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Study visit to England

The Dokka Delta Wetland Centre is one of five subcontractors delivering mire restoration projects on behalf of the Norwegian Environment Agency, Statens Naturoppsyn (SNO) and the County Governor for Oslo and Viken. In addition to mire restoration work we also take part in courses, seminars and other gatherings concerning mire restoration. In 2019 the SNO and the County Governor arranged a study visit to England. This took place between the 4th and 7th March. The aim of the visit was to demonstrate to the Norwegian subcontractors some restoration techniques and projects in England.

The trip took place in Cumbria in North West England, where we got to see the restoration of areas of previous peat extraction, restoration of previous farmland, the restoration of blanket bog in upland areas, and the results of mire restoration after 20 years.

England is well ahead of Norway when it comes to the restoration of nature. But they have also destroyed much more of the nature that once existed in England than we have done in Norway and the job is therefore much bigger there. Mire restoration is a difficult task. The aim is to restore the original hydrological conditions that existed at the site with the corresponding habitat quality.

The study visit:

 

Day 1: On Day 1 we arrived in Kendal in the Lake District National Park, where Natural England have offices. The day started with a presentation from SNO about restoration methods and restoration projects from Norway. After this we had an introduction to various restoration techniques and projects in England, from the ecological consultancy and contractors OpenSpace and Blanker & Bland and the BogLIFE project. OpenSpace and Blanker & Bland conduct restoration projects on behalf of Natural England.

 

After lunch we had a field visit to see mire restoration in practice. We visited Bolton Fell Moss, a 4000 m2 former peat extraction site. This area had previously experienced intensive commercial peat extraction. Over 15 metres of peat had been extracted from this site and most of the area was barren and devoid of vegetation cover before they began the restoration work. Natural England is conducting a large-scale project here to restore the area back to mire. They are testing several restoration techniques, including blocking drainage ditches, cell bunding to stop water flowing away, and the transplantation of sphagnum moss and mire vegetation from intact mires.

 

Day 2: On Day 2 we visited Longcroft Farm on Bowness Common in Cumbria. Longcroft Farmt is a farm which has previously been managed using intensive farming practices. It is surrounded by mire, both intact and drained. Natural England purchased the farm and the property and now are proceeding to restore large areas of the previously farmed land to wetland. The use of the area for intensive agriculture, with the associated eutrophication, necessitates the creation of retention ponds and the long-term control of runoffs before the restored wetland areas can be joined together with the surrounding mire. Four techniques were demonstrated to us here: deep trench bunding, shallow bunds, small bunds and peat re-profiling. In addition to this we looked at the problems associated with the edges of peat land, including cracking and water loss and vegetation problems.

After this we visited Campfield Marsh nature reserve and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). The RSPB is the largest nature conservation charity in England. We had lunch and listened to presentations about their work with mire restoration, and about the quality of habitat associated with wetland areas.


Later that day we travelled to Glasson Moss nature reserve, which is part of Bowness Common. This is a mire that was originally restored over twenty years ago. There had previously been intensive peat extraction at this site, and before the work commenced there was 30-50cm high heather type vegetation and up to 2m high trees growing across the whole area. The restoration work that was carried out included the blockages of drainage channels, bund construction to retain water, and the cutting and burning of vegetation. There was enough intact mire close to this area to allow the natural vegetation to regenerate relatively quickly. The trees at the edge of the mire were allowed to remain standing, but the drainage channels were blocked causing the water table to rise. These trees died after a while, and eventually led to the development of a gradual transition from open mire to bog with lots of dead wood. This is associated with high biodiversity, especially insects, birds and fungi. There is a bird tower/viewpoint close to this area and we were able to observe the vibrant bird life around the site.

 

It was very inspiring to see the fantastic results of this restoration work. They have managed to recreate the mire area with all the properties a mire should have. The actual mire has increased by 1 – 1.5 metres in height. In the years after the restoration work the area was made accessible for walkers, with non-slip walking paths over the mire, viewing towers and a car park. This is to increase the public’s knowledge of and involvement in mire restoration. The footpath through the nature reserve is a great way to involve the public, whilst avoiding any unnecessary degradation of this important habitat.

 

Day 3: On our last day we travelled to Abbystead Estate, Lancashire, an upland royal sporting estate. Lots of the natural mire vegetation has been destroyed here through several different mechanisms. These include: burning to improve the quality of grazing, overgrazing by sheep, and acid rain; this combined with the weather and wind has over the last 200 years worn down the terrain by 2 metres. The wind and rain are still leading to massive erosion at the edges of mire areas. Natural England is conducting a large-scale restoration project here, and there are over 50 different engineering machines utilised here at different times to perform this work. The restoration work aims to flatten the edges and to form areas of raised bog that will not be so badly affected by the wind. After they have achieved the desired form, they add sphagnum moss and mire vegetation using special machines, to increase the speed of revegetation. The work demands a lot of time and is resource intensive, but necessary to achieve better drinking water quality, carbon storage and to preserve a threatened habitat type.


