A high flying project to preserve rare peatlands in the Yorkshire countryside has reached a significant landmark, 12 months into a £9 million plan to improve the county’s drinking water quality.
More than 2,000 hectares of damaged peat has now been restored since the start of the Yorkshire Water initiative last year.
Specific areas have been targeted because of the detrimental impact that bare peat can have, with water becoming discoloured as it runs through the land and into nearby reservoirs.
And hard work over the past 12 months has begun to make a tangible difference to the land, Yorkshire Water said, with helicopters taking to the skies this week to target areas across the moors in the Huddersfield area.
The first of 1,800 heather bales were airlifted onto the moors above Wessenden reservoir near Marsden so they can be installed into gullies to reduce erosion of the peat which ends up in the reservoirs below.
A further 755 bales of heather are due to be airlifted and installed on Close Moss later in the autumn.
The scheme has so far focussed on the Chellow catchment in Bradford and Longwood catchment in Huddersfield, with re-seeding taking place across a huge expanse of land and fencing, gullies and dams being installed to help alleviate the problem.
Peat that is washed down into the reservoirs not only causes the water to be discoloured but also means that Yorkshire Water has to invest extra funds to treat the water in order for it to meet strict national standards set by an independent regulator.
Andrew Walker, Yorkshire Water’s catchment manager said: “This is the latest stage in the important project to preserve and enhance rare peatlands and, in the process, improve water quality.
“We also recognise that we have the opportunity to make a huge difference to some of Yorkshire’s most iconic landscapes by restoring them back to health, boosting local biodiversity and benefitting the thousands of visitors and user groups who currently derive enjoyment or income from them.
“Our work will have wider environmental benefits too, as we’ll be protecting and enhancing peatland which serves as some of the largest natural carbon reservoirs in the UK.”
The land is owned by the National Trust which has been working in partnership with Yorkshire Water to restore the peat.
Judith Patrick, general manager for the National Trust, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to further our conservation work on a bigger scale than we are normally able. So often we are restricted by staff or financial resource.
“The planned works directly contribute to our Estate Management Plan and will improve the habitat for our many upland breeding birds for the long term.”
Yorkshire Water said the project has a number of additional benefits, including the protection of the embedded carbon that peatlands are known to contain.
Research shows that for every £1 spent restoring peatlands, £3 of public money is saved, and for every £1 not spent on restoring peatlands the tax payer has to foot a £5 bill, Yorkshire Water added.