A peatland restoration programme has completed work on a key site where the three counties of Cumbria, Northumberland and County Durham meet.
In partnership with Weardale Estate, the North Pennines AONB Partnership has completed the restoration of 80 hectares of bare, eroding peat at Killhope Head. The work was funded by Countryside Stewardship scheme and Defra.
Restoring bare peat and encouraging revegetation is an important way to tackle climate change. Degraded peat lets stored carbon escape into the atmosphere, while healthy peat actively locks that carbon away.
Additionally, the restoration has a significant impact on how much rainwater flows off the moorland, slowing the flow and reducing the risk of flooding in lowland areas. The bare peat found on degraded peatlands speeds up rainfall running off the moors, increasing flood risk and sedimentation downstream. Restoring this area will improve three major river catchments in the North Pennines AONB: the rivers Nent, West Allen and Wear.
As more plants grow on the restoration site, there are benefits for the important upland wildlife which is characteristic of the North Pennines.
The North Pennines AONB Partnership has developed techniques to stop bare peat eroding and encourage vegetation to return.
This involves increasing water levels using leaky dams made from stone and coir (coconut matting), cutting heather brash and mosses from other areas of intact moorland and spreading them over bare peat to act as a mulch for plants to grow back, and using machinery to carefully reduce the angle of eroding peat faces known as haggs, allowing vegetation to grow back.
Sebastian Green, land agent for Weardale Estate, said, “This work will have a big impact on the moorland.
“Not only will it help tackle climate change, but it will benefit the wildlife too, providing a habitat for moorland birds, reptiles and insects.”
Alistair Lockett, senior field officer with the North Pennines AONB Partnership said, “We have a long history working in partnership with Weardale Estate and it was great to be able to restore an iconic part of the AONB to benefit people and wildlife within the AONB, as well as communities beyond our boundaries. There aren’t many places where your work takes in three different counties in one location.
“This site is one of the higher places we’ve carried out restoration, at 648m/2125ft. As well as difficulties accessing remote areas like this, on Killhope Head we also have to contend with bad weather as we have seen earlier this year. It was vital that we, the contractors and the estate worked together to deliver such an important, large-scale project.”