Yorkshire Water along with partners Moors for the Future have embarked on a catchment management project in Snailsden and Thurlston Moors late last month (February 2017).
It forms part of a £2million programme, which is in support of Natural England, to improve the condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England and aims to protect England’s nature and landscapes.
Centuries of change have led to the degradation of Yorkshire’s peatland habitats. Over the next four years Yorkshire Water will enhance and consere 43 square miles of Yorkshire’s peat moorland – much of which is owned by the water company and designated as SSSI.
Innovative survey techniques have been deployed; unmanned aircraft have been used to map erosion features on SSSI moorlands and helped to identify those areas which need improvement.
Protecting and restoring these iconic landscapes will boost the local biodiversity and benefit the thousands of visitors who love to enjoy the moors and also improve the raw water quality in several moorland catchments.
The project on Snailsden and Thurlstone Moors will involve the re-vegetation of eroded bare peat using local species like sphagnum mosses. Sphagnum regeneration will help in the reduction of peat loss and maintain the natural water table.
Grips and moorland gullies will also be restored. Grips or man-made drains were dug across Yorkshire’s upland peatlands in the mid-20th century to improve the land for agriculture but many of these have become badly eroded over time.
About 4,000 peat turf and stone dams will be created in these grips and gullies to slow down the water flow and also restore the water table. These will also trap peat sediment and help prevent it from getting into water destined for customers’ water supplies making it easier for Yorkshire Water to treat.
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.”
If the weather permits, the project at Snailsden and Thurlstone Moors will be completed in March with the whole programme of work complete by the end of 2020.