For Peat’s sake!Is the missing peat making floods worse?

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A lonely Trig Point has lost her Peat. (see later) 

 

The floods of the last month have been grim. The aftermath has not been helped by making the causes a political football. This appeals to those enamoured of simple answers, which as Oscar Wilde said are always wrong. To some it is all because of Tory cuts but it is more complex. To others it is the cessation of dredging , bad directives from the EU and the muddle-headedness of greenie advice taken on board.

However part of the problem lies upstream  and for once I find myself in at least partial agreement with George Monbiot. He stresses the need for upland tree-planting and the removal of sheep from our uplands. His argument is at least part of the solution as is the need for peat restoration, which has been carried out in parts of the Pennines in recent years. I am familiar with the restoration in the Forest of Bowland and revisited part on New Year’s Day. My photos are to be found a little later.

Here is a recent blog of Mark Avery’s which summarises aspects including Monbiot’s articles. http://markavery.info/2016/01/03/floods-and-land-use/?platform=hootsuite

 

We live in Garstang which has the River Wyre flowing through it. In the 80s some flood defenses were built allowing for stopping the river to flood a large basin behind. These photos show the water still pouring over the barrier and how the water backed up, making the rubgy pitch three foot under water.

Even so the Wyre still flooded the Cornmill old peoples’ home, seen here after the river subsided a little. The other two shots are of the footpath leading to the river and then under the bridge. Here it is three feet under water. Five miles downstream the Wyre burst its banks at St Michaels.

 

Now first some tree planting.

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This is on the west slope of Hellvelyn over-looking Thirlmere (where the road has been washed away. Below is a valley on the SE side on Blencathra which has had recent planting but too small to show up on my photo. (I should have taken a recent photo.)

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Here we are just above Whitewell on the River Hodder, with some EA planting to control the river. I stopped to look and met the EA employee who planted it, who gave me an enthusiastic lecture about it! Good on the EA!! They get too much stick.

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Now to my bog-trotting New Year’s Day walk up Hazlehurst Fell (429m).  This fell forms a horseshoe above Bleasdale and includes Fiendsdale Head, Fairsnape Fell and Parlick, and is the source of the River Brock which flows into the Wyre at St Michaels.

I parked the car at Stang Yule and then followed a good track up the fell

 

025 026I had good views to the north to the Lakes and more immediately over Garstang to the fllooded Fylde – but only locally by Winmarleigh. Gaining height through the heather I got a good view of Parlick.003

A few days earlier I had cycled through Winmarleigh to Pilling to find the fields flooded on either side of the aptly named Island Lane. The floods here are not that unusual and until a sea dyke was built to the north in the 70s even the seas came to flood the area, or so the farmer told me.

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And so to the blocked drainage channels on the moorland.  These are all at about 350 to 410 metres and are straight runnels across the moor. A few years ago the ditches were dammed at intervals and allowed to regrow with a little introduction of sphagnum. (In warmer weather I often fill a plastic bag with sphagnum lower down and put it in the pools but not that day.) As you see the ditches are already being filled with vegetation and in September I found that the surrounding area was far wetter and boggier than it had been before. At present there is only a little sphagnum present.

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This is a view of the fell from the track on the north east, with a drainage ditch on the left. That had not been blocked.

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A view over Bleasdale and Parlick . It was a nice place to stop for some coffee.

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What is often not realised is that not only has peat been washed away, but also disappears into thin air. This can be see by the relative rising of Trig Points. These ubiquitous markers were erected by the Ordnance Survey a century or so ago, and beloved by walkers.

Here is the one on Hazlehurst F3ell (SD563481) . As you appoach you see the plinth is no longer flush were the ground. When you get there you see it is a foot proud of the surroundings. That means that the actual summit is ONE FOOT lower than it was a century ago.

Where has all the peatie gone?

The answer is clear. It has either been eroded, or,more likely, it has dried out and blown away.

 

 

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If that is not serious consider this poor trig Point on Haythornthwaite Fell (SD578515). The map says it is 428 metres, but that must be past tense. When I first went past it in 2003 in thick mist, it eerily rose above me by 10 feet. It has now been toppled and the base is clear and shows how much peat has disappeared.  The surrounding peat hags show the minimum height of the peat last century.  My photos do niot show how much peat has been lost as for about a square kilometre the peat has gone , exposing the mineral base, i.e. the broken rock lying on top of the Pendle Grit. It is hard not to see this as an environmental disaster as it has not only lost a habitat but loads of CARBON was locked up in that peat.

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I had a good short walk, but more important is to consider the seriousness of what has happened to the Pennines. Flooding may be only  one result of it. We have lost peat as a natural way of Carbon Capture, not to mention mountain biodiversity

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See also https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/loss-and-gain-peat-in-the-forest-of-bowland/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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