As ice carved its way through Cheshire thousands of years ago, wetland bowls were left behind creating a unique ecosystem unlike any other.
A century ago, sphagnum was used as an emergency field dressing known simply as a soldier’s saviour, but generations on we now understand that sphagnum moss may also hold the key to our battle against climate change.
Intact peat bogs, meres and mosses have an unparalleled ability to store carbon. Britain’s peat bogs and lowland mosslands alone lock in several million tonnes of carbon, reducing the impact of global warming. Unfortunately, when drained and reduced these carbon ‘sinks’ unlock and the carbon once safely stored away is released back into the atmosphere.
Delamere is an internationally renowned wetland site, the forest area near Warrington is made up of more than 100 peatland basins, including the unusual quaking bog sites known as ‘schwingmoor’.
Schwingmoor is a German word that describes swinging moorland and refers to the sensation of walking on peat bogs which are made of layers of vegetation floating on a body of water.
Many of the basin peat lands were lost when the forest was established in the early 1900s.
From the edges of the Black Country and Telford, north to the Mersey and from the potteries to the Welsh Marches, the Meres and Mosses landscape is as ecologically important to Britain as the Norfolk Broads and Lake District. There are over 200 meres and mosses (pools and bogs) and 13,000 ha of peat deposits. A measure of its global importance is the designation of over 2,000 hectares of the Natural Area as Ramsar sites -those of the highest international importance.
In the 1947 post-war Government report on the Conservation of Nature in England, the Delamere Forest landscape was included on the list of areas of ‘outstanding national value for landscape and scenic beauty; the provision of rural amenities; scientific importance and the facilities that can be provided for the enjoyment, recreation and education of the public’.
However, in recent years the quality of many of the meres and mosses habitats has degraded, limited its value to the often specialised wildlife that makes a home there.
The Delamere’s Lost Mosses Project is the first step towards establishing a Delamere wetland Living Landscape called ‘Delamere Sandscape’.
The trust is focusing on the core and ‘stepping stone’ sites featuring existing or degraded transition mire and quaking bog habitat. Historically, as part of the former Royal Hunting Forest, the Delamere landscape is thought to have featured significant mosaic areas of heath, scrub and acid grassland interspersed with wet basin mires – all habitats that have seen a sharp decline across Britain in recent decades.