As spring arrives, the National Trust in Marsden is asking dog owners and walkers to keep to the paths and ensure dogs are on a short lead until July 31 for the sake of moorland birds.

The moors around Marsden provide the perfect breeding ground for some of the nation’s rarer birds such as golden plovers, curlews and merlins.

These three and others build their nests on the ground rather than in trees, making them extremely vulnerable to damage.

Although their nests are cleverly camouflaged so as not to attract the attention of predators, this also means that people can be unaware of the impact they may have on these birds.

Dog owners may think their animals are under close control but dogs may run through a nest without their owner’s knowledge.

Just the presence of dogs off-lead is enough to scare birds away and prevent them from nesting, or cause them stress that leads to them wasting vital energy by frequently flying out the way, failing to lay eggs or even abandoning their chicks.

It is a legal requirement to keep dogs on leads on open access land from March-July, regardless of the presence of livestock.

To protect the birds, the National Trust Rangers have been patrolling the moor, and engaging with members of the public. They can lend National Trust leads to those who have forgotten to bring one, or you can borrow one from the National Trust’s offices in the Old Goods Yard, Marsden.

Dog owners can learn more about how to help protect local wildlife by attending one of the Trust’s Doggy Ranger walks (treats included!) The next one is on Saturday May 11.

Professional dog walkers that use the moor need a licence to use National Trust land for commercial purposes. If this applies to you, get in touch with the team at

Kate Divey-Matthews, resilient landscapes officer for the National Trust, said: “We love dogs at Marsden Moor and they are welcome to walk here but please keep them on a short lead in the spring and summer.

“The National Trust has a duty to protect the wildlife on its land, which is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its breeding birds and blanket bog habitat, and breeding success is critically dependent on not being disturbed.

“Reservoirs across Marsden Moor such as Redbrook are popular with people whose dogs love a swim but many birds nest around the water’s edge. There are also livestock on the moor at this time of year which can be scared or injured by dogs off leads.

“Dogs can still have a beneficial, stimulating walk while remaining on a lead. Exercise requirements vary but a shorter walk that involves lots of sniffing ca1 Comment in moderationn be even more tiring than running a longer distance.”

Image: A Golden Plover chick ©National Trust Images/Douglas Holden