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Award-winning Exmoor Mires Partnership has progress captured on camera

09th August 2019

Photos of Exmoor have been replicated to show the progress of the award-winning Exmoor Mires Partnership since the project began over a decade ago.

The Exmoor Mires Partnership was created to restore peat upon Exmoor and block drainage ditches to 're-wet' bogs, enabling them to retain water and carbon. It is supported by local landowners, the Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage, the Exmoor National Park Authority, and local volunteers.

One of those volunteers, Bob Walters, has revisited a number of sites that had originally been photographed 10 years ago to reproduce images from the exact same location. This enables the partnership to monitor visible changes in the landscape before and after peatland restoration works were undertaken.

Armed with overview maps, geographic information systems and all-important original pre-restoration photos – some dating as far back as 2006 – Bob could pinpoint the exact location of the photos and replicate them, demonstrating the difference the work is making. In addition, Bob has been digging back through the archives and retaking a range of photos of the peatland landscape of Exmoor dating back to the 1940s, which further enhances the partnership’s understanding of the changing upland environment.

The focus of the partnership is to block drainage ditches using sustainable methods, local materials and local contractors to hold back the water that would flow along the ditches, creating pools that rewet historically drained peat in the area around the ditch.

This increased water storage has the effect of reducing the fluctuation of river flows, making flooding less likely, reducing soil erosion and the amount of peat and colour entering rivers, thus requiring fewer chemicals and carbon to turn it into our top-quality tap water. Rewetting of peatland long term also has the potential to significantly lower emissions of greenhouse gases from these precious habitats and build climate change resilience.

Morag Angus, South West Water’s Mires Partnership Manager, said: “Having Bob volunteering with us is fantastic. His time on the moor has meant we now have this amazing portfolio of photographs that capture the landscape of Exmoor.

“By taking the photographs in the same point we can monitor visible changes before and after we undertake the restoration works. As peatland recovery work is carried out over decades we can retake the photographs in five, 10 or even 50 years from now and look at any real long-term changes in the landscape.

“This acts as an amazing archive and monitoring tool but as Bob has a great eye for a photograph they are beautiful images in their own right.”

Bob, a retired primary school teacher from North Devon, said: “I am really pleased with the final photos and how they show the difference from the originals. I just wish there were another 20 or 30 sites to photograph because I loved doing it and am thrilled it has produced such good results for the project.”

Notes to editors

The moors of Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor hold significant regional and national deposits of peat in the form of blanket bogs and valley mires. These wetland habitats are complex ecosystems that support diverse and unique ecology of national and international importance.

Over centuries, human interventions have and still are impacting upon the overall quality and distribution of wetland mire habitats and upland moors. The demise of such wetlands across extensive swathes of the moors has resulted in changes in the moorland ecology, including the loss of iconic species such as dunlin, golden plover, and Sphagnum mosses.

The challenge is to prevent further losses and halt the decline, while improving and restoring these habitats.

Peatland restoration brings multiple benefits, including:

 •            Increasing the peatlands’ resilience to climate change and increasing carbon storage.

•             Improving the hydrological function of the peatlands by improving the quality and quantity of water leaving the moors.

•             Helping to store and slow the flow of water, potentially reducing the risk of flooding downstream

•             Restoring the ecosystems that support the recovery of the habitats and associated wildlife.

•             Protecting and increasing our knowledge of our historic environment.

•             Maintaining and improving access.

•             Health and well-being benefits to society both locally and nationally.

•             A greater understanding of and experience for the numerous people who work in and visit these iconic landscapes.

For further information please contact:

South West Water