National award recognises moorland restoration delivered against all odds

Moors for the Future Partnership are very close to the finishing line for the 2020/21 conservation works season, one that has been quite unlike any other. The staff team and partners are still working hard to coordinate the final pieces of this season’s restoration work and ensuring that all work is wrapped up in time for ground-nesting birds to start returning to the moors, and nest undisturbed over the spring and summer months. 

This has been another busy year for Moors for the Future Partnership’s conservation activities and working in the face of a global pandemic with snowy weather that seemed to have been blanketing the moors more often than not, it has been one of the most challenging yet. The feat of innovation demonstrated by the Partnership to keep the restoration works on schedule has been recognised in the Park Protector Awards 2021, with Moors for the Future Partnership being awarded one of the two runner-up positions.

The Park Protector Awards is an annual event held by Campaign for National Parks. The awards aim to celebrate projects making a big difference in National Parks in England and Wales. ‘’Whether the project is improving biodiversity, restoring built or natural heritage, protecting or campaigning against a threat, involved in rural skills, volunteering or youth engagement, we look for the most innovative and impactful project.’’ This year, Campaign for National Parks has teamed up with Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and BBC’s Countryfile Magazine for the Park Protector Awards 2021, and the theme of the awards is ‘’Innovation and Agility in the Face of a Global Pandemic’’. The Partnership is delighted to be a runner-up for the awards this year; it has certainly presented many challenges to overcome in order to deliver the restoration works season to schedule.

Planning early, before the season started, the Partnership worked with contractors to place strategies in place to ensure work could continue to protect the environment, even in the event of the second lockdown – which was introduced in the middle of the delivery season. The works were front-loaded as much as possible and, by October 2020, the Partnership had already constructed nearly 3,000 dams. These gully blocks slow the flow of water to allow plant life and insects to survive, and in time, thrive.

Adding to the already complicated logistical operation working under the Covid-19 pandemic, the weather forecast also held a few tricks in store! Contending with several (admittedly beautiful but show-stopping) snow days, along with Storm Bella, Storm Christoph and multiple weather warnings, the wintery weather offered very few weather windows to fly materials onto site. Earlier in the season, within two months there had been just 12 snow-free days. Snow days are real showstoppers for moorland conservation, as the helicopters are grounded, materials cannot be transported and the key bog-building plant sphagnum cannot be planted.

Despite these challenges, the Partnership has successfully restored 7.7km2 of degraded peatlands across the South Pennines and the Peak District, all coordinated remotely from kitchen tables, home offices, and the cobbled-together work-spaces of the team working hard from their homes. This restoration of these key peatland habitats this year alone has several benefits to local wildlife as well as directly impacting local water quality, carbon capture to tackle climate change, and boosting biodiversity. In time, this vegetation will also lay the groundwork to significantly slow the flow of water from the hill as the plant life takes the pace out of the water to help to reduce flooding downstream.

The Partnership is looking forward to sharing the final figures shortly, which will be shared after the close of the season. Currently, the team continues to make the most of every weather window that presents itself right up until the end of the season.

David Chapman, Chair of Moors for the Future Partnership, said:

‘’I am delighted that Moors for the Future Partnership is a runner-up for the Park Protector Awards 2021. Nestled into a snowy backdrop that seems to have carpeted the moors this conservation season (October – March), and a global pandemic that has re-written the rulebook, Moors for the Future Partnership has successfully carried out over £5,000,000 of restoration works on the moorlands. 

“The Partnership has done a fantastic job in keeping delivery going and supporting contractors and others who are also facing similar challenges that come with working in the face of an ongoing global pandemic. I am very proud of the way the Partnership has, not just kept the wheels on, but continued to keep things going at some pace.

“A Herculean effort that has seen restoration work continuing to be delivered across the Peak District and South Pennines, landscape-scale monitoring continued, with a total combined distance walked by volunteers in 12 weeks of over 1800km and public engagement mainly via online talks and media coverage.’’