Restoring Holcombe Moor


Holcombe Moor, part of the Stubbins Estate, is located in the West Pennine Moors and much-loved by walkers from nearby Bury and Greater Manchester.

This high moorland is a precious environment where blanket bog has formed over 6,000 years leading to the accumulation of peat up to three metres deep in places.

In common with many other Pennine areas, the industrial revolution, and associated atmospheric pollution during the last 150 years, brought significant damage to the peat surface alongside other pressures including moorland fires, erosion and localised overgrazing.

This damage included drying out of the surface peat and changes to the vegetation making it less suitable for breeding moorland birds and increasing the likelihood of flooding downstream. It also means that the peat can no longer store carbon in the way that it should do, something which makes this type of environment such a valuable resource in our efforts to reduce the high levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

What are we doing?

Together with Moors for the Future Partnership, Natural England and the Holcombe Moor Commoners’ Association, and support from DEFRA’s Moor Carbon fund, a new programme of important work began in 2020 to improve Holcombe Moor peatland using several methods. These include:

- Creating permeable dams by lifting stones into eroded gullies to restrict the flow of flood water. Initially, this work will be carried out in the Alden Ratchers area by transporting stones by helicopter from a quarry just 1km away.

- Using excavation methods to create bunds and pools in select areas. This will also help in reducing the free flow of water across the moorland plateau.

- Re-introducing Sphagnum moss in newly rewetted areas. This will eventually make the top layers of the peat much more permeable and able to retain more water, rather than allowing it to flow over the surface as it does currently.

Our vision for the future

Our project can deliver biodiversity, carbon capture and natural flood management, linking an upland landscape to downstream beneficiaries in Rossendale and Greater Manchester.

By restoring the living surface of blanket bog this project can restore the capacity of Holcombe Moor to absorb carbon, supporting our efforts to adapt to climate change. It will improve blanket bog habitat helping the recovery of breeding moorland bird communities like golden plover and dunlin.

By holding rain water on the moor for longer, the project will reduce flooding something we have all seen can have a huge impact on communities at risk.

Working with the local community

For local people, Holcombe Moor is not only of great value as low intensity farmland but also as a place of recreation. We want the area to be accessible for those living in nearby urban areas, such as walkers and cyclists while managing areas where wildlife is sensitive to disturbance. To achieve this, we're continuing to work closely with groups such as the Holcombe Moor Commoners’ Association, the Holcombe Society and Bury Local Access Forum.

Follow our updates on this page to find out what we're doing to restore Holcombe Moor. If you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at

Latest updates

06 May 21

700 permeable and peat dams created

Since October last year, a further 300 permeable stone dams have been created in eroded gullies using stones airlifted from a local quarry. 308 peat dams have also been constructed, giving us more opportunities and methods to restrict the flow of flood water.

Image: © NW Groundworks

Stone dams in the gullies on Holcombe Moor

29 Mar 21

Nearly 3,500 bunds completed

Back in March 2020, we carried out bund trials to identify the most effective areas and types of bund for Holcombe Moor. Now, a year later, the huge task of creating thousands of bunds across the moorland plateau is finally complete, with over 2,611 bunds on National Trust land and 811 on adjacent land. Together, these bunds will slow the flow of water across Holcombe Moor. Not only will this reduce flooding, but it will also help to rewet the land, improving the capacity of the moor to absorb carbon and support our efforts to adapt to climate change.

Image: © NW Groundworks

An aerial view of Holcombe Moor taken from high up, showing hundreds of bunds dotted across the moorland going far into the distance.

22 Mar 21

Half a million sphagnum moss plugs planted

After months of hard work through rain, wind and even ice, a total of over 500,000 sphagnum moss plugs have been planted across Holcombe Moor. That includes 116 hectares of National Trust land and a further 52 hectares of adjacent land. It’s been thanks to our contractors, volunteers and local community groups that this incredible feat has been achieved, and we’re already seeing the impact this will have on restoring the moor.

A close up image of native sphagnum moss