The Juniors from Thorneyholme were invited to take part in a regeneration project that is happening on The Abbeystead Estate.
The project is to plant sphagnum, that can hold many times its’ own weight in water, to allow new peat to develop. The sphagnum helps cover bare peat which would otherwise be blown or washed away, holds moisture and thus allows the new peat to develop as well as enabling other plants to grow too. On top of this sphagnum is good at storing carbon, in the way that trees do, so is very good for the environment. By doing all of this, it is hoped that these new regenerated peat uplands could make a difference by ensuring water is retained on the uplands for longer and so reduce flooding lower down the valleys.
The children were taken to a low-lying area on the fell where sphagnum is abundant. Handfuls of different species were collected, bagged up and brought back to the minibus. The bags were very heavy as the sphagnum was really full of water. The children also collected a species of sphagnum that needs standing or running water to grow.
Travelling further up the fell, children could see large areas of black exposed peat. On this peat, they planted small handfuls of sphagnum about 30cm apart. It was really easy to do – the plant was placed directly on the top of the peat and pushed in with their feet. The standing water sphagnum was even easier – all that was needed was to take handfuls and throw it into the water! Children were told that the plants would immediately start growing and hopefully in 2 to 3 years cover the patch that they planted. Walking a little further up onto the fell, children were shown other methods of helping regeneration: peat mounds that have been flatten off and wood, peat and sheep wool dams. It was really interesting to see how corrosive the peat is. It has a pH of 2.5 and it had rotted the sacks that the wool was wrapped in, in less than 2 years.
Everyone got a little wet in the passing showers but it was worth it. Not only was it educational but great fun, and the children learnt about the many ways the fells can be maintained.