Part of a forest in Cumbria is to be restored to the way it was for 10,000 years, as work begins on returning the Border mires to their ancient character.
Spadeadam Forest was planted by the Forestry Commission in the 20th century to shore up the nation's depleted timber reserves after two world wars. While the trees are indeed a valuable and sustainable resource, the planting also covered peat bogs – vital habitats for rare birds and spectacular insects.
Returning parts of the 12,000 acre forest to bog will boost vegetation such as bog asphodel, sphagnum mosses, sundews and many insects. It could also help one of England's rarest trees – the dwarf birch - in its fight for survival. The bonsai-like tree is usually found in much colder climates, but clings on the Spadeadam.
The Border Mires straddle Northumberland and Cumbria, comprising 57 peatland areas – mostly protected as Special Areas of Conservation.
The 10-week project will involve taking out trees for wood production or chipping.
"The work is an important milestone in a long-term project to restore this amazing habitat," said Tom Dearnley, ecologist with the Forestry Commission. "The Border Mires are not only one of the UK's most important wetland habitats, but they are of global significance."
"The work will enable bog plants to keep their roots in the water and allow the surrounding forest to continue growing on more solid ground."
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