Photo: Roy Samuel, project manager for the Welsh-government funded sustainable management scheme, and Alan Kearsley-Evans of the National Trust, at work at Abergwesyn common. Photograph: Ashley Crowden/The Guardian
We thought we’d share some information on our blog on some of our neighbours work ongoing in the peat uplands of Abergwesyn in Wales. In this article they share the problems and effects of dried out peatlands and their planned strategies to reverse that and block ditches and change farming practices on these lands.
Even in midsummer, the hills above the market town of Rhayader in mid-Wales should be so soggy that a walk results in unpleasantly damp hiking socks. “It ought to feel really squelchy here,” said the National Trust’s Alan Kearsley-Evans. “Ten or 20 years ago you’d have been ankle deep. Now your feet stay dry.”
Kearsley-Evans is general manager for a sprawling patch that includes the well known peaks of the Brecon Beacons and beaches of the Gower peninsula, but it is his work trying to help restore the much less familiar peat uplands of Abergwesyn common that he believes may be the most important.
“It’s what keeps me awake at night,” he said. “We have to stop the tops drying out, stop the peat eroding, stop the water flowing down.”
Peatlands are crucial because of their role in countering the climate emergency by storing carbon. They are also vital in alleviating the risk of flooding, as they slow the flow of water off the high ground and, in places like Abergwesyn, provide important habitats for birds such as curlew, skylark and golden plover.
But peatlands across the world are drying out because of global warming and factors such as farming practices, including overgrazing.
At Abergwesyn, the National Trust aims to work with the “commoners”, who for generations have run animals, mainly sheep, over the hills. The trust is keen to plant trees such as hawthorn, birch and rowan on the slopes to slow the water and improve habitats.
“There are also plans to block ditches on the hilltops that were dug after the second world war to dry out the ground and provide more grazing land. Blocking them would, hopefully, make the tops wetter and more spongey.”
Actions like the above would help to restore biodiversity on the peatlands, lock in carbon and avoid annual carbon dioxide emissions. This is much like the work we are undertaking in Ireland on the West Coast in Lackaduff, Co Mayo. You can read more about our progress with that project here – https://greenrestorationireland.coop/mayo-bogs-project/
If you’d like to read more about the Welsh Peat Uplands here’s the link to the original article.