Science & Environment

Peak District's High Peak Moors to see 50-year restoration plan

Composite image showing current state of High Peak Moors (below) and an artist's impression of the restored landscape (Image: National Trust)
Image caption The project hopes to restore the landscape from its current condition (bottom) to its former glory (top)

A 50-year conservation project, described as the "biggest and most ambitious" of its kind, aims to restore a historic part of the Peak District.

The National Trust has launched its vision to undo decades of damage on High Peak Moors and return the landscape to its former glory.

Measures include drainage removal and vegetation and woodland restoration.

The area includes Kinder Scout, the site of the 1932 mass trespass that led to the formation of National Parks.

Image caption More than 10 million people are estimated to visit the area each year

The Trust's rural enterprises director, Patrick Begg, said restoring the vital habitat could only be tackled over the long term.

"There really is not much point committing to restore upland peat bogs over a five-year period as this just scratches the surface," he explained.

"In order to get them back into good health, we really need to be committing to [50 years]. The work we will do will take that long to bed in and for the habitat to start to turn round."

Mr Begg told BBC News that the project will focus on a number of areas.

"We will be really investing in rewetting the bogs on the tops," he said.

"That involves blocking up drainage gullies and reseeding and replanting the bogs with cotton grass, as well as laying cut heather on them.

"My nutshell phrase at the moment is turning what looks like a moonscape at the moment, because it is so eroded, back into a moor-scape. It will look very different when we are done.

"Through that vegetation work, it will also be a better home for a wide range of species, so there will be better biodiversity."

Woodland revival

Another aspect of the vision will be to develop more woodlands in the area's cloughs, which are the steep valleys that lead up to the moors, to replace the loss of tree cover in recent decades.

"If you went back in time 50 years or more, you would have seen a rich tapestry of woodlands on those valleys," Mr Begg observed.

"We want to put those back and they will help in providing homes for wildlife as well as stabilising the soil and vegetation so we don't get the kind of run-off that we see at the moment."

The Trust says its vision will be beneficial in a number of other ways, namely helping to protect water supplies into the future and storing carbon dioxide that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere.

The authors of the 50-year plan say water from the moors feed two reservoirs in the area and the Trust-owned part of the moors stores carbon that is equivalent to three years' worth of emissions from a city the size of Sheffield.

Mr Begg added: "These are fundamental things that society needs us to be doing, alongside providing a better future for nature. It is also about being able to connect people back to nature."

The area contains the site of a protest that has been acknowledged as being pivotal in opening up public access to many of the nation's natural landscapes.

In April 1932, hundreds of ramblers walked on to private land on Kinder Scout, Derbyshire, to assert their right to walk freely across the countryside, which they called their "right to roam".

A number of the walkers were arrested and imprisoned but the act highlighted the growing demand among people to be granted access to natural areas for leisure and recreation.

Mr Begg observed: "We are very aware of that cultural depth and we want to continue to inspire people through the direct contact with nature."

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