Conservation at Marsden Moor

Moorland sunset view with pueple heather in the foreground

For many years we have been working hard to reverse the damage caused by more than 200 years of industrial pollution, wildfires and historic overgrazing that stripped plant life from large areas of peatland in the Peak District and South Pennines.

Moorland restoration work is carried out during the winter months (September - March) outside of nesting season. Work on the open moors stops in March until August to allow birds and wildlife to breed without too much disturbance. Marsden Moor is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a special area of conservation (SAC) for breeding birds and blanket bog habitat.

During the spring and summer months our work is focussed on access improvements, repairs to boundary fences, footpaths and stiles and helping out at our sister properties East Riddlesden Hall and Hardcastle Crags.


Moorland restoration techniques

Brash spreading
Several volunteers with tool spread brash against  vast moorland backdrop
Brash spreading

Stabilising bare peat

We spread heather brash to protect the peat and provide a source of seeds. We apply lime to reduce acidity and spread grass seeds and fertiliser that will form an initial crop of grass.

Cotton grass
Close up image of cotton grass
Cotton grass

Increasing diversity

We increase diversity by planting plugs of native species like cotton grass, heather, crowberry and bilberry.

Volunteers construct timber dams
A team of volunteers install timber dams against a moorland backdrop
Volunteers construct timber dams

Dams

We block eroded gullies using timber dams, heather bales or plastic dams. This helps prevent the peat from drying out by raising the water table and keeps eroding peat out of the reservoirs downstream.

Repairing a section of the Pennine Way with stone flags
A group of volunteers lower a stone flag into place druing footpath repairs
Repairing a section of the Pennine Way with stone flags

Path management

We refurbish footpaths to protect against the effects of erosion by foot traffic. We lay flagstones over boggy sections and add drainage features so that paths and the surrounding peat isn't washed away in wet periods.

Rhododendron is an invasive species
A close up photo of a ranger removing invasive rhododendron plant
Rhododendron is an invasive species

Invasive species

We control invasive plants where we can, including purple-moor grass and rhododendron, to ensure the SSSI's we work on are in good condition.

Sphagnum moss
A close up image of native sphagnum moss
Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum

We reintroduce sphagnum moss that was lost due to the effects of industrial pollution affecting the Peak District and South Pennines. Sphagnum is an important plant for active blanket bog as it is a key peat-forming species.

Belted Galloway cattle, a traditional breed used for conservation grazing
Distance photo of grazing belted galloway cattle
Belted Galloway cattle, a traditional breed used for conservation grazing

Grazing

Small numbers of cattle and sheep have been re-introduced to sections of the moors to control and break down molina (purple moor grass). This then provides a suitable habitat for ground nesting birds.