We had some great days during this visit. We learnt lots of new things, and we have been very inspired by the projects and the results achieved in England. We will take what we learnt with us when we perform restoration work in Norway. We would like to extend a thank you to the great group we travelled with on this study visit (the County Governor for Innlandet, Bulldozer Maskinlag Entreprenør AS, Hvitsand Entreprenør, Park og Anlegg, Ragn-Sells Miljøsanering and Ragnar R.Halvorsen).

 

Thank you to Statens naturoppsyn and the County Governor for Oslo and Viken for an amazing and educational study visit!


Photos from the visit:

 

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Day 1: Here the gang is gathered in the field to listen about the current large-scale restoration project that is taking place at Bolton Fell Moss. A previous site of commercial peat extraction, where they have removed over 15m of peat. Foto: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 1: They have used a variety of techniques at Bolton Fell Moss. In the photo you can see the bunds constructed to retain the water. They have been working with this restoration project for two years and the area is still relatively barren. Foto: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 1: They have used a variety of techniques at Bolton Fell Moss. In the photo you can see the transplanted sphagnum moss and the mire vegetation (the light brown area in the middle of the photo) that has been spread out to increase the speed of revegetation in the restored area. Foto: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 2 morning: Longcroft is an intensively managed farm that is surrounded by mire, both intact and heavily drained. Natural England purchased the farm and property and are now restoring large areas of previously farmed land to wetland. The picture is from Google Maps.

 

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Day 2 morning: This area within Bowness Common has previously been agricultural land. Natural England have purchased the farm and the property and are now proceeding to restore large areas of previously farmed land to wetland. The previous use of the area for intensive agriculture, with the associated eutrophication, necessitates the creation of retention ponds and the long-term control of runoffs (as shown in the photo) before the restored wetland areas can be joined together with the surrounding mire (as can be seen in the background). Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

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Day 2 morning: Four techniques were demonstrated to us here that have been used to restore the previously farmed land to wetland in Bowness Common. The techniques demonstrated were deep trench bunding, shallow bunds, small bunds and peat re-profiling. In addition to this we looked at the problems associated with the edges of peat land, including cracking and water loss and vegetation problems. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

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Day 2 morning: With the deep trench bunding and shallow bunds techniques it is important to use dark peat that is returned to the ditch and helps to reduce the flow of water. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 2: We visted RSPB Campfield Marsh. The RSPB is the largest nature conservation charity in England. We had lunch and listened to presentations about their work with mire restoration and the natural qualities of wetland areas. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 2: Presentation from the RSPB at RSPB Campfield Marsh about the habitat qualities of restored wetland areas. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 2: The presentation continues. A fully restored mire. They have used bunding to retain water in the mire and deep trench bunding to restrict water loss from the mire. The water table rose quickly using this technique and this helps to create the conditions required for further natural development of the mire. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

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Day 2 afternoon: Glasson Moss, this mire was restored over twenty years ago, and it was very exciting to see how it was here so many years after the restoration work was finished. The picture is from Google Maps.

 

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Day 2 afternoon: Glasson Moss, this mire was restored over twenty years ago, and it was very exciting to see how it was here so many years after the restoration work was finished. They have blocked drainage ditches, made bunds to retain water and there has been natural regeneration of mire vegetation and sphagnum moss. The mire returned ‘quickly’ to its previous condition, once the drainage channels had been blocked leading to the amount of water stored in the mire to rise. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

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Day 2 afternoon: This photo is taken from the bird tower/viewing tower at the edge of Glasson Moss nature reserve. Here you can see the restored open mire to the left of the photo and the gradual transition to bog with lots of dead wood towards the edge, a habitat with extremely high species diversity. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 2 afternoon: Non-slip woodwork through the bog woodland with vibrant birdlife and out towards the open mire at Glasson Moss nature reserve. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 3: Here we can see what remains after intensive burning to improve the grazing conditions, overgrazing by sheep, acid rain, and rain and wind that has eroded 2m of upland mire in the Abbystead Estate, Lancashire. The wind and rain are still wearing away at the edges and leading to heavy erosion. Here we also got to experience typical English weather. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 3: Here excavators have formed the landscape, and it is made ready for the introduction of sphagnum mosses and mire vegetation. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 3: Spaghnum moss and vegetation was added to the area once the desired form was achieved. This was to increase the revegetation speed in this area. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 3: Spaghnum moss and vegetation was added to the area once the desired form was achieved. This was to increase the revegetation speed in this area. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 3. An area that has been restored. Raised bog with natural sphagnum moss and mire vegetation. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 3: Different machines were used to perform the work. Here is an excavator with wide tracks with a spreading mechanism. Sphagnum moss and mire vegetation was transported using special dumper trucks in large burlap sacks as seen in the photo. Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.

 

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Day 3: We wandered into the upland royal sporting estate in proper British weather. Here is one of the hunting hides. We spotted lots of evidence of animal life in the area. Thanks for a wonderful visit! Photo: Anne-Sofie B. Strømme, 2019.