A mother’s love of the moorlands of the Peak District has led to a generous legacy donation to help towards restoring this once damaged landscape. As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, Moors for the Future Partnership has received this donation to help with its ongoing work.

Each winter, for the last 12 years, the Partnership has run an annual monitoring campaign that measures the water table in the South Pennines. In a healthy state, many of our local peatlands would be much wetter, with water stored in the peat to a level (known as the water table) that is at or very near the surface. A high water table is critical for blanket bog to become active (growing peat rather than losing it).

This year, monitoring of the water table has been able to go ahead thanks to a generous legacy donation to the Peak District National Park Foundation. The donation of over £20,000 has enabled 23 hardy volunteers and 12 casual staff officers to carry out weekly measurements, in the 12 weeks from September to December. Dipwells are checked manually, by blowing down a tube which is lowered into the well. When the tube reaches water, bubbles are produced and the resulting depth is measured and recorded. The volunteers battled wintery conditions to take measurements each week across six sites in the Peak District National Park. These results will be crucial in understanding how water tables are changing, and how conservation works are having an effect on raising the water table.

The family whose generosity led to this legacy donation said: “Our mum grew up in Manchester. The Peaks were a place to get out of the city and she developed a love of the plants and scenery which she passed on to her family. For us, it’s important to preserve the Peak and ensure that communities around it can access and engage with it so that many more people get to enjoy and benefit from it.”

Monitoring such as this is an important part of measuring the success of the work of Moors for the Future Partnership which celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. Since 2003, the Partnership has raised £50 million of investment and alongside a programme of public engagement and research and monitoring, has delivered restoration to over 35 square kilometres of bare and eroding peat.

In 2003, when the Partnership began, large areas of the Peak District and South Pennines had been reduced to blackened, barren, bare peat, with plant life having been stripped away by centuries of industrial pollution and wildfires. Twenty years on, these landscapes have been transformed with green carpets of moorland plants and sphagnum moss.

The Partnership started as a Heritage Lottery Funded project, from which it has grown into a programme using evidence-based conservation – alongside innovative science and public engagement – to restore the uplands on an area from Staffordshire in the south up to Ilkley in the north, and includes iconic moorlands including Kinder Scout, Marsden Moor and Saddleworth.

Restored moorlands improve the habitat for a range of unique wildlife, including mountain hare, curlew and even lizards. Healthy peatlands are also valuable to humans. They are the UK’s largest terrestrial store of carbon, and their preservation aids the fight against climate change. They help to soak up water when it rains, meaning there is less chance of flooding in local communities. A tiny bog moss called sphagnum improves the quality of our tap water because it filters rainwater before it flows to the reservoirs.

Chris Dean, Head of Moors for the Future Partnership, said:
“Having monitoring data from long periods of time across vast landscapes is vital because nature takes time to respond to restorative interventions, such as sphagnum planting. The longer the data’s timeframe, the more accurate it will be. This generous legacy donation has facilitated important research which will to contribute to a robust data set, and help nature to recover. In its 20th year, the Partnership continues to breathe new life into damaged peatlands, thanks to a combination of public and private funding.”

Andy Robinson, Treasurer of the Peak District National Park Foundation, said:
“A legacy donation of over £20,000 was generously gifted to the Peak District Foundation with the wish to help support nature recovery within the Peak District National Park and beyond, not just this year – when Moors for the Future Partnership celebrates its 20th anniversary – but for many years to come.

“The wonderful donation has enabled the Partnership to continue its important research and monitoring work, with the invaluable support of over 20 volunteers – an incredible legacy that will support the restoration of blanket bogs that are on our doorstep.”

David Chapman, Chair, Moors for the Future Partnership and District National Park Authority Member said:
“Having been raised in Edale and seeing from a very early age the devastation caused to the uplands around my valley by nearly two hundred years of industrial pollution, I’ve witnessed the incredible improvements made to these moorlands over the past 20 years by Moors for the Future Partnership. This anniversary is a cause for celebration but is only the start of a long journey.”