Peatland Work Resumes in North Highland

Forestry and Land Scotland’s has resumed its peatland restoration work at the 30ha Meall an Lochain site in Benmore forest (Sutherland) as the organisation restarts its work programmes in line with the Forestry Sector Restart and Resilience Plan.

As the organisation’s staff begin to get back to work with new, safe-working practices, FLS has prioritised activities such as wildlife management, top-up spraying and ground preparation.

Peatland restoration – a significant Climate Emergency mitigation – is also high up on the agenda and the team doing the work at Benmore has readily adopted the necessary Covid-19 precautionary measures – including physical distancing and the provision of handwashing facilities.

Tim Cockerill, FLS’s North Region Peatland Restoration Forester, said:

“Our contractors – Duncan Wemyss and Donald Shanks – have been great in adapting their work practices so efficiently and thanks to their diligence, work at Benmore in Sutherland has resumed.

“The site was cleared of trees earlier this year, and so we’re now doing ground smoothing work.

“This will reverse the drainage measures put in place at the time the tree crop was established, raise the water table and so create conditions similar to those of an unaltered bog.”

The technique involves a specially adapted excavator, fitted with extended and widened tracks, that allows it to cross the wet ground without causing damage.

Using a toothed bucket tree stumps and any new growth are flipped and turned into an adjacent plough furrow.

The furrows are then cross-tracked by the excavator to level any remaining ridges, flattening the whole surface.

Tim added:

“This whole process helps to create a flatter, more natural peatland, which helps reduce carbon emissions and enables peat forming vegetation to recolonise the site.

“It’s a big site and although it was planted up for more than 30 years, we will soon create the conditions to restore a valuable habitat, and start to capture carbon in about 10 years’ time.”

The work at Benmore is part of a country-wide programme of peatland restoration work being carried out by FLS. 

Over the course of 2019/20 FLS invested over £1.6M, starting restoration on 914 ha of peatland. 

This was funded by Peatland Action, administered by Scottish Natural Heritage, and from Scottish Government.