Natural England awards grant to provide Building Blocks for a healthy moorland

Posted: 30.07.19

Moors for the Future Partnership, of which Pennine Prospects is a member, has received a boost to its work to restore the moorlands of the South Pennines, including the Peak District National Park.

It has been awarded a Water Environment Grant (WEG) of nearly £2 million by Natural England for its project: Building Blocks – Next Steps in Gully Blocking. The 24-month project will allow the Partnership to improve biodiversity, and reduce water colouration – work which will inform the Partnership’s moorland restoration work into the future. The project is part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

The South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA) includes the major moorland of the South Pennines from Ilkley in the North to Leek and Matlock in the South. It includes extensive areas of moorland, including blanket bog, home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store, and damaged peatlands are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Their restoration is an essential weapon in the battle against climate change, alongside other campaigns such as the replanting of trees.

However, 200 years of historic air pollution from the industrial revolution and wild fires have led to this area being degraded on a massive scale. The vegetation on the moors has been stripped away, exposing bare peat, which is easily eroded, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. This increases the risk of wildfire, and making floods more likely downstream.

Bare peat is also washed downstream into reservoirs, which, as it contains heavy metals deposited by centuries of pollution, is costly for water companies to clean.

Since 2003, projects undertaken by Moors for the Future Partnership have installed over 30,500 mini-dams, to slow water run-off, and form natural flood management. They also plant sphagnum moss and other natural moorland plants to stabilise the bare peat.

Under the Building Blocks project, over the next two years the Partnership will construct a further 7800 mini-dams; and plant 400 hectares of sphagnum.

However, the project will not stop there. The work done under the Building Blocks project will enable the Partnership to map a further 100,000 gullies that need their attention, allowing them to create a list of areas to prioritise in their work for many years to come.

The Building Blocks project will further enhance a collaborative partnership working well both within designated and non-designated landscapes, ensuring resources are secured for the most sensitive landscapes.