The Marches Mosses Star on Springwatch

June 9, 2021

The Mosses took a star turn taken by the Mosses on BBC’s Springwatch on Friday 4 June. Watched by around 2 million viewers, presenter Megan McCubbin visited the Mosses for a good look around. In a five-minute piece, she pointed out the importance of this precious peatland as a home to wildlife, as well as the contribution peat makes to the fight against the climate crisis.

Megan even joined Natural England staffer Ellie Williams in planting some new Sphagnum moss in the peat – some of the tens of thousands of new moss plants being dug in by staff and volunteers. The Springwatch team concluded by reiterating that it’s imperative that we protect and restore peat bogs and not exploit them.

It’s another indication of the increasing awareness of the importance of peatlands, including our own Marches Mosses.

If you missed the Mosses on Springwatch or just want another visit, you can watch the programme here. After that, you can visit the Mosses in person to see for yourself the magic of the Mosses.

A Review of 30 Years of Hydrological Monitoring on the Marches Mosses

June 4, 2021

Note: This post contains a link to an external website, in this case the hydrological review video.

Recently, the BOGLife team hosted a webinar review of the hydrological monitoring on the Mosses. Host Robert Duff, the Marches Mosses Project Manager, explained that the aim was to share the findings of this review with a diverse audience of conservation experts and other people interested in this special habitat, with especial thanks to the staff and volunteers who’ve worked to collect the data over the past decades.

Robert pointed out that this long period of water level monitoring is unusual. This wealth of data allowed a thorough analysis of the results of the restoration work on the Mosses. The regeneration work began on a small scale in 1990 and increased with funding from the European LIFE project and the UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund beginning in 2016.

Dr. Joan Daniels MBE, currently the LIFE Project Officer, took the audience through the background of the near-destruction of the Mosses up to 1990 and the work that’s been done since then to restore this special environment. Joan’s presentation of the history of the Mosses included a very interesting comment about the role of the raised dome itself in World War I rifle training on the Mosses. Let us know if you spot it when you watch the presentation.

Next, Dr. Samantha Leader, a data scientist at Atkins environmental consultancy, reviewed her findings of the impact of restoration on Fenn’s, Whixall, Bettisfield and Wem Mosses. As Robert pointed out in his introduction, Sam has a great way of bringing the data to life. We hope you agree. In her summary, she found improvements in water levels on the Mosses, with more water being held on the peatland.

Bunding on the Mosses

That’s good news for the peat and the wildlife that depend on this rare environment to thrive. For us humans, it does mean that we really do need to bring our wellies when we visit the Mosses for a walk in this amazing habitat.

You can watch the hydrology webinar here.

Tune in as BBC’s Springwatch Visits the Marches Mosses on Friday 4 June

June 2, 2021

Note: This post contains links to an external website.

Episode 8 of BBC’s Springwatch programme will feature a trip to the Marches Mosses by presenter Megan McCubbin. She’s heading to the Mosses to find out more about the work that the Natural England BogLIFE team are doing to restore the Mosses. This episode of Springwatch airs on BBC Two at 8pm on Friday 4 June.

You can read more about Springwatch and find a link to the programme after it is broadcast on their website here.

Invasive Species Week on the Mosses

May 26, 2021

NOTE: This post includes a link to another article withing the Meres and Mosses website.

Invasive Species Week, 24-30 May, brings focus to native and non-native flora and fauna that overtake species that belong in a particular environment – the “wrong place, wrong plant” phrase that gardeners use, but applied to the wider environment.

Here in the Marches Mosses, some plants have taken hold in the damp, acidic environment of the Mosses. These include purple moor grass (Molinia), bracken, brambles, birch and Scots pine. Some of these – bracken and brambles in particular, can be found on mineral soil in fields across Shropshire and beyond. Molinia is beautiful on the Stiperstones and has been encouraged to spread there. Birch trees look good in our gardens and hedgerows and Scots pine and other conifers have been planted on plantations in various locations.

