An independent voice and a forum for debate for those who find Dartmoor a source of livelihood or inspiration

Naturally formed peat bog with sphagnum, upper reaches of the East Dart © Chris Chapman
Naturally formed peat bog with sphagnum, upper reaches of the East Dart © Chris Chapman

Pristine bog on the slopes of Cut Hill, Dartmoor © Chris Chapman
Pristine bog on the slopes of Cut Hill, Dartmoor © Chris Chapman

Summit of Cut Hill, August 2021 © Chris Chapman
Summit of Cut Hill, August 2021 © Chris Chapman

Tinners' Mould Stone © Caya Edwards
Tinners’ mould stone Dartmoor © Caya Edwards

Dartmoor upland peat towards Teignhead Farm © Caya Edwards
Dartmoor upland peat towards Teignhead Farm © Caya Edwards

Grey Wethers Stone Circle, Dartmoor, 2021 © Caya Edwards
Grey Wethers Stone Circle Dartmoor 2021 @ Caya Edwards

Dartmoor Society Conference 2021

Hallowed Turf: Perspectives on the Conservation of Dartmoor’s Blanket Peat

Our conference this year is about peat. A source of fuel and water for millennia, why should we be concerned about Dartmoor blanket peat? Should our focus be to conserve it, allowing natural processes to keep it in optimal condition, or is it in fact deteriorating and is work required to ‘restore’ it to an assumed earlier state of health?

Peat is a hot topic these days. Increasing awareness of climate change has turned the international spotlight on peat uplands for their ability to store carbon. Since 2015 the South West Peatland Partnership has carried out work on Dartmoor to restore areas of ‘degraded’ peat with the aim of ensuring that it can fulfil the function of holding water and storing carbon into the future.

Members will know that The Dartmoor Society has followed peat restoration work closely, and we have been critical. An organisation like ours that seeks to protect Dartmoor must speak out when large-scale and invasive work is carried out on formerly untouched areas of blanket peat. You can read our policy statement on peat restoration.

We are part of the South West Peatland Partnership and we have called for evidence that demonstrates significant changes in the way that the blanket bog functions, since only clear evidence of change over time can justify a project of this cost and scale. Throughout we have voiced our concern about the lack of thorough archaeological surveys prior to the start of restoration work within Dartmoor’s internationally recognised prehistoric landscapes.

With the publication of the Mires on the Moors report in 2020 we thought it a good time to invite some of those most closely involved in the project to talk about their work and we really appreciate the efforts they have made to prepare and to come and talk to us. We are also delighted that Keith Bungay has agreed to be our conference chairman.

Richard Brazier heads the research team at the University of Exeter and will talk about the science that has informed the project. Adrian Colston reflects on how different stakeholder interests make the project so complex and sometimes controversial, and Morag Angus from SWW will talk about the logistics of this complex work and how it is carried out on the ground.

Kevin Cox is chairman of the UK RSPB and he will talk about the impacts on birds and nature conservation in general in the areas subject to re-wetting. Martin Gillard, Environment Officer for the South West Peatland Partnership will give the audience some insights into how archaeological sites are considered and the potential for new finds in the peatland restoration programme.

Geoff Eyres, a farmer and agricultural businessman from the Peak District has for thirty years, on his own initiative, developed his own methods to regenerate peat and associated flora on his land. It will be interesting to hear how one person’s initiative has persisted and what the results have been. Could his ideas be of use to us on Dartmoor?

All are welcome so do tell anyone you think might be interested and see our events page for all the details and to book.

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