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Bid to raise the bog standard in North York Moors

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Brian Walker holds one of the hi-tech sensors being buried in peat at May Moss

The Forestry Commission is employing hi-tech sensors to help restore an ancient North York Moors bog.

May Moss in Langdale Forest, near Fylingdales, is thought to be nearly 9,000 years old and a major project is underway to remove conifers planted in the 20th century which are sucking moisture from the ground and drying out the fragile wet habitat.

Now ten new sensors have been buried deep in the peat to measure the depth of the water table and reveal how the bog copes with heavy rainfall. 

Brain Walker, Forestry Commission Wildlife Officer, said:

“Our key aim is for water to be retained for longer in the bog and encourage it to expand again with mire vegetation like sphagnum moss.  Felling conifers is just part of this project and we have also been blocking drainage channels.  The sensors are a few inches long and are linked to data logging units and will help tell us how well we are doing.  They will provide a yardstick to measure progress in a unique venture.”

May Moss is a key location for studies into climate change over the centuries because it is entirely fed by rain water. Core samples have confirmed the dip in temperatures which occurred between the 16th and 19th centuries, often referred to as the "Little Ice Age”.  Liverpool University is involved in the work.

Brian Walker continued:

“The restoration of May Moss is 60% completed and the signs are encouraging that the bog is growing again.  Despite appearances this is a living habitat with about a metre of new peat being laid down every 1,000 years. It is also playing a part in alleviating the severity of flooding down stream as water retained in the bog for longer lessens surging run-offs into vulnerable areas.”

Last year the SITA Trust and North York Moors National Park Authority allocated £190,000 to the Forestry Commission to help double the size of May Moss by felling a further 170,000 trees.


The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit

Media contact: Richard Darn, Tel: 0113 3466085.  Mobile: 0775 367 0038.