A team of sixty soldiers from the British Army has joined up with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to reinvigorate the peat bog ecosystem at Haweswater, as part of an extensive landscape restoration effort.
This collaborative project, undertaken yesterday (Thursday 19 October), marks the second year of the British Army’s ‘Global Charge’ green initiative, demonstrating their commitment to supporting local environmental projects. In an area of peat bog in the Riggindale Valley, the soldiers used their strength, and crucially, their engineering expertise, to strategically move several huge boulders and 1,000 natural bags of earth, so that water will be captured and held in place to re-wet this landscape for a thriving habitat to develop.
Haweswater, nestled in the Eastern Lake District, was selected as the site of this partnership due to its long-term conservation work. It is the base for ground-breaking landscape recovery work, which is the result of the pioneering partnership between landowner United Utilities and the RSPB, working together since 2011, to enhance this beautiful landscape for the future, to benefit wildlife, water and people.
Major Sean Mackey, of the Light Dragoons, who instigated the army’s involvement in the project said:
“As a local resident, I was aware of the vital work taking place at Haweswater to improve the habitats there. When the British Army’s annual green initiative was coming round again this year, I saw a golden opportunity to contribute. The team at Haweswater readily embraced our offer of assistance, knowing that with 60 soldiers, we can make a significant impact on the peat bog restoration.”
The Army worked at Sale Pot – which means “Willow Pool” – situated in the Riggindale Valley adjacent to Haweswater Reservoir. Its meaning gives a nod to how it used to be and previously the RSPB conducted vegetation surveys that revealed this now dry area was once a flourishing wetland habitat, as evidenced by the remnants of bog plants that still exist.
Extensive peat bog drainage has historically occurred in upland areas, primarily for agricultural purposes. However, this practice has inadvertently impacted water quality, increased downstream flooding, and disrupted the bog’s capacity to support diverse plant and animal life.
Richard Smith, one of the RSPB Wardens, who was involved in leading the day said:
“We’ve previously investigated re-wetting this peat bog, but it would have involved helicoptering in machinery and the cost of that was prohibitively expensive. We’re a small team of three Wardens here at Haweswater, so it isn’t a task we could have done alone.
“But with 60 soldiers to lend both engineering expertise, and their collective strength – moving rocks and earth to block old ditches and hold the water in the bog again, it will hopefully only take a day to complete this mammoth task. We’re extremely thankful to the Environment Agency who funded the natural bags we’re using to hold the earth in place, and of course, to the Light Dragoons for thinking of us and we hope to work with them again in future years.”
John Gorst, Catchment Partnership Officer for United Utilities said,
“We’re delighted to have the army’s help on this project. It’s a continuation of previous peat bog work we’ve carried out at Haweswater to improve drinking water, slow the flow during high rainfall, and increase the wildlife and biodiversity that relies on this internationally important habitat. Wet peat bogs also absorb large amounts of carbon, so make a huge contribution to the fight against climate change.”
To discover more about the work of the RSPB and United Utilities at Haweswater, visit www.wildhaweswater.co.uk
Main image credit: RSPB, Lee Schofield