Restoring active blanket bog in the Berwyn and Migneint Special Areas of Conservation in Wales

Blanket bog is an important habitat across the globe. Under the EU Habitats Directive, blanket bog is a priority habitat. This is due to blanket bog being an important habitat in itself, its associated species, for carbon storage and capture and for water quality and lowland flooding.

View across pasture to heather moorland


The Berwyn and South Clwyd Mountains and Migneint-Arenig-Dduallt SACs contain the two largest areas of blanket bog in Wales. Some of the highest quality active blanket bog across Wales is found within these mountains.

However, large parts of both SACs are seriously damaged because of past anthropogenic activities (eg afforestation, drainage) and by ongoing management practices (eg grazing, burning). The greatest threats to the blanket bog in these areas are the extensive networks of drains and forestry plantations within or adjacent to the SAC boundaries. The management activities affect the water table and natural vegetation leading to increased erosion.
Identifying this as a significant threat to the nature reserve at Lake Vyrnwy, the RSPB facilitated initial meetings and attracted match funding. This project has enabled the project partners to work towards EU Habitats Directive, UK BAP and Welsh Assembly Government Environment Strategy for Wales targets for blanket bog condition.
In addition to improving biodiversity, blanket bog restoration provides a large number of extra services. These include improving water quality, reducing run-off rates which may impact on lowland flooding, farming, carbon storage and sequestration, education and recreation.


  • 14 square kilometres of blanket bog within the Berwyn SAC will show clear improvements in condition following drain blocking.
  • Two square kilometres of blanket bog in the Migneint Sac will show clear improvements on condition following tree removal.
  • 29 square kilometres of blanket bog within the Berwyn SAC will be protected from invasion by rhododendron and Sitka spruce.
  • 14 square kilometres of blanket bog within the Berwyn SAC will be protected from fire.
  • Half a square kilometre of pure and mosaic blanket bog within the Migneint SAC will recover to and remain in good condition after being taken into conservation ownership.
  • Considerable advisory work will take place with farmers and landowners within the project area.

Key Dates

  • Drain blocking at Lake Vyrnwy - 109,243m (target 90,843m), FCW land (Penaran and Foel Boeth) - 194,374m (target 10,000m), Private farms (either owned or grazed outside partner control) - 181,633m (target 0m). Grand totals = 485,250m - that's Lake Vyrnwy to Aberdeen! (target 100,843m)
  • Non-native species removal - 57 square kilometres cleared (target 9 square kilometres).
  • Fire break creations - three square kilometres of heather management.
  • Forestry work on two square kilometres.
  • Community work including stands at the National Eisteddfod, Royal Welsh Show, Shrewsbury Flower Show and Oswestry Show. Plus International Bog Day each year (509 people in 2010). Nature in Bro (CCW) project at the National Eisteddfod in Bala 2009. Eight primary schools around Bala reading their poetry on their visit. 48 talks to 1,190 people and 60 guided walks have taken place with 1,317 people attending.
  • Education work has included outreach visits for 815 children, and 1,139 children visited the project.
  • International communications with projects in Finland, Ireland, Scotland, England and Latvia.
  • Two new LIFE+ projects in Wales both visited the project before they started. Both are now working to improve peatland, largely for water quality issues.
  • Media work has included approx 60 press articles, nine radio interviews and six television appearances.

Planned Work

The project funding ended on 31 March 2011. Future work is reliant on finding other funds through Section 15 agreements, Glastir or similar large, landscape scale projects such as this.
The project partners are committed to continuing blanket bog restoration across Wales and are working with local farmers and the Assembly in Cardiff to ensure that this work is seen as a priority.



  • Water tables recovered adjacent to drains.
  • Water tables more stable.
  • During storms, peak discharge was lower
  • During dry periods, water tables and discharge rates remained more stable.
  • Levels of discharge water colour declined.

Organic Carbon 

  • Both production and release of dissolved (DOC) and particulate organic carbon (POC) declined strongly after blocking.
  • Specialist vegetation recovered, including the vital Sphagnum mosses.
  • Condition of the vegetation improved adjacent to drains and across the wider bog.


  • Loss of stock in the drains has reduced since blocking has taken place.
  • Blocking drains has had no overall impact on the abundance of palatable grazing species for stock.
  • No increase in tick or liver fluke as a result of drain blocking.
  • Tipulids increased around blocked drains (prelim data from MSc student).


  • The largest, replicated terrestrial ecosystem experimental manipulation in Europe.
  • Since 2007, UKPopNet has funded nine research projects and four PhD studentships at Vyrnwy, as well as providing support for several undergraduate and masters projects at a cost of about £1m, with substantial in-kind support and existing investment from the RSPB and the LIFE Project.
  • Project’s community work was awarded Second Prize by the IUCN UK Peat ProgrammeProject education programme was awarded the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge “Outstanding” award. Purchased Tan’r Allt – new RSPB reserve. Working with neighbouring farm to graze site. 

Total area directly affected by the project = 84 square kilometres.




  • EU LIFE Nature program provides 75 per cent of the project funding. The remaining 25 per cent is provided by the project partners.


Coast on a stormy day

Mike Morris

Moorland LIFE Project Manager, RSPB
Tagged with: Country: Wales Habitat: Upland Species: Black grouse Species: Curlew Species: Hen harrier Species: Red grouse Species: Snipe Project status: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Education Project types: Site protection