The Amazon on our doorstep

Fleet Moss from the air

Andrew Fagg - Media Officer for one of our partners, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority - takes a look at blanket bog restoration in the Yorkshire Dales.

I am from Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, yet until the other day I had little idea what devastation laid on my doorstep.

It was a Tuesday morning and I had a date with Lyndon and Jenny of Yorkshire Peat Partnership (YPP) on Fleet Moss.  It is an area of peatland which I have seen many times, being next to the road over to Wharfedale, but paid scant attention to.

It took me an hour to walk from town to the site.  It was a typically dree day, by which I mean misty and grey.

I explained to Jenny that I was there to write about the Yorkshire Dales National Park Management Plan 2019-2024 objective on peatland restoration (objective D3 if you fancy looking it up).  

As soon as we stepped onto Fleet Moss, Jenny instantly helped me understand the importance of it.

“It’s the Amazon on our doorstep, and it’s as if we’ve chopped it down,” she said, referring to the amount of carbon stored in peatlands.

I hadn’t realised that instead of a landscape of peat hags cut through by a web of channels and gullies, which I had assumed were normal, there should be a blanket of peat covered by sphagnum mosses and other plants – hence the term ‘blanket bog’.

And then Jenny started talking about Semerwater, which on a fine day can be seen from Fleet Moss.  Semerwater is one of my favourite places; when I was at Hawes Primary School, we used to go on an annual sponsored walk over Wether Fell to this beauty spot.  I had heard that it was in trouble – its waters silting up and increasingly murky – but I hadn’t known that one of the chief causes was peat erosion at Fleet Moss.

Over the years, Jenny said, huge quantities of peat had washed down from Fleet Moss and into Semerwater, making it more acidic and opaque. 

As we walked and talked, and I was taught to identify the key blanket bog plant species, we came across what looked like furry droppings.  ‘Short eared owl pellets,’ said Lyndon.   That’s when I began to better understand that these inhospitable places are in fact home to a rich diversity of plants and animals, particularly raptors and breeding waders. 

An element of the macabre crept in to the discourse.  All that mud, uneven bare peat and mist really did resemble pictures of no-man’s land from the First World War.  ‘We’ve nicknamed this place the Somme,’ said Lyndon.

Fleet Moss filmed from the air

From Fleet Moss, I was taken to Stake Moss, a few miles away.   A year ago this peatland looked very like its near neighbour, but no longer.  Intense restoration work has taken place at Stake Moss this winter.  There I saw many dams – stone, coir and wood – which have been created to slow the flow of water off the moor.  I saw how hags had been reprofiled and areas of bare peat covered over by vegetation by people using diggers.   It was very uplifting. 

Thank you to Lyndon and to Jenny for opening my eyes regarding peatlands – and inspiring me to spread the message about the importance of their restoration.  

Stake Moss from the air

The restoration works at Fleet Moss are being funded by the EU Life Programme  (through Pennine PeatLIFE), Yorkshire Water, Environment Agency and Defra, and at Stake Moss by the EU Life Programme  (through Pennine PeatLIFE), Yorkshire Water, and Environment Agency.