While most British moors are high ground, wild, often rocky, unable to be
cultivated, and where only heather and other scrub can grow, there are a
few moors which are simply large open areas. In NE England, in the city of
Newcastle upon Tyne, 'The Town Moor' is a large, flat, open area, not far
from the city centre itself. It is now used for recreational purposes, but
presumably, at one time, may have been out-of-town heathland
which, I suppose, is just a moor, but less rugged and remote.
This is common in northern England. I live in an area of Leeds called Moor
Allerton, next to another suburb called Moortown, both being land reclaimed
from moorland on the northern outskirts of the city. In the case of
Moortown, reclamation was as recent as the mid-1920s. Many other cities in
the north and far west of the UK have suburbs named "Moor XXX" or "XXXmoor",
for the same reason.
Britain has various types of waste land:-
Moor: usually (but not always) found at an elevation of between 400m and
2000 m above sea level, usually in gently rolling hills. A very acidic soil
makes the land useless for agriculture (unless modified by drainage etc). A
good view of this type of terrain can be obtained from the 1937 (??) film
"Wuthering Heights". The soil is peat, in places dry, while in other places
boggy. The predominant vegetation is heather. Large expanses of moorland are
found in Exmoor and Dartmoor (SW England), in Wales, in Derbyshire (N
midlands of England), Yorkshire, Northumberland/Cumbria, and in Scotland.
Ireland also has a sizeable area of moorland. The M62 motorway between Leeds
and Manchester crosses a large area of moorland as it crosses the Pennine
There is a small area of moorland in Brittany (NW France) which reminds me
very strongly of Exmoor.
Heath: usually (but not always) an area of land which is of very poor
quality for agriculture, often because the soil is either too sandy or too
lacking in depth. Usually drier soil than is found in a moor, especially if
the heath is caused by a sandy soil. The predominant vegetation is low
scrub, gorse and heather. Heaths are dwindling in number, because of
reclamation. A few remaining examples are found in Dorset, south Devon, and
the Breckland of Norfolk. I have walked on Luneburg Heath (where Doenitz
surrendered on behalf of the Reich in 1945) in northern Germany, which
seemed (to me) to be intermediate between a British heath and a moor.
Some of the films (circa 1980) of Thomas Hardy novels show scenes of
Downs: where agriculture is limited (but not necessarily impossible) due to
a poor depth of soil and a substrate of chalk. These are usually vast areas
of relatively dry grassland on rolling hills, and support sheep farming. The
best example is in the South Downs, which are in Sussex and Hampshire
(southern England). Not quite the same as a Prairie, but the nearest
equivalent that we have. The South Downs, a beautiful area of Britain, have
recently been awarded the status of National Park.
Marsh, Fen, Swamp and Bog: These are all areas of land where agriculture is
impossible because of excessive ground water. Few examples remain in
Britain, but the little that we still have is now mostly nature reserve or
forgotten land in the remotest parts of the Pennine Hills. Ireland still
possesses a considerable area of bogland. A bog is like a moor, but with the
soil universally wet and dotted with ponds, instead of merely wet in
Richard Chambers Leeds UK.