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Yorkshire Water to start moors catchment management scheme

Yorkshire Water and partner Moors for the Future will embark on a catchment management project in Snailsden and Thurlston Moors later this month as part of a £2M programme, in support of Natural England, to improve the condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Centuries of change have led to Yorkshire’s peatland habitats being degraded. Over the next four years York the company will conserve and enhance 43 square miles of Yorkshire’s peat moorland – much of which is owned by the water company and designated as SSSI.

Innovative survey techniques have been used; unmanned aircraft have been used to map erosion features on SSSI moorlands and helped to identify areas for improvement. Restoring and protecting these landscapes will boost local biodiversity and benefit the thousands of visitors who enjoy the moors and also improve the quality of raw water in several moorland catchments.

The project on Snailsden and Thurlstone Moors will involve re-vegetation of eroded bare peat using local species including sphagnum mosses. Sphagnum regeneration will help to reduce peat loss and maintain the natural water table.

Grips and moorland gullies will also be restored. Grips or man-made drains were dug across Yorkshire’s upland peatlands in the mid-20th century to improve the land for agriculture but many of these have become badly eroded over time.

Approximately 4,000 peat turf and stone dams will be created in these grips and gullies to slow the water flow and also restore the water table. These will also trap peat sediment and help prevent it getting into water destined for customers’ water supplies meaning it's easier for Yorkshire Water to treat.

Michael Toy, Yorkshire Water’s project manager, said: “Because the moors are so remote we are using a helicopter to deliver the materials and the mosses to site. We'll use an area to the south-east of Winscar reservoir car park to store materials and there will be times when we need to close this car park to allow the helicopter to take off and land safely.”

The project at Snailsden and Thurlstone Moors will be complete in March (weather permitting) with the whole programme of work finished by the end of 2020.

Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England and aims to protect England’s nature and landscapes.

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