Plans for Bird Hide at Morris’s Bridge

July 21, 2019

Note: Please be aware that the links on this page will take you to a third-party website.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust recently purchased the fields at Morris’s Bridge with the view that they will become an increasingly popular attraction due to the interesting variety of bird species that they attract. Curlew and lapwing numbers have plummeted in the UK due to a loss of suitable breeding habitat but the fields, which remain wet throughout the year, provide essential refuge for both species. The fields are also a good site to spot teal, herons and wintering wading birds such as dunlin and sandpipers.

Working with Natural England, the Trust will be managing the fields to retain water by installing peat bunds around the site. The water management scheme has been designed to have no net effect on flooding. Access to the fields will be improved, as will parking facilities.

A consultation event took place on Saturday 15th June to allow interested parties to air their views on the plans and the overall response was very positive.

The fields will now be known as the Charles Sinker fields in dedication to Charles Sinker, who was a strong champion for the Meres and Mosses and wrote a key paper on the landscape of north Shropshire in 1962.

You can download the plans for the bird hide and fields by clicking on the links below.

Masterplan for fields

Access and fencing plan

Position of bird hide

Where wetter is better.

July 12, 2019

Note: Please be aware that the link on this page will take you to a third-party website.

International Bog Day is held on the fourth Sunday of July every year. This year it is being held on Sunday the 28th and it is intended to make people more aware of the peatlands we call bogs or mosses. Simply by existing on the planet these wonderful ecosystems provide benefits to everyone, but they are under dire threat of obliteration, unless we all value them for their special qualities. The Marches Mosses, composed of Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses and Wem Moss National Nature Reserves, are one of these special landscapes, for years it was exploited for its main product, the very peat that it had spent millennia producing.

The Marches Mosses is the name for a raised bog, the third largest in Britain, stretching for 1,000 ha across the Shropshire and Welsh border. This rainwater fed, low nutrient landscape exists due to the amazing powers of one plant – Sphagnum moss.

Sphagnum moss develops and grows in the damp bog conditions, and when the plant eventually decays to settle at the bottom of the bog, it forms peat. For thousands of years this process continued virtually undisturbed. Bog specific species developed and thrived in the undisturbed wilderness. Until humanity decided to intervene.

In the last 700 years this huge wilderness has been drained for agriculture, peat cutting, a canal and a railway line; more recently forestry conifers were planted and there was even a scrapyard.

Individual peat cutters, with their hand held tools and labour intensive workstyle, must have struggled to wrest a living from the Mosses. However, by the 1980’s a large increase in the rate of commercial peat cutting, allied to the use of modern machinery, led to widespread devastation of the peat bog.

It was about this time that the UK Government was pressed to stop the peat cutting and restore the Mosses. Initially conservationists wanted to re-pickle the acidic bog to preserve the scientific record of the past which tells the story of our landscape and pre-historic activities over the last 10,000 years. But, it was only in the last twenty years that it was realised what an asset a restored bog could be in drawing carbon out of the atmosphere. As a natural carbon store a bog is up to 30 times more effective than an equivalent area of trees.

As Dr Joan Daniels, former Senior Reserve Manager of the Fenn’s & Whixall National Nature Reserve said: “we were initially restoring the peat to preserve 10,000 years of our past, now we are restoring it to secure the future of our planet.”

So, bio-diversity was the original motivation for the bog restoration, which has been justified by the obvious increase in its unusual bog wildlife, its cranberries, all three British sundew species, lesser bladderwort, white-beaked sedge, its raft spiders, large heath butterflies and moth communities including Manchester Treble-bar, Silvery Arches and Argent & Sable moth. Despite its devastation, this huge site provided corners for rare wildlife to hide in, waiting for the restoration of mire water tables. Today crucial bog mosses have recolonised central areas and flag-ship species like the white-faced darter have been dragged back from the brink of extinction. The presence of rare species is breaking national records and the wetland bird community now is of national importance.

