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NEWS RELEASE No: 1559513 AUGUST 2012

North York Moors bog gains more liquid assets

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Petra Young measures peat depth on May Moss North York Moors

An ambitious Forestry Commission project to restore one of England’s fragile upland bogs has passed a major milestone.

May Moss in Langdale Forest, near Fylingdales on the North York Moors, is thought to be nearly 9,000 years old and experts say it is a key habitat for plants, birds and insects.

Now work to remove 170,000 conifers from the site has been completed using a £170,000 grant from the SITA Trust along with backing from the North York Moors National Park Authority.

The trees were planted in the 20th century to bolster the nation’s timber reserves depleted by two world wars, but they were sucking moisture from the ground and slowly drying out the ancient habitat.  But the tide has turned and the bog has been given a new lease of life, boosting plants like sphagnum moss, cotton grass and bog rosemary, along with dragonflies.

Brian Hicks, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said:   

“We have restored 150 hectares of the bog, twice as much as originally planned, by removing trees and blocking drainage channels to help the site retain rain water. The signs are encouraging with the return of vegetation to areas cleared of trees.  Despite appearances this is a living habitat with about a metre of new peat being laid down every 1,000 years.  Bogs may not have the profile of rainforests or ancient woods, but ecologically they are just as important."

Specialist equipment which can mulch a tree in a few seconds was deployed in some parts of May Moss, whilst conventional mechanised harvesters were also used. 

Further ditch blocking work is being done by the Yorkshire Peat Partnership and vegetation surveys undertaken by North York Moors National Park volunteers under the guidance of the York-based PLACE Education and Research Centre. Sensors are also monitoring water flows allowing experts at Liverpool University to gauge the success of the project.

Brian Hicks added:

"Another major gain from restoring May Moss is that it is acting like a giant sponge, retaining water for longer and alleviating the severity of flooding downstream in vulnerable areas by reducing surging run-offs during storms or very wet periods." 

Jools Granville of SITA Trust added:

“We are delighted to be the funding partner on such a necessary project. May Moss is part of England’s biggest moorland Site of Special Scientific Interest and we’d like to ensure that it is given every assistance possible.”


Notes to editor

  1. Because it is entirely fed by rainfall, rather than rivers or streams, it has been used to study historic climate change. Core samples have confirmed the dip in temperatures between the 16th and 19th centuries, often referred to as the "Little Ice Age”.

  2. 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. More details visit

  3. SITA Trust is an independent funding body set up in 1997 to provide funding through the Landfill Communities Fund. To date SITA Trust has supported more than 3000 projects to a combined value of over £89 million. SITA Trust funding enriches nature by supporting biodiversity conservation projects in England’s 9 Biodiversity Regions. Projects must focus on species or habitats identified in the UK BAP process. SITA Trust receives its funding through HM Government’s Landfill Communities Fund. Funding is donated by SITA UK, one of the nation’s largest recycling and resource management companies.

  4. The Landfill Communities Fund - Landfill tax was introduced in 1996 to encourage more sustainable ways of managing waste. The landfill tax legislation also brought about the Landfill Communities Fund. This scheme allows landfill operators to voluntarily donate 5.6% of their landfill tax liability to environmental improvement projects. The Landfill Communities Fund is independently regulated on behalf of HM Government’s Revenue & Customs by ENTRUST.

  5. Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038