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ICE People's Choice Award

Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project

Shropshire and Wrexham, United Kingdom




5 years




United Kingdom
Project achievements

Environment benefitted

Home to many insects, spiders, mammals, mosses, and birds

Area improved

Stores an incredible 1m tonnes of carbon

Solved the problem

Safeguarded a rare peat bog habitat

Restoring one of the rarest habitats on Earth

Over 96% of peat bogs have been destroyed after hundreds of years of exploitation.

This project was designed to restore Britain’s third-largest lowland raised peatbog within the Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserves. They’re located between Whitchurch and Ellesmere and extend over the English/Welsh border of Shropshire/Wrexham.

Peatlands like this are critical in terms of adapting to the effects of climate change. The project restored some 665 hectares of the Marches Mosses, improving habitats and valuable ecosystems so important for large scale carbon storage, biodiversity, and water management.

The project involved 3 schemes, completed in 2021: Bronington Manor Drain Diversion, Morris Bridge Fields Wetland Creation, and World’s End Fields Wetland Creation.

These help to prevent downstream flooding through drainage diversion and innovative water control techniques that allow the natural rainwater balance to keep the peat wet and reduce run off. This is crucial for greater carbon capture.

By holding and slowing the flow of rainwater they function to help maintain base flows in drought periods and provide a clean source of water to the River Severn and River Dee.

Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project

This video explains how this rare bog habitat has been restored.

Image credit: Natural England

Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project

Rewetted peatland.

Image credit: WM Longreach

Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project

Wetland pond creation.

Image credit: WM Longreach

Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project

Cell bunding and culvert.

Did you know …

  1. This project helped safeguard a rare peat bog habitat, storing an incredible 1m tonnes of carbon – 10x more carbon stored per hectare than an equivalent area of tropical rainforest.

  2. 250km of peat and clay bunding was undertaken – laid end to end this would reach from Shropshire to London, while diverting drainage enabled reclamation of 30 hectares of rare habitat.

  3. The project had support from 177 volunteers who dedicated 875 hours to aid the work on the Marches Mosses project sites.

How was the work done?

As a UK-first for bog edge habitat restoration on this scale, the challenge was to make a start on reverse engineering the landscape.

For centuries it has been modified to drain and expel water rather than manage and incorporate it.

With the project covering multiple locations with various constraints, precise design and civil engineering solutions were key to successfully re-wetting the valuable peatland.

Sensitive design and ecology input, with local community and stakeholder engagement, including an extensive consultation process way back in 2016, were key to avoiding impact on neighbouring land. This also enabled new audiences to engage with and access nature - another goal central to the project.

The project innovated in its execution by applying specialist long reach and low ground pressure machinery to overcome soft ground while carrying out drain diversion works.

A new technique called ‘cell bunding’ was also used to capture the rainwater and help the bog rejuvenate. This involved the creation of small cells (or dams) to encourage sphagnum moss growth and thereby peat formation.

This technique also slows the flow of the water by capturing the rainwater (added flood protection benefit), allowing it to filter through the peat before entering local watercourses. This improves water quality and the biodiversity of these habitats too.

Difference the project has made

The BogLIFE Project is the culmination of managing sensitive environmental considerations and extreme weather while engaging community volunteers. It has made this precious environment, with massive carbon capture benefits, more accessible to the wider public.

A crucial goal of the project was to give a new audience access to nature. It was achieved by taking time to liaise with disability advocates and ensure design of access solutions, particularly concerning the bird hide, considered all people’s needs.

Benefits to the ecology and biodiversity of this project are also undeniable.

It’s now home to over 2,000 insect species, many rare spiders, mammals, Sphagnum mosses and bird species including the Snipe, which has returned to breed after 30 years.

The UK population of snipe has undergone a big decline in the twenty-five years, with very steep declines in lowland wet grassland.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds records it as an Amber list species, which means it is endangered and of international importance.

The story of how rewetting the bogs has led to the Snipes return to breed in the area was featured on BBC Midlands Today.

People who made it happen

WM Longreach, working with Natural England, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Brian Killingworth, WSP, RAB Consultants and Natural Resources Wales.