Earlier this year I gained some work experience carrying out some moorland restoration work at White Moss on the National Trust’s Marsden Moor estate, near Huddersfield in Yorkshire.
At Marsden Moor the Trust cares for over 5,500 acres of unenclosed moorland.
Careful management is essential to help sustain this important habitat which may seem on the surface rather barren, bleak and inhospitable but it is rather beautiful and crucially it is home to a vast diversity of birds, mammals and insects.
An underlying layer of peat covers the majority of the estate and it is when this peat is bare, without any vegetation, that it can quickly erode and as a result struggle to regenerate. This can then quickly deteriorate causing significant patches of habitat loss.
Our work on the day was to plant Cotton-grass plugs in areas of bare peat. This particular species likes the wet, peaty conditions and helps to stabilise the soil and encourage re-vegetation.
The characteristic white tufts of cotton-grass are also attractive when in flower, adding further beauty to the landscape in late spring. Interestingly, I found out that these tufts were once used as pillow stuffing in Suffolk and in Scotland they used them to dress wounds during the First World War!
We managed to plant over 1,000 plugs throughout the day. It will be nice to return to White Moss in the future to see how well the cotton-grass establishes.
I was shown some of the other jobs the Rangers at Marsden Moor have been involved with. Footpath improvements have been one of the major tasks over the past few years including long sections of flag-laying along the Pennine Way which cuts through the estate. This looks like back breaking work! The flags are air lifted to location periodically and slowly but surely the Rangers are completing the route.
I was also shown an area where geojute (a biodegradable netting made from coconut fibres) has been used to try and help stabilise sections of particularly deep bare peat. This relatively new technique is being tested on the Marsden estate and it seems to be working in places.