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Moorland restoration cleared for take off

Last modified: 30 October 2013

Helicopter

Image: Jon Bird

Seven hundred tonnes of crushed stone are being helicoptered over to moorland in the Peak District to help restore damaged peatland.

The project is the brainchild of water company United Utilities and nature conservation charity the RSPB, who are blocking up gullies – channels formed by water - in two upland areas of blanket bog at Dove Stone. It is a complicated operation that involves manoeuvring the helicopter above the gulley and dropping stone directly on to it.

The UK and Ireland is home to a significant proportion of the world’s blanket bog, as the cold and wet climate is ideal for the formation of peat. However, like many of the UK’s bogs, the ones in the South Pennines and Peak District have been damaged by past industrial air pollution with the peat-building sphagnum mosses having almost completely died out.

Blocking the gullies will help the blanket bog recover by making the land wetter and also slow the flow of water, limiting further erosion of peat soils. Each of the planned 900 stone gully blocks will hold water back, allowing peat to be re-deposited, vegetation to re-grow and begin the process raising the water table.

Jon Bird, warden at Dove Stone, is managing the project. He said: “Restoring blanket bog is a vital part of our conservation work at Dove Stone because it provides so many benefits for both people and wildlife. In good condition, the habitat provides a home for wading birds such as golden plover and dunlin, and special plants such as the insect-eating sundew. A healthy blanket bog also locks up carbon, a gas contributing to climate change, and can help improve raw water quality.”

Ed Lawrance, wildlife warden with landowner United Utilities, added: “The moors above Dove Stone have the highest environmental protection status possible in Europe – so as a landowner we have quite a responsibility to protect them. More than 120,000 people in Tameside and Saddleworth get water from Dove Stone and by improving the quality of the raw water running off the moors into the reservoir we can control our water treatment costs – it’s a long term view that will benefit our bill payers as well as the environment – it’s a win for everyone.”   

The gulley blocking project at Dove Stone is taking place within the Dark Peak Nature Improvement Area, and is funded by Natural England, United Utilities and SITA.

David Kingsley-Rowe, land management adviser at Natural England, said: “We’re delighted to support another piece of the peatland restoration jigsaw being put into place on these internationally important moorland habitats. Bringing these bogs back to life has a great range of benefits: for the peat itself, for the vegetation that grows here and for the wildlife that lives here.”

Dove Stone reservoir is owned by United Utilities and the water company works in partnership with the RSPB, who manage the estate.  The partnership aims to encourage public access and recreation, while protecting water quality and wildlife for future generations.

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