But today, another driver for rewilding the Mosses is the restoration of the natural benefits provided by a healthy functioning bog. The regulation of water quality and flow, particularly important with increasingly frequent flood events; the re-pickling of the acidic bog’s vast carbon store, preventing it being released  and adding to climate change and the encouragement of further carbon storage.

The growing pride for the restored Mosses in the local community and the increasing numbers of visitors from far afield, boosting the local economy, are a testament to the success of re-wilding this quagmire and will be helped by further sensitive provision through the EU-LIFE and the National Lottery Heritage Fund BogLIFE Project. This partnership is making a step change in the rate of rewilding of the Mosses.

If you would like to see what is one of the last great wildernesses on the Shropshire and Welsh border come along to the free event, World Bog Day on Sunday 28th June between 10am – 5pm. Pre-booking essential at info.whixall@naturalengland.org.uk Or, if you can’t make that contact us for further information about self-guided walks and future events. Call Mike Crawshaw 01948 880362.

Plans for bird hide at Morris’s Bridge

June 20, 2019

Note: Please be aware that the links on this page will take you to a third-party website.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust recently purchased the fields at Morris’s Bridge with the view that they will become an increasingly popular attraction due to the interesting variety of bird species that they attract. Curlew and lapwing numbers have plummeted in the UK due to a loss of suitable breeding habitat but the fields, which remain wet throughout the year, provide essential refuge for both species. The fields are also a good site to spot teal, herons and wintering wading birds such as dunlin and sandpipers.

Working with Natural England, the Trust will be managing the fields to retain water by installing peat bunds around the site. The water management scheme has been designed to have no net effect on flooding. Access to the fields will be improved, as will parking facilities.

A consultation event took place on Saturday 15th June to allow interested parties to air their views on the plans and the overall response was very positive.

The fields will now be known as the Charles Sinker fields in dedication to Charles Sinker, who was a strong champion for the Meres and Mosses and wrote a key paper on the landscape of north Shropshire in 1962.

You can download the plans for the bird hide and fields by clicking on the links below.

Masterplan for fields

Access and fencing plan

Position of bird hide

Cumbria BogLIFE Project film

May 14, 2019

Note: Please be aware that the link on this page will take you to a third-party website.

Cumbrian BogLIFE was a 5 year bog restoration project, funded through the EU LIFE programme and managed by Natural England. It focused on the restoration of three lowland raised bogs in Cumbria: Roudsea Wood and Mosses, Wedholme Flow and Bolton Fell Moss. Working closely with specialist contractors and using their experience and expertise meant that innovative techniques were developed through the course of the project. The methods used in the project have put the right conditions in place to allow restoration to take place – it could be another 30 years before the bogs become fully functional again. This film highlights the main techniques used across the three sites.

Rare jumping spider found on Marches Mosses

September 5, 2018

The species was found in the same area as a nationally notable spider, Sitticus caricis; both are kinds of jumping spider. The reason they have been able to thrive is because the natural water table of the bog habitat they rely upon is being managed and maintained as part of the Marches Mosses BogLIFE project.

These exciting discoveries were made by spider expert and editor of the British Arachnological Society newsletter, Richard Gallon as part of a survey for the Tanyptera Trust. He said, “Amazing to think how these species have responded to the improved habitat management. Presumably they were able to cling on in tiny refuges of habitat during the difficult period when land was being drained for commercial peat cutting.”

Richard also confirmed that the Marches Mosses is the only known location for both species in Britain. In another discovery he found a small Money Spider, Carotia limnae on the Welsh side of the Mosses. This rare find is a first for Wales, as previously it had only been found on the English side and is known in just one other location in the UK.

Dr Joan Daniels, Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project Officer, said: “Jumping spiders are particularly attractive, hunting actively by day and sealing themselves in silken cells at night to sleep. This is in contrast to most spiders, which are more active at night. Whereas most spiders detect their prey through sensory hairs and vibrations on their webs, the jumping spiders look very personable as they have big forward facing eyes to give them binocular vison to help them to judge how far to jump. They can also move their retinas back to give them very sharp eye-sight to focus on their prey, and can jump about ten times their body length.”

