The RSPB and United Utilities have won a major European nature conservation award in recognition of their ongoing habitat restoration work at Dove Stone.
Their project, entitled "Demonstrating success in blanket bog restoration" beat off stiff competition from as far afield as Estonia and Andalucia to win this year's Natura 2000 Award in the conservation category, which was presented at a ceremony in Brussels earlier this week (Monday 23 May).
Now in its third year, the Natura 2000 Award was established to recognise excellence in the management of its network of protected sites across the European Union (see note 1).
Blanket bog is a globally scarce habitat, which plays an important role in storing carbon, improving water quality and giving wildlife a home.
The upland areas of the Peak District used to boast thriving blanket bogs but a combination of industrial pollution, moorland fires and heavy grazing, left them seriously damaged with large areas of exposed bare peat.
Since 2010, the RSPB and United Utilities have been restoring blanket bog at Dove Stone in partnership with tenant farmers. This has involved planting vegetation on large areas of bare peat, repairing eroded gullies and sowing sphagnum moss, the building block of blanket bog.
This restoration work has already helped threatened moorland birds with Dove Stone recording a rise in dunlins, golden plovers, curlews and red grouse.
As the bogs gradually recover they will eventually help tackle climate change by locking up harmful carbon and improve water quality by acting as a natural filtration system.
Dave O'Hara, Site Manager at Dove Stone, said: "We are delighted to have won the Natura 2000 Award for conservation and would like to say a big thanks to all our dedicated volunteers who have played a massive role in making this habitat restoration work a success. Although this is an international award, this is a very local project, which has depended on the dedication of local people who have braved the elements week in, week out to help start to return this part of the Peak District to its former glory."
Ed Lawrance, Wildlife Warden at United Utilities, said: "It's wonderful that the project has been recognised in this way. I think the judges were genuinely impressed at the success of the partnership and the commitment of all those involved. Not only that, we've demonstrated what can be achieved thanks to all our volunteers and this success could be used as a template and replicated around the world."
- 1 The Natura 2000 network covers more than 27,000 sites across Europe. It preserves and enhances the continent's biodiversity, safeguarding it for future generations, and it provides a range of important benefits, helping nature to help us.
- 2. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again www.rspb.org.uk
- 3 Dove Stone: Dove Stone sits within the Peak District National Park. The site is owned by United Utilities and managed by them in partnership with the RSPB. It is easily accessible by road and close to Oldham, Huddersfield and Manchester.
With its breathtaking landscape of dramatic hills, sheer rock faces, swathes of open moorland, flower meadows and picturesque woods and reservoirs, the site provides an amazing home for nature. It is also a fantastic place to come to walk, run, play or just relax and watch the birds and other wildlife that live here.
There are lots of natural areas for families and children to play and explore but no formal facilities. There are regular family activities at weekends and a programme of guided walks.
Dove Stone is open at all times. Entry is free but there is a charge for car parking (free to RSPB members displaying their membership card in the windscreen). There is no visitor centre, but there are toilets, including disabled toilets in both the main car park and at Binn Green.
Dogs are welcome but please keep them on a lead or under close control, as most of the reserve comprises working sheep farms.
For more information please visit our website www.rspb.org.uk/dovestone