When a campfire in 2018 started a wildfire that raged across 61 hectares of moorland near the Staffordshire town of Leek, 20% of the precious peatland landscape of the Roaches was devastated. The equivalent of over 85 football pitches of ground was left lifeless and blackened.

Moors for the Future Partnership scientific research of the aftermath revealed a 53mm depth of peat was lost to the fire. That peat would have taken over 50 years to form from vegetation being preserved in waterlogged, acidic conditions of blanket bog. Over11,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide was released back into the atmosphere as a direct result of the fire, the equivalent carbon loss to running 1,426 homes for a year.

Acres of habitats for multiple moorland species were destroyed in the fire. Visible scarring can still be seen on the surface, including dry and cracked peat. It will take many decades to be fully restored to its pre-2018 condition.

Moors for the Future Partnership has begun extensive works on this scarred landscape. These works include the blocking of gullies eroded by water using stone and coir log dams made from coconut fibre, the re-wetting of the degrading and drying peat surface using sphagnum moss planting, diversifying the vegetation and planting of a selection of native plants and the stabilising and revegetating of remaining bare peat from the 2018 fire.

By the completion of the works Moors for the Future Partnership hope to have achieved a significant boost to the recovery of the site.

The land area under restoration is owned by Peak District National Park Authority and is managed by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. Water-retaining peat bunds built by the Trust prior to the 2018 wildfire illustrate how hydrologically restored areas can resist fire, as survey photography shows wet areas survived the destruction.

The Roaches is a popular walking destination for many walkers and families. In 2019, 5.6 million tourism visits were made to the entire Staffordshire Moorlands, generating £355 million to the local economy.

The local community, visitors and moorland enthusiasts can get involved in hands on restoration work in the Moors for the Future Partnership volunteer sphagnum moss planting scheme. 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. This small moss will help to return this once bleak landscape back to life, providing a home for a rich selection of moorland species of plants, insects, birds and mammals.

The Roaches restoration is part of a wider programme across the Peak District National Park, which includes Bamford, Goyt Valley and the Roaches, administered by Natural England.  The Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme (NCPGS) provides funding to restore peatlands in the uplands and lowlands of England.  This important work also attracted match funding from United Utilities, Severn Trent, National Trust, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and BMC Access and Conservation Trust.