The project at Snailsden and Thurlstone Moors is part of a £2 million programme, in support of Natural England, to improve the condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Natural England is the UK Government’s advisor for the natural environment in England, and proposes to protect England’s nature and landscapes.
Yorkshire’s peatland habitats have become severely degraded due to centuries of change, and it is the aim of Yorkshire Water to conserve and enhance 43 square miles of Yorkshire’s peat moorland over the next four years. Most of this land is owned by the water company and designated as SSSI.
Various areas for improvement have been identified by utilising innovative survey techniques and the use of unmanned aircraft to map erosion features on SSSI moorlands.
The restoration and protection of these iconic landscapes is being done to boost local biodiversity, but it will also improve the quality of raw water in several moorland catchments, as well as benefit the thousands of visitors annually who enjoy visiting and walking on the moors.
The Snailsden and Thurlston Moors project will involve the re-vegetation of eroded bare peat using local species including sphagnum mosses, which will help to reduce peat loss and maintain the natural water table.
Grips and moorland gullies, or man-made drains, which were dug across Yorkshire’s upland peatlands in the mid-20th century to improve the land for agriculture, have become badly eroded and their restoration is also part of the project.
In the region of 4,000 peat turf and stone dams will be created in these grips and gullies to slow the water flow, thereby restoring the water table. These dams will trap peat sediment as well as prevent it getting into water destined for customers’ water supplies.
Michael Toy, Yorkshire Water’s Project Manager said:
“Because the moors are so remote we are using a helicopter to deliver the materials and the mosses to site. We’ll use an area to the south east of Winscar reservoir car park to store materials and there will be times when we need to close this car park to allow the helicopter to take off and land safely.”
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