Helicopter airlifts bags of cut heather onto moor to restore peatland

As part of a £16million project to restore bare patches of peatland across the South Pennines, 390 giant bags of cut heather have been airlifted onto the moor above Deanhead reservoir, near Scammonden.

The conservation work, carried out as part of the multi-million euro MoorLIFE 2020 project by the Moors for the Future Partnership – which Yorkshire Water is a partner of - aims to restore areas of peatland to active blanket bog.

Moor restoration work is essential due to decades of issues including industrial pollution in the form of acid rain and wildfires.

On Deanhead, this will be achieved by spreading the cut heather on to two hectares of bare peat, and applying lime, seed and fertiliser to encourage grass to grow. The brash and grasses together stabilise the eroding peat and provide the right conditions for native blanket bog species – including sphagnum moss, crowberry, cotton grass and heather - to recolonise. This complements other work to re-wet the moor by blocking erosion gullies and planting sphagnum mosses.

Across England, blanket bog plays a vital environmental role by storing over three billion tonnes of carbon in the ground, which is more than all woodlands and forests combined.

By protecting this blanket bog, the project will also reduce soil erosion and mean that drinking water collected by Yorkshire Water in the reservoir has less sediment in it before it is treated.

Dewi Jackson, Conservation Works Officer for the Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “Blanket bog moors like those surrounding Deanhead reservoir provide a wealth of benefits to both people and animals. They provide a home to unique wildlife like the mountain hare and curlew, and help to store carbon.

“Sphagnum moss is the building block to peat landscapes and plays a vital role in helping to clean our drinking water before it flows through our taps, and keeping water on the moors for longer, reducing the risk of flooding in local communities.”

MoorLIFE 2020 is funded by the EU LIFE programme and co-financed by Severn Trent Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities. With advice and regulation from Natural England and the Environment Agency, and local advice from landowners.

Over the next few years Yorkshire Water will help conserve and enhance 43 square miles of Yorkshire’s peat moorland – much of which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSi).