The North Pennines AONB Partnership is celebrating the completion of its largest and most complex peatland restoration project to date, as part of the Great North Bog initiative.
Raby Estates worked in partnership with the AONB team and a tenant farmer, John Bell, to complete a programme of restoration on Valance Lodge, a landholding in Upper Teesdale. The 96-hectare site was a severely eroded area of blanket bog and, if left unrestored, the damaged peat would have leached carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to further climate change.
Valance Lodge in numbers:
- 1190 tonnes of stone to build 928 stone dams and 1020 coir rolls used to raise the hydrology and slow the flow of rainwater from the high moors
- 5,738 bags of moss-rich nurse crop to protect the peat and kickstart revegetation
- 150 wool rolls used to trial sheep’s wool as a new material for restoration
- Over 15km of eroded peat haggs re-profiled
- Lime, seed and fertiliser spread over 14 hectares of bare peat
- 63,000 cottongrass plug plants and 63,000 sphagnum plug plants, planted by hand
- 90,000 sphagnum clumps harvested, chopped and spread
- The North Pennines AONB Partnership has restored an area of peatland four times the size of Newcastle in the last 17 years.
This was the AONB Partnership’s first multi-year project, extending over three years, and was the largest ever in scale. The total budget of £1.2million, came from a funding package of multiple funding sources, bringing together public funding with private sector investment.
The North Pennines AONB Partnership is working with other protected landscapes and peat partnerships in the North of England, collaborating on the Great North Bog coalition.
Working at scale with multiple sources of support is central to the Great North Bog coalition’s ambitious, landscape-scale approach to upland peatland restoration and conservation. A long-term funding, restoration, and conservation plan across nearly 7000 square kilometres of peatland soils in the Northern Protected Landscapes will store 400million tonnes of carbon and will make a significant contribution to the UK’s climate and carbon sequestration targets.
The Valance Lodge site was the largest area of bare peat on the estate and the restoration work presented logistical challenges for the AONB team, the estate team, and the contractors, JW Bainbridge Contractors Ltd. Most peatland sites are difficult to access with the machinery and materials needed for restoration, but at the size of over 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 that the AONB team has successfully used throughout the exposed uplands of the high North Pennines.
Tenant farmer, John Bell, 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. John produced 150 one-metre rolls using the wool from his own fell sheep, bound with coir netting. The trial was seeking to establish if the sheep’s wool rolls can 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, borrowed turves from well-vegetated areas immediately adjacent to the bare peat. Once in place, these turves stop erosion immediately.
In another trial, a total of 90,000 Sphagnum moss clumps from healthy donor sites elsewhere on the 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, our Land Agent , 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, said: “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, with the Raby Estate team, and the shooting tenant from another part of the estate, as well as John Bell, the farmer.
“Having the multi-year project also meant we were able to develop a long-term, working partnership with our brilliant contractors, JW Bainbridge. 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.”
Funding for the Valance Lodge restoration came from Defra (including Countryside Stewardship and the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme), Natural England’s Nature for Climate Fund, The National Lottery Heritage Fund via the Tees-Swale programme, the EU LIFE Programme (Pennine PeatLIFE), and private sector support from Morgan Sindall Group.
Graham Edgell, Director of Procurement and Sustainability at Morgan Sindall Group remarked: “We understand the need to play a significant role in reversing habitat loss and improving the condition of our peatlands. Our partnership is an excellent example of a private sector organisation working with the conservation sector to deliver this level of landscape-scale restoration. The results to date have been outstanding and we look forward to further collaboration.”