Yesterday I visited the Mires Project on high Dartmoor with Kevin Bishop, the Dartmoor National Park Officer and Norman Baldock, ecologist.
We walked out from Fernworthy, past the Grey Wethers stone
circles to Winney’s Down, steering our course by the huge excavator, like a crane in the distance.
When we arrived we met Andy, the skilled driver of the eight-tonne machine, which looks incongruous on the blanket bog but in fact is so light it leaves barely a mark, and it can manoeuvre in a tight space while its rotating bucket can scoop the peat at all angles.
Under the close direction of the Mires Project Officer, Frances Cooper, the machine lifts the peat and places it carefully in dams. The aim is to create pools.
Instead of the dense tussocky molinia which is being eroded by
the water draining out at speed, leaving poor biodiversity and terrain that’s difficult to walk over there will be a series of pools with a range of vegetation which will retain the moisture.
The project is for five years and is largely funded by South West Water, as it will improve the water supply, as well as enabling the peat to store carbon, while also increasing the biodiversity.
This week the work stops for the winter and Andy, Frances and Nicky can thaw out.