Sphagnum moss

But none of these plants belong on the Mosses. They draw great quantities of water from the ground, drying the peat. And they create a canopy, shading out species that need the acidic environment of the Mosses, like all Sphagnum – the key to new peat growth – crowberry and cranberry, the rare Dicranum undulatum and the varieties of cotton sedge that look so lovely in bloom on the Mosses in May and June.

Cotton grass on Wem Moss

A bit of history: Molinia, also known as irongrass, has long been found on the Mosses. Called “sniddle” by peat cutters, there’s a theory that it was introduced by them to stabilise the ground along the tram roads they built to transport the cut peat.

Birch was regularly coppiced or burned during the commercial peat cutting years. Similarly, Scots pine on Bettisfiled Moss was kept clear, as it was cut for Christmas trees until the mid-1960s. Now they’re being removed by the team working to regenerate the peat and re-build the carbon store that the peatland provides. You can learn more about the importance of this work here.

As you can see, invasive species can cause real damage if they make their homes in environments where they don’t belong. You can see the results of the work the team at the Mosses is doing to bring this precious peatland back to its best by visiting the Mosses. Climb the Mammoth Viewing Tower for a panoramic view of the Mosses, or go for a walk on one of the marked trails.

The Mammoth Viewing Tower credit: Paul Harris

The Mosses Celebrate Natura 2000 Day

May 21, 2021

NOTE: This post contains links to external websites.

Today is Natura 2000 Day, celebrating the efforts across the UK and Europe to conserve the best of our natural heritage. It is because Fenn’s and Whixall Mosses is a part of the Natura 2000 network that Natural England, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural Resources Wales were eligible to gain funding for the Marches Mosses BogLIFE project from the EU’s nature and biodiversity LIFE Programme.

Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It offers a haven to the most valuable and threatened species and habitats across the European continent, including the UK. It is the mechanism by which the Marches Mosses are designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), giving added protection to the unique flora and fauna of the Mosses, some of which can only survive in the starkly beautiful, acidic nature of this precious peatland.

Species that make their home on the Mosses range from birds, including curlew and lapwing, to flora such as the Sphagnum moss that’s the keystone in peat creation and cotton grass that’s a sign of a healthy bog, to invertebrates like the brimstone butterfly and the rare white-faced darter, right down to water level where the raft spider makes its home.

The Mosses are also vitally important in the fight against climate change, as they’re an important carbon store. The BogLIFE project, partly funded by Natura 2000, is working to restore the Mosses so that they hold the carbon that’s been stored in them for 10,000 years as well as create new peat.

More than that, the tranquility and open skies of the Mosses are essential for human health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. They provide a quiet place to contemplate the glory of nature and our role in protecting this precious habitat and the wildlife that depend on it.

Mammoth Viewing Tower Credit: Paul Harris

Natura 2000 day 2021 is a great day for a walk on the Mosses, sunshine or rain, gentle breeze or gusty winds. Visit the Mammoth Viewing Tower to get closer to the birds overhead and head back to ground level to watch the aquatic life in the pond next to the Tower. Or you could go for a walk on one of the marked trails or the former railway line to spot the first butterflies of the season and marvel at this incredible, special place.

You can learn more about Natura 2000 here.

ITT for Sinker’s Fields Civil Engineering Works

May 19, 2021

NOTE: Please note that this post contains links to external websites.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust have issued an Invitation to Tender for civil engineering works on land adjacent to Whixall Moss, part of the Marches Mosses. The aim is to ensure that shallow surface water conditions can be consistently maintained across parts of the site during the spring and summer periods. This will provide habitat favourable for waders and wildfowl, aid the development of wetland vegetation and improve Carbon storage.

Historically, the land formed as shallow peat bog at the edge of Whixall Moss and peat soils remain, meaning this is an important marginal habitat for the Mosses. This type of marginal habitat has been eliminated from almost all British raised bogs, making this an opportunity for restoration of considerable importance.

Bids are due by 28th June 2021. All tender responses MUST be returned by email to Dr Alexandros Tsavdaris at alexandros@rabconsultants.co.uk, with Helen Trotman(HelenT@ShropshireWildlifeTrust.org.uk) copied in. HARD COPIES WILL NOTBE ACCEPTED. Please note that late submissions will not be accepted.

