It's the final day of National #VolunteersWeek so we wanted to say a huge thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who support us here at Dove Stone. From tasks in the office, to leading walks and engaging with visitors on site, from early fire warning marshals to helping us carry out the vital conservation monitoring and practical work that takes place here. We have a fantastic bunch of volunteers who come from throughout the local area, giving their time to make the site even better - they are the beating heart of Dove Stone. 

The work we do here is hugely important for people and for wildlife. We are a busy site with lots of visitors, so a key role of our volunteers is being out chatting to the public. Getting young people and the young at heart alike closer to nature is always exciting and we have some fantastic volunteers who you may have seen out and about with the van up at Ashway Gap - running activities and being a key information point. 

One of our other main jobs here is restoring the moor, and our volunteers can be seen out in all weathers helping with this. So what does it involve? 

Blanket bog is one of the key habitats of the moorland here, and it is globally important, with the UK having 10-15% of the world’s total. The very word ‘bog’ conjures up the image of a wonderful, wet, green area but this is far from current reality....

Despite their importance, the UK’s bogs have suffered over the last century for a variety of reasons: a combination of industrial pollution, managed moorland fires, wild fires, draining for agriculture and heavy grazing, has left them seriously damaged with large areas of exposed bare peat and a limited amount of vegetation and therefore wildlife.

Since 2005, United Utilities, the RSPB and Moors for the Future with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers, have been restoring the blanket bog here at Dove Stone. This is helping to make these dry uplands wetter and greener, by establishing vegetation on large areas of bare peat, placing dams of heather bales in eroded gullies to slow water flow and planting sponge-like Sphagnum moss to kick-start the process of bog recovery.

  Heather bale used to block gullies holds water to re-wet moorland. Credit Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

Wetter and greener uplands are important for several reasons, not least because it is much harder to burn wet, green vegetation than bare peat, which can smoulder for months once fire has set in. In terms of last summer’s major fire, there is evidence on the ground that wet gullies on the RSPB/United Utilities managed area, where peat-forming Sphagnum mosses have been re-introduced, played a role in slowing the spread and intensity of the fire.

   Dove Stone fire edge last summer - fire stopped at a wet area (credit Dave O'Hara)

The importance of blanket bog habitat cannot be underestimated. It plays a vital role in storing carbon and improving water quality. Healthy bogs can tackle climate change by locking up harmful carbon in the peat and preventing its release into the atmosphere. Around the same amount of carbon is stored in this country’s bogs as in all of the UK, French and German forests put together.

Healthy blanket bog is also incredibly important for water quality, acting as a natural filtration system into our reservoirs. The cleaner the quality of the water coming off the moor, the cheaper it is to treat and so saves money for customers. Improving the habitat at Dove Stone improves the water quality too.

Sphagnum moss is the building block of blanket bog. It is an incredible species that acts like a sponge and can hold up to 10 times its own weight in water. It is this ability to hold water that is the key to a healthy bog. As well as slowing down the flow of water into the reservoirs and therefore improving the quality of the water (as it contains less soil), and locking in harmful carbon, wet bog is known to have higher numbers of key insects like crane flies (daddy long-legs) that are an important food source for many of the special birds that breed on the moor.

This restoration work being carried out at Dove Stone by dedicated wardens and volunteers has already helped threatened moorland birds with the site recording a great rise in upland wading birds such as dunlinsgolden ploverscurlews and red grouse.

  Gully blocking at Dove Stone re-wets the moor bringing multiple benefits to wildlife and people (credit Ed Lawrance)

Learn more about the importance of this work and the vital part played by our volunteers here.

If you would like to become a volunteer at Dove Stone, we would love to hear from you. Details here

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