Restoring the Marches Mosses

An article from the CIEEM Ecological Restoration & Habitat Creation SIG

Fenn’s, Whixall, and Wem Mosses NNR on the Shropshire /Wrexham border is a good demonstration of nature recovery in practice. The habitat was severely damaged by drainage, afforestation and peat cutting. Now, 30 years of painstaking effort to mend Britain’s 3rd largest lowland raised bog is showing some encouraging results. Particularly in achieving a better functioning hydrological regime. Around 775 hectares of the 950 hectare peat body has now been restored, with the site currently benefitting from £5 million grant from LIFE/NHLF under the Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project (a partnership of Natural England, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and NRW).

The challenging task of trying to restore the ‘lagg zone’, lost from nearly all British bogs, is being tackled. Action includes the acquisition and restoration to bog of 68 hectares of pasture and plantation forestry land; the diversion to the edge of an arterial drain that carried enriched water into the bog; and the remediation and ‘rewilding’ of a 2.4 ha contaminated former scrap yard. The wildlife is bouncing back too – including expanding populations of the White-faced Darter dragonfly and Large Heath butterfly and for the first time in 30 years, the return of breeding Snipe!

Photo: Shropshire Wildlife Trust

Green edged area – contaminated former scrap-yard and surrounding drained and unmanaged pasture featuring encroaching secondary birch cover. Management: clean up and remediate scrapyard, selectively remove birch cover and trial reversion of pasture to bog by blocking drains and peat bunding, and planting Sphagnum moss plugs following tur removal.

Purple edged area – previous pasture fed by a canalised lagg drain which has become naturally wet again as a result of subsidence because of peat ‘wastage’ and poor drainage plus leakage from the canal. Management: created water control structures so that the peatland can be kept moist and damp through the spring and summer when the land was prone to dry out.

See also this really interesting article in British Wildlife last October by James Robertson: Reserve Focus: Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses NNR