You can download the ITT document here. If you encounter any difficulty in accessing the ITT, please email alexandros@rabconsultants.co.uk.

On the way to Wembley, by way of the Marches Mosses

May 14, 2021

NOTE: This post contains links to external websites.

Main photo credit: Tim Walter

Recently we’ve written about the size of the Marches Mosses in relation to the football stadiums used for FA Cup matches – how all the pitches for all teams that started the FA Cup competition this year would fit into the Mosses twice over. And how the Mosses are so big it would take four hours to walk around the perimeter compared to the 15 minutes you’d need to walk around the outside of Wembley Stadium.

Well, it’s time for the FA Cup Final this Saturday, 15 May. Chelsea and Leicester City will vie for the trophy in front of 21,000 supporters. That made us think about how many of those fans would fit into the Mosses. Turns out it’s a lot more than 21,000, so…

The Mosses cover an area of about 1,000 hectares, or 2,500 acres. If all the 21,000 supporters stood on the Mosses, socially-distanced – 2 metres apart from each other in every direction – they would fill less than 10 hectares! Even we were surprised.

We took it further and wondered how much space a full capacity Wembley crowd would take up if all 90,000 of them got off their supporters’ coaches at the Mosses at the same time. Still socially distanced at 2 metres apart, they would only need 36 hectares, even with their flags and scarves and banners. That means it would take supporters from 27 sold-out Wembley football matches to fill the Mosses. No wonder it’s so big you can see it from space!

Whether you’re supporting Chelsea or Leicester City on Saturday, we wish you a great match. If you’re among the lucky 21,000 who get to attend the match in person, we hope you have a fantastic day out as lockdown restrictions ease.

If you’re looking for something else to do come the weekend – or any other day – and are looking for someplace a bit more tranquil than a cheering crowd at Wembley, we suggest you visit the Marches Mosses for a lovely, peaceful walk.

Take in the views from the Mammoth Viewing Tower to see for yourself the expanse of the Mosses. Then get up close and personal to look for Springtime flora and fauna – the Mosses are bursting with new growth plants and wildflowers; you can spot birds overhead and emerging butterflies in the trees along the old railway path. Please do keep your dog on a lead, though, as this is the time of year that ground-nesting birds are making their nests.

Mammoth Viewing Tower Credit: Paul Harris

The Mosses Trail

Follow the trail from near Morris’ Bridge car park to join the Mosses Trail.  We’ll be installing a number of viewfinder spots that will provide an excellent outlook over the Mosses along with information about the biodiversity, formation and restoration work on the Mosses. In the meantime, enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Mosses and watch for curlews, lapwings and other birds flying overhead. The Viewfinder Trail is part of the Mosses Trail; you can find it in the Fenn’s and Whixall Visitor leaflet here.

Lapwing over Marches Mosses Credit: Stephen Barlow

The History Trail

Learn about the history of the Mosses – the peat cutting, by hand and commercially, how the peatland was used in both World Wars, and even about the bodies in the bog.

The Natural England brochure that you can use to follow the History Trail is here.

Peat cutters’ pattens (overshoes to prevent sinking into the peat)

Bettisfield Moss Trail

This 2km (1 ½ miles) trail takes about an hour to walk. You’ll spot a variety of plants, many of which thrive only in the peatland conditions of the Mosses and you’ll likely see birds overhead and, if you look closely, butterflies, beetles and other invertebrates that live on Mosses.

You can find the details of the trail here:  Bettisfield Moss Trail.

Explore the Mosses at Your Leisure

April 27, 2021

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

The early May Bank Holiday, Monday 3 May, is a perfect time to explore the Marches Mosses, on your own or with your family.

From the Morris’ Bridge car park, it’s a lovely walk along the Llangollen Canal towpath to the new Mammoth Viewing Tower or out onto the Mosses for a walk on the Mosses Trail. Speaking of the Llangollen Canal, the Mosses are a great place for a break if you’re canal boating – there’s a mooring near Morris’ Bridge and at several other spots near the Mosses.

