Through its Peatland Programme, the North Pennines AONB Partnership has blocked over 1000km of moorland drains or grips since 2006. At an estimated cost of one million pounds, this is restoring over 9,000 hectares of blanket bog habitat.
Since 2006 over 200,000 peat dams have been installed to block 1,600 kilometres of moorland drains or ‘grips’. We work with local contractors who use specially modified excavators to carry out this work on these sensitive habitats.
Once blocked, the ditches fill with water and begin to re-vegetate, slowly restoring to moorland vegetation rich in the Sphagnum moss and Cotton-grass that peat is made from.
We estimate that 65% of these drains in the North Pennines have now been blocked or assessed as ‘naturally regenerating’. Much of this restoration has been carried out in the last six years, driven by Higher Level Scheme agreements developed by land managers in partnership with Natural England. Additional work has been completed using funds raised by the AONB Partnership.
Bare and eroding peat
20 km2 of our high blanket bogs are suffering from extensive erosion, leaving exposed bare peat. These damaged bogs often need intervention to help vegetation recolonise the bare peat. Restoration of these areas will return them to active blanket bogs, storing carbon, improving water quality and supporting peatland biodiversity. Learning from restoration techniques developed in the Peak District and other parts of England,our own bare peat restoration programme is now underway.
We started bare peat restoration in 2010 at a seven hectare site near Allendale. We have now developed a five step process to bare peat restoration in the North Pennines having researched other peatland projects from Europe and Canada. We have adapted our techniques to best compliment the colder, wetter climate in the North Pennines.
North Pennines Five Steps to Restoration
- Fence – A fence can be used to exclude factors that limit the recovery of vegetation on bare peat sites. This includes grazing, both from livestock and non-domestic animals such as rabbits, burning and vehicle traffic. Fences are temporary, with the view to removing it after 10 years or when the restoration is complete.
- Hydrology – Techniques are used to prevent running water causing further or new erosion within the site. These can include stone dams, coir rolls, heather bales and peat dams.
- Slopes – Steep hagg edges can be re-profiled to speed up colonisation from the base. Access within peat haggs can limit the amount of re-profiling that can be done.
- Heather brash – All of the bare peat is covered with heather brash. This prevents frost heave, the subsequent drying and erosion and the wind and also provides seed and bryophytes that can grow from the brash.
- Re-vegetation techniques – To encourage and speed up re-vegetation of bare peat. These can include adding small amounts of lime, fertiliser and moorland seed, plug plants and actively planting Sphagnum moss in amongst the brash.
So far we have started to restore 320ha of bare peat with the aim of restoring over 580ha over the next five years, subject to funding.
Across the world peatland restoration programmes are growing as governments recognise the importance of peatlands. Examples of these international projects, supported by organisations like Wetlands International can be seen here.
Watch this video to learn more about the process of peatland restoration.