork and accompany a University of Leeds scientist on a guided walk of an upland site at Ogden Water above Halifax to find out more about our countryside (contact Becky Houlding at Groundwork Leeds on 0113 238 0601 for more information).

For more information and to book free tickets for this event which takes place at 1pm-2:30pm on 15th September in the Richmond Building at the University of Bradford , please visit the British Science Festival website. or telephone 08456 807 207.

For more information about the University of Leeds or this event, please contact the University of Leeds Press Office. Tel 0113 343 4031, Email

Pennine Prospects was awarded just under £1.9million by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to bring the story of these uplands to life. The South Pennine Watershed Landscape project, funded under the HLF’s Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS), will support landscape restoration, access and heritage projects in the area but also work with schools and colleges in the towns and cities around the South Pennines.

The University of Leeds is actively involved in researching the upland environment, investigating its importance for water provision and climate change, and ensuring that we manage the upland environment sustainably for future generations.

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust