As from today, Kinder Scout, the National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Derbyshire will be extended in size by 25 per cent (226 hectares) thanks to a declaration by Natural England.

As the highest point in the Peak District (636m / 2,087ft), this new extension takes the NNR to 1,082 hectares in size (equivalent to 1,000 international rugby pitches), in recognition of the scientific research this area provides to help tackle the climate and nature emergencies. 

The extended area includes an ‘outdoor laboratory’ (consisting of scientific monitoring equipment such as dipwells, gauging weirs, and vegetation monitoring quadrats), created in 2010, which has enabled comparisons to take place between the impact of restored peatland against an unrestored control plot, providing valuable data to help improve understanding of the value of peat in natural flood management. 

Three organisations, the National Trust, The University of Manchester, and Moors for the Future Partnership, have been studying the effects of this restoration work and the benefits that can help tackle climate change, creating a healthier habitat which attracts different wildlife associated with peatlands to help increase levels of biodiversity. 

Craig Best, General Manager for the Peak District at the National Trust says:

“When we started caring for Kinder in 1982 the mountain was a barren moonscape of bare peat, degraded by human activity over the centuries due to pollution, historical land management practices, high visitor numbers and climate change. 

“However, following almost 40 years of restoration work with our partners and volunteers, the NNR is being transformed into a plateau of healthy peat bogs rich in vegetation such as cottongrass, and sphagnum moss while creating a strong habitat for wildlife such as mountain hare, upland birds like the golden plover, and the vital invertebrates that make up the basis of the food system. This work will continue alongside the activity on the extended area.”    

Techniques trialled to help restore the peat bogs included covering bare peat with rich moorland vegetation and blocking gullies to help keep the moors wetter, which have helped increase the amount of carbon that can be stored as well as helping improve water quality as it filters into streams and reservoirs. 

Monitoring data collected over the past decade, using the ‘outdoor laboratory’ in the new area of the NNR, shows this work has reduced erosion of peat by 98 per cent within 18 months of revegetation. It also revealed how different combinations of restoration work has made a significant impact in slowing water flow from the moors to the valleys, to help mitigate flooding.

Professor Tim Allott from the University of Manchester explains the importance of the control area:

“The control area has been central to our scientific understanding of restoration on the site – as without it we would not have been able to properly assess the impact of the restoration work in slowing the flow of water on hillsides and reducing flood risk downstream.  It also provides a ‘museum’ of the past damage on Kinder Scout. By simply standing within this small remaining ‘island’ of bare peatland, you get a dramatic sense of the scale of transformation of this iconic landscape by looking across the newly restored, vibrant, and diverse habitat which surrounds it.”

As well as the input from partner organisations, the work has also been achieved with the help of many volunteers. 

Craig continues:

“Our ranger team has worked hard with partners and volunteers, to restore this important place, creating benefits for wildlife and local communities.  Volunteers have been especially key because they enable us to deliver so much more.  The amount of work we achieve across the Peak District is boosted seven-fold by volunteers who not only help with restoration of peat but by helping us to monitor and protect this special landscape.  Without them we would be lagging behind on our climate and nature ambitions.

“With the NNR now extended, as the vegetation develops, this area of the NNR will continue to give us information about the state of this special landscape and what effect it, and others like it, will have on helping to mitigate the impact of climate change – and through continued monitoring has the potential to benefit even more people.

“Kinder is a magical place which holds the key to so many benefits for our environment and is here for everyone to enjoy. We have achieved a lot in our time looking after it, but there is a lot more to do.” 

As well as helping nature, Kinder Scout also has a very important social history.

Craig added:

“Kinder has a rich history and was the backdrop to one of the mass trespass activities 90 years ago which led to open access to moorland and the creation of National Parks paving the way for millions of visitors to be able to escape city living and pollution to enjoy some of our most inspiring landscapes and connect with nature.   

“Today, the role Kinder Scout has on our health and wellbeing is even more significant. It remains a place for people to enjoy being in, but its importance also lies in its very soil under our feet.”

Commenting on the new declaration, Oliver Harmar, Chief Operating Officer at National England said:

“National Nature Reserves were established to protect some of our most important habitats, species and geology, to provide ‘outdoor laboratories’ for environmental science and opportunities for people to enjoy nature.  

“They are at the heart of our ambition to create a Nature Recovery Network, full of wildlife-rich sites that are bigger, better and more connected.  I’m pleased that this vision is very much alive at Kinder Scout, with the expansion demonstrating the power of collaborative action to drive nature recovery, including vital peatland restoration to capture and store carbon.

“Kinder Scout also holds a special place in our national history as the backdrop to the very creation of our National Parks and National Nature Reserves. Today, NNRs, like Kinder Scout, are great places to be inspired and get hands on with nature – they’re free, open and available to all.”
 

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