Cumbria Wildlife Trust's survey of bogs in the Lake District confirmed that most have been damaged, prompting action to restore peatland. Almost all English peatlands have been damaged by drainage, heavy grazing, regular burning, cultivation, forestry or other management.
When peatland is damaged it is no longer waterlogged and the specialist plant species that make the peatland, such as Sphagnum mosses, cannot survive. Once these plant species are lost bare peat areas can form and the surface dries, crumbles and cracks; rapidly eroding during severe weather.
Restoring the balance of nature benefits people and wildlife, as peatland are hugely important in a number of different ways.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust has been restoring upland peatlands since 2001 and we have detailed some of the restoration projects we have carried out such as the one below. Links to further peatland restoration projects can be found at the bottom of the page.
Where: Bampton Common
Bampton Common is a 25.8 km2 common that sits above Haweswater Reservoir in the eastern Lake District. It ranges from 200 m to 802 m above sea level. There are large expanses of blanket bog on the flat tops of the common, with over 5.5 km2 having been identified.
Restoration area: 5.5 km2
Owner: United Utilities
Conservation status: RSPB Nature Reserve and water catchment providing drinking water for 2 million people in the north west of England. Common land.
Cost of restoration: £200,000 so far. Lots more to do.
The problem: Most of this blanket bog is in a degraded condition, with lots of large hags and gullies as well as areas of bare peat. There is historical evidence of peat cutting. Significant peat loss has already occurred due to erosion, with the peat being relatively dry and oxidising. In heavy rain the peat is being washed into the reservoir and becks below. There is an actively eroding hag and gully system across large areas, particularly around the source of the becks. The of livestock grazing has been reduced to allow recovery of the peat once restoration work has taken place.
What Cumbria Wildlife Trust did: Detailed surveys enabled us to accurately map all the erosion features on the common. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust flew a drone over the common to take detailed aerial photographs, and using this information we were able to produce a detailed restoration plan. This plan was used to secure government funding to address the peat erosion problem and to tender for the work with local contractors.
Using specialist excavators we re-profiled the steep eroding edges, covering them with turf taken from borrow pits nearby. Sediment traps within erosion gullies were created, allowing them to infill and stabilise. Larger bare areas were revegetated using heather brash, and seed and sediment traps to slow water where necessary.
In total we have revegetated 23,400 m2 of bare peat across the common and re-profiled 50 km of peat hags. In addition we undertook 20 km of peat bunding in order to help raise the water table and keep the peat wet.
Benefits: Peatland restoration at this site will help reduce the amount of peat particles reaching the reservoir below. This will improve the quality of the drinking water and reduce the need for expensive pre-treatment of the water. Keeping the peat wet and on the common will also reduce carbon emissions from the site by 843 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year as well as increasing the biodiversity of the site. Surveys by the RSPB have already seen an increase in birdlife using the newly-created pools.
Species benefitting: Snipe have already been recorded using the newly-created pools. Other species that will benefit include: heather, common cottongrass, hare’s-tail cottongrass, deergrass, cross-leaved heath, crowberry, bilberry, cowberry, cranberry, cloudberry, bog rosemary, bog asphodel, sundew, purple moor-grass, soft rush and sphagnum moss.
Carbon locked in: 843 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.