EnvGeoGeo are project managing £350,000 of moorland restoration across ~700 hectares of eroding moorland in the Yorkshire Dales, with work having begun this month and already some fantastic results to show.

Cam Fell (see Cam Fell aerial imagery (Google)) has some of the worst peat erosion in the Ribble Catchment. Cam Fell drains to Cam Beck, one of the two headwaters (alongside Gayle Beck), of the River Ribble, just north of Ribblehead.

The work is funded by Natural England under a Countryside Stewardship Agreement with the Cam End Graziers Association, and is facilitated by the Ribble Rivers Trust, Windle Beech Winthrop, and the Ingleborough Estate. Works on site are being undertaken by moorland restoration contractors Barker & Bland (aka Dalefoot Composts (peat free).

EnvGeoGeo have been involved with Cam Fell since 2013 when they undertook the original surveys categorising the extent of erosion across the moor. EnvGeoGeo also surveyed the remainder of moorland throughout the Ribble Catchment over 2013 and 2014, and have been working on behalf of the Ribble Rivers Trust project managing the current works since 2016.

Peat erosion is a widespread problem throughout northern England, Scotland and Ireland. In England and Scotland, considerable grants were given to farmers to drain the moorland following the Second World War up until the 1980s, so as to bring what were then perceived as ‘unproductive’ land into agricultural production, and for the benefit of the grouse ‘industry’.

This scheme failed to recognise the critical role that upland blanket bog and moorland plays in catchment hydrology, habitat provision, and carbon capture and storage. Widespread practices of drainage and burning moorland developed throughout the second half of the 20th Century, leaving us with a legacy of devastated moorlands and eroding peat landscapes.

It is now clear that that these practices have led to considerable loss of peat, much of which ends up in rivers and reservoirs. Lots of organic matter in rivers changes the water chemistry, and creates siltation problems – smothering spawning gravels of trout and salmon, and sedimenting reservoirs. High organic loads in water also require extensive pre-treatment of drinking water supplies for removal of organic compounds that may react during chlorination to form toxic organo-halogen compounds.

Burning moorland has now been comprehensively demonstrated to have clear negative impacts on peat hydrology, peat chemistry & physical properties, river water chemistry and river ecology, as well as a probable influence on surface water runoff leading to higher peak flows downstream. As approximately 15% of all upland blanket bog in the world is found in the British Isles, programs such as the Cam Fell restoration are essential to preserving these endangered landscapes.

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