TO THE RESCUE: The rolls of sheep’s wool made by farmer John Bell,
TO THE RESCUE: The rolls of sheep’s wool made by farmer John Bell,

A £1.2m three-year project to restore a large area of peatland in upper Teesdale has been completed.

As part of the Great North Bog initiative, officials from the North Pennines AONB Partnership worked with landowner Raby Estates and tenant farmer John Bell on the project, at Valance Lodge, a 96-hectare site which had a severely eroded area of blanket bog.

The Valance Lodge site was the largest area of bare peat on the Raby estate.

Most peatland sites are difficult to access with the machinery and materials needed for restoration, but at the size of more than 150 football pitches and with challenging terrain, the task was even more difficult. The bulk of the materials were airlifted in by helicopter as much of the site is inaccessible any other way.

Innovative new methods of restoration were used, alongside the tried and tested techniques.

Mr Bell was also central to the restoration process. He was commissioned to make large rolls from his sheep’s wool, which were used to create dams to slow the flow of water from the high moorland site.

Mr Bell produced 150 one-metre rolls using the wool from his own fell sheep, bound with coir netting. The trial sought to establish if the sheep’s wool rolls could replace coir as a suitable material for use in peatland restoration. Permission was granted from the Animal and Plant Health Agency to use the wool in the trials providing it was sourced from sheep grazing the same parcel of land that the bare peat is on.

For the first time, contractors carrying out reprofiling of severely eroded peat haggs or gullies and borrowed turf from well-vegetated areas immediately adjacent to the bare peat. Once in place, these stop erosion immediately.

In another trial, a total of 90,000 sphagnum moss clumps from healthy donor sites elsewhere on the Raby estate were harvested and chopped, then spread across bare peat areas, followed by a mulch of coarser cut vegetation. Revegetation has begun successfully with this method.

Joe Robinson, land agent for Raby estate, said: “We’re very pleased to have been part of this collaborative approach to restore such a large area of land. It’s also extremely positive that this project is part of the wider, pan-Northern collaboration for peatland restoration in the form of the Great North Bog.”

Kate Cartmell Done, senior peatland field officer for the North Pennines AONB Partnership, added: “This was an immense project to tackle, on a scale we’ve not worked on before. We’ve learned a lot from this project, and we’ve been able to use this experience and knowledge as we begin work on other larger sites across the North Pennines AONB.

“What has been a great success has been the partnership working.

“We’ve all been able to see the restoration work becoming established over the three years we’ve been on site, which really helps to demonstrate the value of this work for nature recovery and helping to tackle climate change.”