Summer may seem a long way off but for many people the memory of last year’s devastating moorland fires in Saddleworth is still very fresh. At Dove Stone, in the Peak District National Park, some of the affected area was on moorland managed by the RSPB in partnership with landowners United Utilities. After the fires, the teams had a lot of offers of support from local folk who hold this area close to their hearts and wanted to do something to help. While this was very welcome, at the time public safety made it difficult to accept offers of practical assistance.
The Text to Donate scheme is a way for people to show their love for this precious and vulnerable landscape by making a contribution to the work already being carried out to restore Dove Stone, and make it more resilient to future fire damage.
Blanket bog is one of the key habitats of the moorland, and it is globally important, with the UK having 10-15% of the world’s total. The very word ‘bog’ conjures up the image of a wonderful, wet, green area but this is far from current reality.
Despite their importance, the UK’s bogs have suffered over the last century for a variety of reasons: a combination of industrial pollution, managed moorland fires, wild fires, draining for farming and heavy grazing, has left them seriously damaged with large areas of exposed bare peat and a limited amount of vegetation and therefore wildlife.
Since 2005, United Utilities, the RSPB and Moors for the Future have been restoring the blanket bog at Dove Stone. This is helping to make these dry uplands wetter and greener, by establishing vegetation on large areas of bare peat, placing dams of heather bales in eroded gullies to slow water flow and planting sponge-like Sphagnum moss to kick-start the process of bog recovery.
Dave O’Hara, RSPB Site Manager at Dove Stone said:“Wetter and greener uplands are important for several reasons, not least because it is much harder to burn wet, green vegetation than bare peat, which can smoulder for months once fire has set in. In terms of last summer’s fire, there is evidence on the ground that wet gullies on the RSPB/United Utilities managed area, where peat-forming Sphagnum mosses have been re-introduced, played a role in slowing the spread and intensity of the fire.
“The importance of blanket bog habitat cannot be underestimated. It plays a vital role in storing carbon and improving water quality. Healthy bogs can tackle climate change by locking up harmful carbon in the peat and preventing its release into the atmosphere. Around the same amount of carbon is stored in this country’s bogs than in all of the UK, French and German forests put together.”
Healthy blanket bog is also incredibly important for water quality, acting as a natural filtration system into our reservoirs. The cleaner the quality of the water coming off the moor, the cheaper it is to treat and so saves money for customers. Improving the habitat at Dove Stone improves the water quality too.
Sphagnum moss is the building block of blanket bog. It is an incredible species that acts like a sponge and can hold up to 10 times its own weight in water. It is this ability to hold water that is the key to a healthy bog. As well as slowing down the flow of water into the reservoirs and therefore improving the quality of the water (as it contains less soil), and locking in harmful carbon, wet bog is known to have higher numbers of key insects like crane flies (daddy long-legs) that are an important food source for many of the special birds that breed on the moor.
This restoration work being carried out at Dove Stone by dedicated wardens and volunteers has already helped threatened moorland birds with the site recording a great rise in upland wading birds such as dunlins, golden plovers, curlews and red grouse.
Nonetheless, the damaged bogs of Dove Stone will remain vulnerable until they have fully recovered, and the recent fire posed a major threat to years of work already undertaken to restore the bog.
To support this ongoing work and become part of the huge effort to Restore the Moor please text MOSS01 followed by the amount you wish to donate to 70070.
Since last summer’s fires United Utilities and other partners including the Peak District Fire Operations Group have been working hard to prepare for 2019. United Utilities is buying some additional all-terrain vehicles and other firefighting equipment and water company staff and volunteers have been training with the Fire Service. Fire breaks have been cut into the moorland vegetation in key locations and emergency wildfire action plans have been developed.
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, alongside farming, forestry and sustainable moorland management, while protecting water quality and wildlife for future generations.
As part of this, a partnership of the RSPB, United Utilities, the Peak District National Park Authority, Life for a Life Memorial Forest and Oldham Council have confirmed they will again support car park marshalling as part of the successful approach led by the local police last year.
The partnership remind all visitors to Dove Stone that everyone can hugely help reduce the chances of fires by remembering to:
- Keep your eyes open for any signs of fire and report anything you see to the fire service. The quicker they are able to respond, the less damage occurs.
- Please do not have BBQs at Dove Stone. Whilst it is a beautiful place that people understandably like to visit to socialise with friends and family, BBQs are not permitted at the site due to their fire risk.
- Feel free to bring along a picnic, but please take your litter home with you. Glass in particular can cause fires to start in hot weather.
- Please do not discard cigarette butts on the ground – even the smallest spark can create a large fire, particularly in dry conditions