South West Peatland Partnership

Banner image

The South West Peatland Partnership is working to restore damaged peatland on Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor.

The partnership was awarded £2million to restore 1,680 hectares of damaged peatland by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2018.

The three-year project is led by Morag Angus, South West Water’s Exmoor Mires Partnership Manager, and complements our award-winning Upstream Thinking catchment management programme. It also aligns with Defra’s 25-year Environment Plan which specifically mentions peatland restoration.

Why peatland is important

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.

The project is being delivered by a partnership including government agencies, non-governmental organisations, landowners and farmers. Restoration work started in August 2018.

What we’re doing and why

Various ditch blocking techniques using sustainable materials (wood, peat, grass and heather) are being used on historic peat cuttings, drainage networks and eroding gullies in order to enable re-wetting of extensive areas of damaged peatlands.

Undertaking this peatland restoration will bring about multiple benefits. These include:  

  • 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.  

The project partners:

Partnerships have been formed on all three moors including landowners, commoners and other interested parties:

  • Bodmin Moor: South West Water, South West Lakes Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency, RSPB, Cornwall AONB, Cornwall Council, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Country Land and Business Association, Bodmin Moor Commons Council
  • Dartmoor: Dartmoor National Park Authority, Duchy of Cornwall,  Forest of Dartmoor Commoners Association South West Water Dartmoor, Dartmoor  Preservation Association, Dartmoor Society, Devon Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency,  Historic England, Ministry of Defence, Natural England, National Trust, RSPB,  University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, Westcountry Rivers Trust
  • Exmoor:  South West Water, Natural England, Environment Agency, Historic England, University of Exeter, Exmoor National Park Authority, Exmoor Society, farming representatives. 

The project is being match funded by:

  • Environment Agency – funds and contribution in kind
  • Dartmoor National Park Authority - funds and contribution in kind
  • Duchy of Cornwall - funds and contribution in kind
  • RSPB - contribution in kind
  • Westcountry Rivers Trust – funds
  • Cornwall Council – funds
  • Cornwall AONB - funds and contribution in kind
  • University of Exeter - contribution in kind
  • Devon Wildlife Trust - contribution in kind
  • South West Water - funds and contribution in kind
  • Exmoor National Park Authority - contribution in kind
  • Dartmoor Preservation Association – funds and contribution in kind
  • Forest of Dartmoor Commoners Association – contribution in kind
  • MoD – funds and in kind