A conservation programme to restore vital peatlands in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) celebrated a record-breaking year in 2018 to 2019.
The North Pennines AONB Partnership broke restoration records last year, restoring over 2250 hectares of peatland across the AONB in County Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria. Healthy peatlands are the largest natural carbon store, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change, while eroding or damaged peat emits carbon into the atmosphere.
This has been the busiest year for the North Pennines AONB Partnership since restoration projects began in 2006. The Partnership is currently leading an £8 million project with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership, Pennine PeatLIFE, which delivers restoration across the Pennine chain and is funded by the EU LIFE Programme, Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Northumbrian Water. Additional funding has come from Defra and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
The restoration of 2250 hectares of North Pennines blanket bog has included:
- 8000 bags of brash cut, airlifted and spread over the land by hand;
- 1800 tonnes of stone have been used to construct leaky dams;
- 3400 sediment traps have been built using 2000 coir rolls;
- 21km of eroding hags or gullies have been re-profiled;
- 100km of grips or moorland drains blocked to restore the hydrology of the blanket bog; and
- 120,000 plug plants of sphagnum and cotton grass have been planted.
The health of our peatlands is becoming a more important environmental issue. Members of the North Pennines AONB Partnership team and other representatives of the UK’s peatland community were in Westminster in April to highlight how this work benefits the UK in terms of carbon sequestration and storage.
Other environmental benefits include filtering our drinking water, helping to mitigate flooding downstream and providing important habitats for wading birds, birds of prey and essential invertebrates.
Paul Leadbitter, Peatland Programme Manager for the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “Peatlands are our rainforests, and the work we are doing here is vitally important for the climate, locking in carbon from the atmosphere and preventing damaged areas from contributing to further carbon emissions. Our continuing programme of work to restore these ecosystems has direct benefits way beyond the uplands, in towns and cities across the country. This is recognised by our funders, from both the public and private sector.”
AONB Partnership Field Officer, Alistair Lockett said: “During the winter, with the waders gone and the sheep off of the moor, the bogs in the North Pennines may appear deserted. However there’s a lot of work going on right across the AONB, with contractors and staff working to bring areas of blanket bog back to health before the wading birds return in the Spring. We’re looking forward to another busy restoration season this year.”