Rewetting our moors for climate, nature and communities

As our largest AONB section, Bodmin Moor forms one of the South West’s iconic peat moors that is not only a haven for wildlife but also provides us with fresh water and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions through acting as a store for carbon.

Through this project we have joined forces with South West Water, site owners, the Environment Agency and local partnerships in Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks to deliver peat restoration for the South West Moors.

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the way forward

The moors of Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor hold significant regional and national deposits of peat in the form of blanket bogs and valley mires. These wetland habitats are complex ecosystems that support diverse and unique ecology of national and international importance.

 Over centuries, human interventions have and still are impacting upon the overall quality and distribution of wetland mire habitats and upland moors. The demise of such wetlands across extensive swathes of the moors has resulted in changes in the moorland ecology, including the loss of iconic species such as dunlin, golden plover, and Sphagnum mosses.

The challenge is to prevent further losses and halt the decline, while improving and restoring these habitats.

Various ditch blocking techniques using sustainable materials (wood, peat, grass and heather) will be adopted on historic peat cuttings, drainage networks and eroding gullies in order to enable re-wetting of extensive areas of damaged peatlands.

Undertaking this peatland restoration will bring about multiple benefits. These include:  

  • Increasing the peatlands’ resilience to climate change and increasing carbon storage

  • Improving the hydrological function of the peatlands by improving the quality and quantity of water leaving the moors

  • Helping to store and slow the flow of water, potentially reducing the risk of flooding downstream

  • Restoring the ecosystems that support the recovery of the habitats and associated wildlife

  • Protecting and increasing our knowledge of our historic environment

  • Maintaining and improving access

  • Health and well-being benefits to society both locally and nationally

  • A greater understanding of and experience for the numerous people who work in and visit these iconic landscapes.

We are fortunate in that our project is one of just four local partnership projects nationwide, the others being in the midlands and north of England.

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Partnership working

We have been working in partnership with South West Water, who have been awarded £2 million from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for a three-year project to restore peatland on the South West’s moors.

The government has handed out £10 million worth of grants in total for such work across England as part of its 25-year Environment Plan.

South West Water will work with regional and local organisations, including the Cornwall AONB, to restore 1,680 hectares of damaged peatland on Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor. Partnerships have been formed on all three moors including landowners, commoners and other interested parties to develop the proposals and this will continue through the delivery of the restoration.

Supported by the Defra Peatland Restoration Fund

Supported by the Defra Peatland Restoration Fund

One of the first re-wetting projects on the moor providing important habitats for waders and dragonflies

One of the first re-wetting projects on the moor providing important habitats for waders and dragonflies

This is an incredible partnership delivering peatland restoration. The peatlands of south-west England are very important for water quality, carbon storage, biodiversity, cultural history, recreation and farming but they are the most vulnerable in the UK to the impacts of climate change, due to their southerly position.

“For this reason they need to be prioritised nationally and restored for the benefit of all and future generations. The £2 million from Defra presents a real opportunity to make a significant difference and to deliver sustainable management in these upland river catchments - Morag Angus, South West Water

To date during 2018/19 the project has successfully re-wetted 35 hectares of moor at Park Pitt and Blackadon with another 90 hectares due to be improved in 2019/20. The re-wetted areas are already already supporting mosses, with ponding water encouraging new wader, dragonfly and frog habitats.