June 2019 - Progress being made with peatland restoration at Abergwesyn

A drone survey photograph, detailing a small area of erosion on Abergwesyn

In 2018, the Welsh Peatlands Sustainable Management Scheme (SMS) was started in Wales, a collaborative project, with the National Trust as one of the partners. Here’s an update from Project Officer Vicky who talks in detail about the progress made in helping to bring Wales’ peatlands into sustainable management.

Surveying and mapping an ancient landscape

An estimated 70,000 hectares of upland blanket bog is found in Wales with 2,000 hectares found on Abergwesyn, one of the biggest sites involved in the project.  The baseline surveys on the Abergwesyn Hill Common have been completed on 150ha of blanket bog along with mapping approximately 30km of gullies and 3ha of bare peat.  The surveys have shown that there is a lot of work needed to restore the blanket bog as unfortunately most of the bog is not in pristine condition

The delicate bog cranberry found on Abergwesyn Common
This plant species is an indicator of good blanket bog
The delicate bog cranberry found on Abergwesyn Common

A blanket bog in good condition has a variety of different plant species such as sedges, grasses, heather and the all-important sphagnum moss.  Other smaller more delicate plants can also be found such as bog rosemary, cranberry and sundew.  While these were found in small amounts on Abergwesyn Hill, our long-term vision is to see these species frequently across the whole site.

Planning for the future

Following on from this survey work, we are currently developing a restoration plan for Abergwesyn Hill.  Our main aim for the bog is to try and slow down the water flowing off the hills.  This is important because peat bogs, as their name suggests, need to be wet year-round, to be able to function naturally.  Sphagnum moss, the building block for all peat, needs wet conditions to be able to thrive. Slowing the water flow can also help reduce the risks of flash-flooding downstream as the water is held in the peat and is released slowly into the rivers.

Getting a birds-eye view

We’ve had an exciting month at Abergwesyn as we have had a drone survey over the peat bog.  Carried out by Yorkshire Peat Partnership, we are hoping this survey will help us calculate the number of dams needed and where they need to go.  By inputting the data and footage collected by the drone into the mapping software, it can show the water flow patterns and give cross-sections of the gullies, which means we don’t have to survey each gully on foot.  With 30km of gullies to restore, it might take us a while to complete it!

If you’ve been inspired with the work we’re doing to bring peatland into sustainable management, then come back for our next blog, where we’ll be sharing the work we with conservation grazing and celebrating National Meadows Day.