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Creating a wet grassland habitat at Manor House Farm

Grassland, east of Rufford Old Hall
Grassland, east of Rufford Old Hall | © Kate Martin

In January 2025, significant work will begin at Manor House Farm to re-wet the currently drained grassland, creating a wet grassland habitat and restoring the important peat beneath the surface.

The National Trust and Manor House Farm

The National Trust owns 69 acres of farmland on what was previously Manor House Farm, east of Rufford Old Hall, between the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the River Douglas. This area of land was acquired by the National Trust in 2000 to protect the views and settings of the Hall.

Why are we creating a wet grassland habitat?

Recent surveys show a significant amount of peat across the site, over 5 metres deep in places. Currently water is pumped away from the land via a drainage network, drying out the existing peat causing it to breakdown and stopping new peat from forming.

Peat is vital to the environment as it helps provide multiple ecosystem services:

  • Peatlands are amongst the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth, capturing CO2 from the air and acting as vast carbon sinks.
  • Home to a wide variety of animals and plants, they are also critical in preserving biodiversity.
  • They absorb large amounts of water during heavy rain, helping to prevent flash flooding and droughts.
  • Plants that inhabit wetland areas help to filter pollution and absorb chemicals.

Re-wetting the area to create a wet grassland habitat will not only help restore the peat, but also help to filter pollution, prevent flooding and store carbon.

Weirs installed to reduce water flow and loss of water across the site
Weirs installed to reduce water flow and loss of water across the site | © National Trust Image/Sophie Bolesworth

What work will be carried out onsite?

Work to create the conditions that will allow a wet grassland habitat to develop and restore vital peat is due to start January 2025 and be completed by Spring 2025.

A variety of techniques will be used in order to rewet the area.

  • Existing ditches will be reprofiled in strategic places to encourage water to spill out on to the fields and weirs installed to reduce water flow and loss of water across the site.
  • Ditch blocks will be installed to hold water on site during drier periods, preventing the drying out and erosion of peat. A new ditch will be created to the west of the site acting as a ‘header ditch’ and new ditch crossings formed to improve access across the area.
  • Several wet grassland species will be planted, boosting biodiversity and providing places for wildlife to breed, nest, feed, and shelter.
  • Interpretation boards will be installed detailing the project, and you can follow our progress throughout via the timeline below.

What are the benefits of this project?

Re-wetting the site will help restore vital peat, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and preserve potential archaeology (explained further below). Wet grasslands are critical ecosystems within agricultural landscapes and play a multifaceted role in sustainable farming practices.

Creating a wet grassland area will increase biodiversity across the site as it will create a range of wet and drier areas that will appeal to a variety of grassland species. It will also provide a stepping-stone between wetland habitats, from the Lancashire coast through to Mere Sands Wood and Martin Mere.

For locals and visitors to Rufford Old Hall, it will provide a new point of interest and experience with potential for providing further access to the land at Manor House Farm in the future.

Potential to be an archaeological site?

In February 2023 a historic environment assessment was carried out on the land at Manor House Farm. The results revealed areas of high and moderate potential for archaeological importance due to pre-historic and medieval remains found nearby. There were also cropmarks found in the southern half of the Manor House Farm site that indicate a possible enclosure.

These results have added to the importance of re-wetting the land as peat has the potential to contain an archaeological record of past local environmental conditions and can also preserve archaeological remains.

Working in partnership

In partnership with Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT), the project will be mainly funded through the government’s Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme, with additional funding from Starling Bank’s partnership with the National Trust.

Restoring peat at Manor House Farm project timeline

September 2022

Initial Surveys

National Trust as part of the Northern Lowland Peatland Coalition, headed up by Lancashire Wildlife Trust, are successful in an application to the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme for a Discovery Grant that will pay for surveys to be undertaken on the land at Manor House Farm. These surveys will provide us with information including peat depths, hydrology, archaeological potential and existing habitat types on the land.

Surveys completed in March 2023 show a significant area of peat exists within the area, over 5 metres deep in places, as well as highlighting that the area has some areas of high potential for archaeology.

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