Natural England - Planning permission received to restore Bolton Fell Moss to its former glory

Planning permission received to restore Bolton Fell Moss to its former glory

3 December 2013

Cumbria County Council have given Natural England planning permission to restore Bolton Fell Moss, a vast area of milled peatland in north Cumbria, back to fully-functioning, sustainable, raised bog.

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Sphagnum colonising bunds © Alasdair Brock / Natural England

Lying between the parishes of Hethersgill, Walton and Stapleton, Bolton Fell Moss covers more than 370sq hectares. The raised blanket bog which it supports is one of the rarest wildlife habitats in the world, with the capacity to support Sphagnum mosses - crucial for peat formation and carbon storage. Part of the moss is already protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and in 2009 the majority of it was designated as a Site of Community Importance (SCI) by the European Union, placing a duty on the UK Government - under European Law - to restore it and designate it as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Phased works are anticipated to commence in spring 2014 and may take up to five years. The proposed restoration plan will see water levels managed and unwanted plants removed and replaced with appropriate vegetation, in order to allow the bog surface to re-establish. Water levels will need to rise to within a few centimetres of the peat surface for restoration to be successful.

The historic extraction of peat and the drying effects of drainage have resulted in the establishment of trees and scrub on some parts of the bog surface. Some of these trees will need to be removed to enable successful restoration. A band of trees of at least 40 metres wide will be retained around the perimeter of the moss where practical, providing woodland habitat for species including red squirrel and roe deer.

The main internal drains which have been installed to carry water off the site during past peat milling will remain in place during the restoration phase. Drainage around the perimeter will be managed between Natural England and other existing landowners, ensuring that nutrient-enriched water does not enter the site; excess water flowing off the bog continues to reach the surrounding streams and that water does not back up and flood adjacent agricultural land. The restoration of the bog will re-introduce natural flood control to the area.

We are exploring open access to the site, with a network of footpaths planned where practical and will continue discussing with the local community the site’s future and the ways they would like to see it managed.

The full restoration plan and associated maps are available to view. Any comments on the restoration plan should be sent to Alasdair Brock, Senior Reserve Manager: alasdair.brock@naturalengland.org.uk