FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE: stone weeping walls positioned to reduce water run off on moorland at Raby Estate
FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE: stone weeping walls positioned to reduce water run off on moorland at Raby Estate

A FOUR-year project in the North Pennines is delivering 3,343 acres of peatland restoration to help fight climate change.

Pennine Peatlife is led by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Nine privately owned estates managed for grouse shooting are taking part, covering an area of about the size of 1,000 rugby pitches.

Two of these sites, Langdon Fell and Valance Lodge – owned by Raby Estates – have seen a significant amount of work undertaken.

This has included blocking up drains historically cut into the peat to improve agricultural productivity once again to retain water. Additionally, 173 acres of restoration has taken place on Valance Lodge and 79 acres on Langdon Fell where deep eroding gullies – often on sloping ground – have been restored through the process of reprofiling the damaged sides to more favourable angles of 33 to 45 degrees and revegetated to stabilise the soil.

Other work has involved planting clumps of moss into establish a healthy sphagnum moss layer, which provides the peat with long-term stability and helps restart the process of locking up carbon.

Heather brash cut from donor estates has been spread throughout the restoration sites to protect the bare peat from erosion through wind and weathering, while similarly providing a seed source and growing medium for new plants.

Joe Robinson, Raby Estates land agent, said: “The early indications are that the project is delivering. We’re seeing sphagnum and other moorland plant species beginning to grow, which is ultimately stemming peat erosion and carbon emissions.

“Likewise, the work undertaken to mitigate against water runoff is looking extremely positive. If restoration is done properly it brings significant benefits for all the stakeholders involved.”

He said there is a lack of awareness – and appreciation – for the scale of benefits such restoration has for society.

Mr Robinson added: “The amount of work involved behind the scenes and time that these projects take to pull together is definitely not fully understood by the general public. It’s certainly something that needs to be promoted and discussed more.”

The project is funded by the EU with match funding from Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, Northumbrian Water and the Environment Agency.

The Moorland Association said Raby Estates has a long history of restoration work.

Of its 458 miles of drains, 220 miles were blocked between 1995 and 2012, and another 98.1 miles of drains, naturally blocking through management changes, with more work planned after the Pennine Peatlife project has ended.

According to the Peatland Code, a voluntary certification standard for UK peatland projects, over the next 30 years just this one grouse moor under restoration is expected to save about 6,351 tonnes of carbon emissions – equivalent to taking 5,293 cars off the road.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “There are multiple benefits for society when it comes to peatland restoration which is underway across our members’ one million acres of land. Mitigation of climate change, carbon storage, water quality, flood attenuation and biodiversity are all significantly strengthened when we invest money into public goods.”