As part of its work to bring degraded peatland back to life, Moors for the Future Partnership will have completed £3.3 million worth of restoration work from August 2022 to March 2023, thanks to funding from Severn Trent, Yorkshire Water, DEFRA and Natural England.

In the last six months the Partnership has planted an area the size of 270 football pitches of sphagnum moss around the Peak District National Park Upper Derwent Valley. Severn Trent are working through Moors for the Future Partnership on the Moor Water project, on moorland cared for by the National Trust.

Sphagnum moss is an essential carbon store, accumulating over time to create new layers of peat. It is able to absorb up to 20 times its own weight in water, protecting and maintaining the wetness of the peat underneath and holding peak water flow on the hills, rather than allowing it to overwhelm river systems below. Because of its complex structure, sphagnum also works as a natural sieve for rainwater, helping to clean many impurities from it before it reaches the reservoirs. This work is returning this once bleak landscape to life, providing a home for a rich selection of moorland species of plants, insects, birds and mammals.

Sphagnum is planted by hand in small “plugs” (the size of a 50p piece) and over time grows to fill the gaps between each plug. The progress of growth is slow, but the public can take part in a citizen science scheme to keep an eye on how it’s going. The Partnership has installed five photo posts around the Derwent Valley area from which walkers can take a photo of moorland restored by the Partnership as well as areas of clough woodland restored by the National Trust, funded by Severn Trent, providing a rolling viewpoint of the work that has taken place.

Philip Straton, Moor Water Project Manager at Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “The sphagnum we’ve planted goes a long way to hitting the eventual target of 625 hectares over this 5-year project with Severn Trent. As well as funding this vital restoration work, the Moor Water project also supports our science and monitoring work, which allows us to make sure that the techniques we’re using work and inform innovations in the future, as well as our public engagement, so that people know the importance of healthy peatlands and what they can do to help protect them.”

Laura Flower, Senior Catchment Management Scientist at Severn Trent, said: “At Severn Trent, we know that the natural environment isn’t a bolt-on, it is a fundamental part of our core business, and the ultimate supplier of our product. When we improve the health of our region’s woods, soils, rivers and wetlands, we also invest in natural water filters to clean and care for our water – improving the quality and making it better than ever.

“The work of the Partnership under the Moor Water project helps to take impurities out of the water, meaning a less intensive water treatment process is needed. Restored moorland also provides a habitat for species of plants, animals and birds that are now starting to return to these areas after centuries of decline.”