The Mammoth Viewing Tower

Before or after your walk – or when you moor up at Whixall Marina, the Marina Cafe is a great place to enjoy a hot or cold drink and a snack at the outdoor seating area. You can check their menu and opening hours here.

Whixall Marina Cafe

Springtime on the Mosses is a wonderful time to look for birds overhead or for the first butterflies in the trees along the old railway line. We’ve recently spotted curlew and lapwing and even a kestrel hovering overhead as we stood on the platform at the top of the viewing tower. Back at ground level, we looked for raft spiders in the ponds just down the path onto the Moss from the tower.

Curlew in Flight Over Marches Mosses Credit: Stephen Barlow

Or just stop, listen, and enjoy the quiet and tranquillity that the Mosses provide. The amazing landscape and the wide open sky give a sense of the magic of the Mosses.

You can bring your dog with you on your walk on the Mosses, but please keep it on a lead: we have lots of ground-nesting birds on the Mosses that are building their nests and raising their young, so it’s even more important to keep your pooch on a lead. So, with or without your dog, alone or with your family bubble, grab your wellies and come on out to the Mosses – a great destination for your Bank Holiday activity.

Bog-tastic!

April 21, 2021

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

This week, the BBC’s 39 Ways to Save the Planet programme focuses on peatbogs and their importance in combating the climate crisis. It highlights the importance of keeping peat bogs wet. Peatbogs across the globe store more than half of the planet’s carbon and prevent it being released into the atmosphere, but only for as long as they are in their natural condition.

Did you know that one hectare of drained peatbog releases 6 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year? Re-wetting a drained peatbog is like putting a plug in your bath: as soon as water builds up on a bog, the whole ecosystem ceases to release carbon dioxide. This is one of the many reasons that drains are being reconfigured across Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses; to keep water on the reserves and restore the carbon-storing properties of them.

Listen to the program on the BBC Sounds website by clicking here.

How many Wembley Stadiums would fit into the Mosses?

April 16, 2021

Note: Please be aware that links on this page take you to third party websites.

The FA Cup Semis are this weekend. Both semi-final matches will take place at Wembley Stadium: Chelsea v Manchester City on Saturday 17th and Leicester City v Southampton on Sunday 18th. What better time to give a new perspective on the size of the Marches Mosses!

Wembley Stadium has a circumference of 1km, while the Mosses have a circumference of about 17 kilometres. Let’s say an average person can walk a kilometre in 15 minutes. Even stopping to look at the statue of Bobby Moore outside Wembley, it would take only 15 minutes to travel around the outside of Wembley.

On the other hand, it would take that same average person over four hours to walk all the way around the 1,000 hectares of the Mosses, even with a few stops to look at the birds, the butterflies and the big open sky.

Sadly, there isn’t a track that follows the entire edge of the nature reserve, but there are a number of walking trails through parts of the Mosses that you can enjoy, before or after the FA Cup matches – or anytime you fancy a nice walk. Here are links to information about the trails on the Marches Mosses:

The Mosses Trail

Follow the trail from near Morris’ Bridge car park to join the Mosses Trail.  We’ll be installing a number of viewfinder spots that will provide an excellent outlook over the Mosses along with information about the biodiversity, formation and restoration work on the Mosses. In the meantime, enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Mosses and watch for curlews, lapwings and other birds flying overhead. The Viewfinder Trail is part of the Mosses Trail; you can find it in the Fenn’s and Whixall Visitor leaflet here.

Curlews Over Marches Mosses                      Credit: Stephen Barlow

Fenn’s and Whixall Mosses History Trail

Learn about the history of the Mosses – the peat cutting, by hand and commercially, how the peatland was used in both World Wars, and even about the bodies in the bog.

The Natural England brochure that you can use to follow the History Trail is here.

Peat cutters’ pattens (overshoes to prevent sinking into the peat)

Bettisfield Moss Trail

This 2km (1 ½ miles) trail takes about an hour to walk. You’ll spot a variety of plants, many of which thrive only in the peatland conditions of the Mosses and you’ll likely see birds overhead and, if you look closely, butterflies, beetles and other invertebrates that live on Mosses.

You can find the details of the trail here:  Bettisfield Moss Trail.

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