Forestry and Amenity
Thie Slieau Whallian
Isle of Man
+44 1624 695701
The Forestry, Amenity and Lands Directorate manages 19,000 Acres (7,700 Ha) of hill lands. These are located in 2 main blocks, the northern hills surround Snaefell (2,036 feet) and extend as far south as Greeba Mountain which overlooks the Central Valley, and the southern block which runs through Glen Rushen to South Barrule and the coastal hills of Cronk-ny-Arrey Laa and Surby.
All of this hill land is open to public ramblage on foot and is marked as such on the Isle of Man Public Rights of Way and Outdoor Leisure Map obtainable from local bookshops. Please also see Recreational Use. The uplands are managed for hill-sheep grazing, to encourage the small population of red grouse and to conserve the valuable wildlife habitats and outstanding natural beauty which they provide.
Mountain hares can be seen on the northern hills and are a spectacular sight in winter when their coats turn white. Also often spotted are Hen Harrier and, nearer coastal areas, Chough.
Management of hill lands
The natural process of regeneration of heathland plants is achieved through appropriate mechanical cutting or bush-hogging, appropriate grazing, and also by heath burning which is undertaken through the winter months and which is controlled by the Heath Burning Act 2003. It is acknowledged that the Manx uplands are of high conservation value, having heath which is widely regarded as internationally significant in Western Europe.
Appropriate management helps to create sustainable food sources for livestock and game and provides diverse and suitable habitats for wildlife.
The Heath Burning Code provides advice and best practice in regard to heathland vegetation management. This Code is supported by the Department's Countryside Care Scheme.
The Department's hill lands are let to tenant farmers for sheep grazing through 18 separate tenancies which support a stock of around 8,000 hill sheep. In addition, shooting rights are held by individuals who operate shooting syndicates.
Grazing tenancies occasionally become available for let at which point it is usual for new tenants to purchase the existing hill flock from the previous tenant. This is because of the sheep's in-built ability to stay in the vicinity of the same hill. This homing instinct is called 'hefting' and would present problems in trying to remove stock to a new area or introduce sheep to a hill with which they were not familiar.