The South Pennine moors will turn green and healthy once more as one of the largest landscape conservation projects in the UK airlifts and spreads 5,500 bulk-bags of heather brash (cuttings) on to Bleaklow in the Peak District and South Pennines.

Image of bags of heather brash waiting to be airlifted

An EU funded project, MoorLIFE, spearheaded by Moors for the Future Partnership, aims to conserve more than 2000 acres of Peak District and South Pennine Moors by 2015.  The spreading of heather brash is just one of many key phases of conservation works.  Cut from local moors in the winter when the seeds are ripe, the brash will be airlifted by helicopter from Glossop Low, Derbyshire, and spread on to bare, eroding peat, damaged by more than 150 years of airborne industrial pollution and wildfires. Local contractors will then spread the heather brash using hand tools.

The aim is to regenerate the peat-producing blanket-bog vegetation. The brash reduces further erosion of the peat and at the same time gives the seeds a microclimate to grow-in and protect them from the harsh climate.

Chris Dean, Programme Manager, Moors for the Future Partnership said: “As many gardeners across the country are selecting their seeds for this year, we too are doing the same but on a much larger-scale.  Time is also a factor - it can take up to three years just for the native species to establish, and over that period we have to carry out a number of phases of work, such as lime, seed and fertiliser, to support the growth of the new vegetation.  The work programme is huge but the rewards for us all are great. ”

Healthy peat moors:

  • absorb and store carbon – peat is the single biggest store of carbon in the UK, storing the equivalent of 20 years of all UK CO2 emissions and keeping it out of the atmosphere.
  • provide good quality drinking water – 70% of our drinking water comes from these landscapes. Damaged peat erodes into the reservoirs so that water companies have to spend more money cleaning the water for consumption.
  • potentially help reduce the risk of flooding.
  • support a wide diversity of important upland birds, plants, mammals and insects.

MoorLIFE is a £5.5 million project protecting active blanket bog by conserving bare and eroding peat in the South Pennines Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA).  It is co-funded by the European Union’s Life+ Programme and delivered by the Moors for the Future Partnership.

Partners in the MoorLIFE Project include the Environment Agency, Natural England, National Trust, Peak District National Park Authority, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water.