Harwood Forest 'major' peat restoration project completed

Peat restoration
The restored peat bog is near St Oswald's Way National Trail

Acres of forest land in Northumberland has been restored to peat bog in a bid to tackle climate change.

The "extensive" area of rewetted deep peat created in Harwood Forest will help store carbon, filter water and increase biodiversity.

In the 1950s, the area was cleared of all its native wildlife to create space for timber planting.

The charity behind the project said peat is one of "nature's major weapons in the fight against climate change".

In total, 19 acres (eight hectares) of land has been restored to bog.

Groundwork North East & Cumbria, which led the project, said sphagnum mosses, bog rosemary and cranberry that grew in the area before the forest was planted in the 1950s will now grow and rot down in waterlogged conditions to create more peat.

Groundwork's project manager Michele MacCallam said: "We are hoping for positive results that will act as a catalyst for other projects elsewhere."

Peat restoration
Project workers used a technique called ground smoothing

Forestry England warned the previous timber planting on the site affected the land, and it remains to be seen if the restoration project has solved issues with drainage.

The work and results will be closely monitored by Natural England and Forestry England for the next ten years.

Depending on the results, the project could be replicated with pockets of land elsewhere, Groundwork said.

Forestry England's Peat Specialist, Richard Guy said: "This process will take some time to take full effect, but the development of deep peat takes millennia, so restoration of that peat can't be rushed."

Groundwork received a £10,000 grant from the Hexham-based Vattenfall Company, through donations to Ray Wind Funds.

A further £41,000 was given by the government-sponsored Nature Returns programme, which also being used to fund Groundwork's wider Wansbeck Restoration for Climate Change project.

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