For peat’s sake! Chris reports on Saddleworth moorland success

TV PRESENTER Chris Packham put Saddleworth’s moorland under the spotlight during the recent BBC Springwatch series.

As reported in the May edition of the Independent, Chris visited the area for a day’s filming on the hills above Dovestone Reservoir.

Chris Packham

The results of his trip, including a walk round Chew Reservoir, were broadcast to the programme’s millions of viewers on June 12.

Chris’s focus was the area’s huge swathes of peat bog and a 10-year regeneration programme of the fragile and vital uplands habitat.

The success of the project has seen a rise in the number of birds such as curlew, golden plovers and dunlins.

During his visit the 57-year-old Springwatch co-host interviewed Kate Hanley from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and United Utilities wildlife warden, Ed Lawrence.

Chris, who stayed at the Old Bell in Delph during his visit, told viewers: “This fragile habitat took over 5,000 years to form.

“And over the last 200 has suffered terrible degradation. Over burning, over grazing and acid rain have stripped it of its protective blanket of vegetation. As a consequence, wildlife has suffered.

“The quality of the water entering the nearby reservoir is also under threat.”

“Thankfully in this hour of greatest need a utilities company and conservationists have come together to make a difference.”

Kate confirmed that without intervention the problem would quickly have exacerbated.

“It was pretty much a disaster from a bio diversity and a water quality point of view,” she said.

“There was a lot of bare peat and big gullies transporting lots of water off the hill.”

UU kicked off the regeneration programme in 2007 while the RSPB picked up the gauntlet three years later.

Work included the blocking of gullies and the reintroduction of sphagnum moss which has an ability to hold water 10 times its own weight.

Ed added: “The reason we own the land and have interest in it is water quality.

“The better quality water that comes off these moors, the cheaper it is to treat and we can save money for customers.

“By improving the habitat we can improve the quality of the water.

“We do know the cleanest water we get off a peak bog is off a sphagnum rich, very wet peat bog.”

Chris concluded: “Visually the landscape can look a bit bleak and barren but it is internationally important.

“So, this is a triumph of conservation.

“Hats off to the RSPB, all of those volunteers and United Utilities. What a treat it was to go up there and see that.”

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