Looking back on an award-winning year for peatland conservation

Howling wind and freezing fingers, baking sun and sunburnt faces; just some of the extreme weather events that hardy volunteers expect as they head out onto remote moorland across the Peak District and South Pennines to monitor changes in the blanket bog habitat.

You can read more about how these dedicated volunteers went on to win an award for their work in the latest Moors for the Future Partnership Year in Review.

The annual report, covering April 2017 to March 2018, also includes a story of how the innovative partnership is turning disused Peak District reservoirs into moss factories, with RSPB volunteers helping to grow sphagnum moss on specially constructed rafts.

Sphagnum plays a pivotal role in the regeneration of Peak District and South Pennine peatlands. It can hold between up to 20 times its weight in water, and helps to reduce the risk of wildfires and flooding downstream.

In the year in which the partnership’s celebrated its 15th anniversary, the team continued its battle to reverse the fortunes of the Peak District and South Pennine uplands. These landscapes were damaged by 250 years of industrial pollution and wildfires, which destroyed the living plant layer across vast areas and left the moors unsuitable for birds and animals to live.

Since 2003 the Partnership, which is led by the Peak District National Park Authority, and includes National Trust, RSPB, Natural England, Environment Agency, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent among its members has revegetated much of the bare peat with native moorland plants including sphagnum moss.

Most of the work takes place in winter, outside of the bird breeding season, and though the Beast from the East did its worst, the partnership installed more than 2,700 dams to help raise the water table and create the right conditions for sphagnum to grow. The Partnership planted sphagnum moss across almost 8km, and surveyed nearly 800km² of moorland plants to monitor how they are recovering.

David Chapman, Moors for the Future Partnership Chair and Deputy Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority said: “We have come a long way in 15 years to help to heal the landscapes here at the very heart of the UK, that mean so much to so many millions of people.

“There’s still a way to go but as you’ll be able to see from our Year in Review, the partnership is on a mission to protect these special places, and this year has been packed with innovative projects and research to ensure our moors are protected for generations to come.

“None of this work would be possible without the financial support and advice of our partners and funders, as well as representatives from the moorland owning and farming communities, and for them we are forever grateful.”

Reports can be downloaded from our website http://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk or ordered from jody.vallance@peakdistrict.gov.uk.

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