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An exciting new project has been launched to restore the lost Meres and Mosses on the Forestry Commission estate at Delamere Forest, near Northwich in Cheshire, which have been dry for up to 80 years.
The Forestry Commission and Natural England are spearheading plans for the re-wetting of Delamere in a bid to conserve the rare natural landscape and benefit important wildlife and plant species in the region.
Made up of more than 100 peatland basins of different sizes, Delamere forms one of the key wetland sites in the UK and is internationally renowned for its unusual quaking bog sites, known as ‘schwingmoor’.
As result of the area’s unusual glacial origins, it features a dense concentration of basins including Linmer Moss, Hatch Mere and Flaxmere Moss Ramsar and Abbots Moss and Oakmere Special Areas of Conservation.
But these watery havens have been hidden beneath soil and trees for decades.
The work to re-wet them is all part of Natural England’s £4 million Wetland Vision, which will fund almost 2,000 hectares of wetland recovery projects in the next two years.
Forestry Commission Wildlife Ranger at Delamere Forest, Oliver Thompson, says:
“We’re enhancing the environment by returning the land to its natural former state. It used to be much wetter here and by restoring the meres and mosses, rare plants and other associated species including invertebrates and amphibians will be able to thrive once more.
“Visitors will be able to see the work as it happens and we’ll be putting up four special interpretative boards explaining exactly what is going on. We want people to know it’s not just a boggy area – it’s an important conservation site that without this important work would be lost forever.”
Natural England Wetland vision monies will be matched by funding from the Forestry Commission, Cheshire Wildlife Trust and Cheshire BAP Partnership to restore a total of 33 ha of basin fen in four key sites by raising water levels.
Delamere Forest, which is managed by the Forestry Commission lies at the heart of the area.
Drained and completely afforested in the early 1900s many of the basin peatlands in Delamere Forest were forgotten about.
However their conservation value was recognised following a successful flagship project involving the restoration of Blakemere Moss in the late 1990s. Blakemere has since become an excellent habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and is particularly popular with ornithologists.
Work has now begun to remove conifers from these basins and install dams to re-wet them.
A wide range of rare species will benefit from the project. Over time it’s hoped the new habitats will provide homes for species such as diving beetles, white faced darter dragonflies, the locally scare green hairstreak butterfly and great crested newt.
Wetlands can also benefit the public by providing a natural water store to help prevent flooding.
The first part of the Delamere project will be finished by March 2011, but the work will be ongoing. A working group will oversee the programme and explore opportunities for further wetland landscape restoration in the Delamere area.
Other wetland projects to receive funding during the next two years include the East Anglian fens, Humberhead Levels, Morecambe Bay Wetlands, the Somerset Levels and the River Till in Northumberland.
For more information on the work of the Forestry Commission in North West England go to www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland
For further information about Natural England, visit the website at www.naturalengland.org.uk
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Images of Delamere’s Meres and Mosses are available by calling 01524-782086.
2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development.
3. The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain, with responsibility for more than one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. Its North-West England Forest District covers the Lake District in Cumbria, the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. The forests are managed for conservation, wildlife, landscape and recreation as well as providing a valuable source of timber.
4. Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings.
5. Wetlands are some of the most important landscapes on earth and they are under threat. These landscapes provide vital wildlife habitats and public services. By increasing the natural capacity of the countryside to absorb and hold excess water, the risk of flooding could be decreased. The restoration and enhancement of peat bogs could prevent thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere every year. The Wetland Vision project unites five of the UK's leading environmental organisations in a bid to restore and re-create a network of wetlands for the benefit of people and wildlife alike. Many of the projects will also benefit the historic environment, as protecting wetlands conserves buried archaeology and fragile and irreplaceable historical archives.
Oliver Thompson (Wildlife Ranger) at Delamere on 07810 813 196 or 01606 324911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Natural England National Press Office on 0845 603 9953; email@example.com, for out of hours call 07970 098005.