Mire restoration on Exmoor with ditch blocking and water management techniques was initiated in 1998 with a pilot project which developed into the 2006 – 2010 Exmoor Mire Restoration Project. This was possible due to the involvement of a new partner, South West Water (SWW) and a greatly enhanced budget of £400,000 (thanks to the financial and in kind commitments from all the partners and SWW in particular). The project was managed by a dedicated project officer Dr. David Smith with overall control via a Steering Group, comprised of representatives from the five main partners:-
Environment Agency (EA) (Devon Area)
Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA)
Natural England (NE) (formerly English Nature)
South West Water Limited (SWW)
English Heritage (EH)
Restoration work took place at 12 moorland locations on Exmoor. This includes ENPA owned moorland at Blackpitts, Exe Head and Long Holcombe, National Trust owned Moorland at Aldermans Barrow Allotment and on privately owned moorland at Verney's Allotment, Roostitchen, Broadmead, Squallacombe, Great Vintcombe, Codsend moor, Hangley Cleave and North Twitchen.
In total 50km of ditch was blocked with over 4300 ditch blocks made from bales, wood and peat. This has resulted in the re-wetting of over 300 hectares of Moorland. The work on these sites was carried out by contractors and the ENPA Field Services team and has cost in the region of £175,000. The costs have been met from the Mire Project budget and Natural England's Agri-environment schemes (HLS, ESA) which have funded the capital works on the privately owned moorlands.
This funding for this project ended in the summer of 2010 and it has been succeeded by the new Exmoor Mires Project, which is led by South West Water and part of their wider Upstream Thinking initiative to improve the quality and quantity of water supply from catchments in the South West.
The benefits of The Exmoor Mire Restoration Project include:
Fighting global warming and climate change
Worldwide peatlands are huge carbon stores, but damaged areas release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere through oxidation processes. Restoration halts oxidation and promotes active peat growth thus increasing the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere. The restoration of peatlands could play a major role in mitigating against atmospheric CO2 rises. Calculate your carbon use and see how much can be offset in mire restoration and other projects
Restoring important habitats
Mire restoration will improve the ecological condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s) benefiting wildlife in the moorlands and the wider Exmoor area. This will help to achieve targets set by Government for the improvement of SSSI condition and for the conservation of habitats and species identified in The Exmoor Biodiversity Action Plan
Re-establishment of natural stream hydrology in Exmoor headwaters
Encouraging water retention in the upland wetlands will delay and weaken peak river flows while augmenting low base flows at times of low rainfall.
River environment and aquatic ecology improvement
Re-establishing natural flow regimes improves water quality benefiting all river life including salmon and trout which are common in Exmoor river headwaters.
Getting involved with the Mire project
Are you a land owner, a National Park resident or an interested visitor? To find out how to become involved with the Exmoor Mire Restoration Project contact:
7-9 Fore Street, Dulverton, Somerset, TA22 9EX
Tel 01398 324491
The restoration so far has been on a small part of Exmoor’s dry and damaged moorland and there is at least another 2000ha which remains to be addressed. Failure to do so could result in further drying out and damage. Climate change is likely to increase this effect. This could continue to cause:
loss of SSSI wetland habitat and associated BAP species
degradation of the peat and loss of carbon into the atmosphere
drying out of archaeology and palaeo-ecology on the moors
damage to moorland river hydrology and ecology with associated problems of erosion, drying out in summer, flooding and loss of key species and diversity.
Upstream Thinking, Mires-on-the-Moors and the new Exmoor Mires Project
From November 1st 2010 the new Exmoor Mires Project started work with the appointment of Dr. David Smith as acting Project Manager. This project is funded by the successful Mires-on-the-Moors and Upstream Thinking funding bids made in 2009 by South West Water to the Water Regulator (OFWAT).
The Upstream Thinking initiative: http://www.southwestwater.co.uk/upstreamthinking will be led by South West Water, with contributions in staff, time and resources from the other partners. The Mires-on-the-Moors Projects will be run by dedicated staff based in Project teams on Exmoor and Dartmoor. South West Water is the lead partner for the Exmoor Mires Project and Dartmoor National Park Authority is the lead for the Dartmoor Mires Project.
On Exmoor mapping of ditches and cuttings from old air-photographs has identified a possible 150 further damaged peatland sites, covering over 2,000ha. The first task for the new project is to contact the land-owners concerned and visit these sites on the ground to asses their restoration potential. If they are found to be suitable this is the first stage in negotiating a restoration plan with the land-owner and Natural England. The aim is to create a sustainable moorland management plan which rewards the land manager for looking after carbon and water resources, whilst continuing to support farming on the moorlands. In this way moorland restoration will result in real benefits for people and wildlife.
Mire Research and Monitoring
The new project has also been asked by Ofwat to undertake research and monitoring on the hydrological and ecological effects of rewetting peatland. An extensive program of monitoring and research has been developed in partnership with Bristol and Exeter Universities and the Environment Agency. The first stage of this program is the launch of the hydrological plans: Exmoor Mires Hydrological monitoring plans document launched (PDF, 2.7MB)
This new research programme builds on the ecological and hydrological monitoring work the Exmoor Mire restoration project has been involved with since initiation in 1998. This monitoring was carried out by the Project Officer David Smith and the project partners in the Environment Agency, students from several Universities, local volunteers and independent contractors. The studies have focused on monitoring for changes in the hydrology and ecology of the sites resulting from the re-wetting work. These have included:
Dipwell transects at Blackpitts and Exe head to monitor for water table changes
Flow monitoring at Exe Bridge, Exe Head, Exe Plain and Blackpitts
Base line vegetation transects at each restoration site. These are monitored for change following the restoration work
Specialist wildlife base-lines and studies including moorland birds, invertebrates amphibians and reptiles.
Methane production in mire sites
Mire project Archaeological walk-over surveys and palaeo-ecological surveys:
The project has commissioned a series of Archaeological walk-over surveys in advance of the restoration works at a number of sites (funded by English Nature) In addition to this there area number of watching brief reports also available.
A palaeo-ecological study of the peat at Long Holcombe and Comerslade was commissioned by the project and funded by English Nature.
Visit a Mire project site.
The Mire restoration areas at Aclands have been designated as educational access areas in English Nature's Higher level Environmental Stewardship Scheme. To visit the site with an educational group contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Or download the Aclands Educational Visit Pack.