The finding of these rare bog spiders, which are only 4 – 4.5mm in length, in the rewetted peat cuttings of the Marches Mosses is evidence of the effectiveness of the ongoing restoration work of a partnership of Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Shropshire Wildlife Trust. This work will be enhanced in the coming years through a multi-million pound improvement programme, the EU LIFE and Heritage Lottery funded Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project.

Dr Daniels added “This is a fantastic find, of nationally important spiders which can only live on bogs. It’s one of the many reasons to save and restore this, Britain’s third largest raised bog.  It is wonderful to know that all of that restoration work here is paying off and populations of these gorgeous little stripy jumping spiders are now increasing.”

Marches Mosses Survey

February 13, 2019

Note: This link will take you to a third-party website, a survey being taken by the BogLIFE partnership in order to better appreciate the impacts of the BogLIFE project on visitors and local communities.

In order to understand your views and impressions of the Marches Mosses (the collective term for Fenn’s, Whixall, Bettisfield, Wem and Cadney Mosses) we would like to understand; why you visit them; what you know about them and what you would like to see in the future.

Please click here to complete the survey: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/restoring-marches-mosses/

Thank you for your help – all replies are anonymous and confidential. Please address any queries to info.whixall@naturalengland .co.uk

The Carbon Farmer mockumentary

January 15, 2019

Note: Please be aware that the link on this page will take you to a third-party website.

A new 7-minute film The Carbon Farmer is well worth a look

The Carbon Farmer – a sci-fi mocumentary, set roughly 100 years from present day – follows the story of a man whose family have been working the same upland farm, based on peat soils, for generations and have radically evolved in the face of climate change.

In a world where tax payer’s money is used to subsidise work to maintain the health of peatlands for numerous public benefits, he and his granddaughter show what could be possible in future – what we could gain, and what we could manage not to lose.

You watch it here

Festive event proves popular

December 21, 2018

Note: Please be aware that the link on this page will take you to a third-party website.

Although the weather was cold the rain held off until just after the event finished.

Participants were shown how to make a traditional Christmas wreath using natural materials gathered from the Mosses by the Natural England team. Wreath making was a traditional activity for families living around what is now the Fenn’s & Whixall NNR and the whole family, including young children, would play a part.

One attendee was told by her 75-year-old grandfather that he remembered helping collect materials and make wreaths when he was a child of five. The activity formed a large proportion of the annual income of families dwelling around the Mosses, and the wreaths would be shipped by train to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

Back then the main ingredient was sphagnum moss, the plant that forms the basis of peat regeneration. This is now a precious substance and a major part of the restoration work being undertaken by the Marches Mosses BogLIFE Partnership.

For more information contact: info.whixall@naturalengland.org.uk

Festive event proves popular

December 21, 2018

Note: Please be aware that the link on this page will take you to a third-party website.

Although the weather was cold the rain held off until just after the event finished.

Participants were shown how to make a traditional Christmas wreath using natural materials gathered from the Mosses by the Natural England team. Wreath making was a traditional activity for families living around what is now the Fenn’s & Whixall NNR and the whole family, including young children, would play a part.

One attendee was told by her 75-year-old grandfather that he remembered helping collect materials and make wreaths when he was a child of five. The activity formed a large proportion of the annual income of families dwelling around the Mosses, and the wreaths would be shipped by train to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

Back then the main ingredient was sphagnum moss, the plant that forms the basis of peat regeneration. This is now a precious substance and a major part of the restoration work being undertaken by the Marches Mosses BogLIFE Partnership.

For more information contact: info.whixall@naturalengland.org.uk

Back from the brink film

December 7, 2018

Note: Please be aware that the link on this page will take you to a third-party website.

Please take a look at this important video about the restoration of Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses, part of the Marches Mosses BogLIFE project. Ellie Ryder made this film as the final for her MA in Wildlife Documentary Production at the University of Salford and has agreed to share it with us here.

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