Wildlife: Peak’s moorlands is naturally recovering on it’s long route

I was out on the high moors and bogs just recently and was excited to see how nature is recovering from a 1980s low point.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 12:00 am

Land drainage, catastrophic air pollution from big cities, and then massive publicly subsidized over-grazing by sheep creating what George Monbiot describes as ‘sheep-wrecked landscapes’, had pretty much done for these vulnerable ecosystems.

However, times rolls on and today with all those factors reduced or removed, a major shift is underway and these areas are recovering naturally. Furthermore, this remarkable recovery is happening naturally and even without major financial investment to bring about the change. There is an important message here about removing the negative influences and letting nature get on with the process of long-term recovery.

Indeed, at Ringinglow Bog on the edge of Sheffield these sometimes-subtle changes can be witnessed first-hand. Rare upland flowers such as the Bog Andromeda or Bog Rosemary (so-called because its leaves look like rosemary) was believed extinct after drainage for the North Sea Gas pipeline cut through the site in the 1970s.

Bog Rosemary at Ringinglow taken by Ian Rotherham.

The result was that the site dried out and heavy sheep grazing did the rest. However, the plant was re-discovered about five years ago by Dr Paul Ardron and me whilst running a field workshop for the British Ecological Society.

Today it has recovered in good amounts over a wide area of the wet bog. Furthermore, other uncommon plants of upland sites have reappeared including the ‘Eared Willow’ (a rare and rather dwarfish species), Cranberry, Bog Asphodel (a beautiful upland lily), and the Common Sundew. The latter is one of our few carnivorous or insectivorous wild flowers and again almost extinct in the Peak by the 1980s but has reappeared. The bog-moss ‘Sphagnum’ has remarkable water-holding abilities that power this re-naturing of the wet landscape. Indeed, this is a plant, which if we can harness its water absorption can help reduce future flooding downstream. Not bad for a humble moss.

Contact Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer & broadcaster on wildlife & environmental issues, [email protected] or follow his blog (https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/ )