Caption: Jane, Simon and Stephen picking up the award with presenter, sponsor and judge, from left to right: BBC Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams; Professor Colin Campbell of award sponsor The James Hutton Institute, Stephen Corcoran, Jane Barker, Simon Bland and judge BBC Scotland Landward presenter Euan McIlwraith. Photo credit Simon Williams Photography.
Vital peat bog restoration work in the UK’s largest national park has won a major RSPB nature conservation award, thanks to a pioneering couple from Cumbria.
Environmental scientist Jane Barker and her land manager husband Simon Bland from the Lake District have combined their skills to design a new technique to restore bare and damaged ancient peat bogs - and their work for Cairngorms National Park has just scooped a RSPB Nature of Scotland award for innovation.
Working for the Cairngorms Peatland Restoration Project, Jane and Simon have used methods new to Scotland to reinstate 367 hectares of endangered landscape. A ‘living carpet’ of sphagnum mosses has been laid at three sites in the Park - Mar Estate, Glenlivet Estate and Invereshie & Inshriach National Nature Reserve - whilst eroded land has been re-shaped and re-vegetated.
Peatlands are vital, in the UK they store over 3 billion tonnes of carbon – twenty times that found in all of Britain’s forests – with more than half found in Scotland and they represent Scotland’s single largest carbon store on land. They provide homes to a variety of specialist plants and animals, can reduce flood events and provide clean drinking water. Peatland restoration is a priority as the process of carbon storage can only happen if peatland habitats are healthy and functioning.
Jane and Simon are well-known in the horticultural world for championing peat free compost as they run Dalefoot Composts which makes garden compost from sheep’s wool and bracken. This, coupled with their contracting work restoring peat bogs across the UK, gives them a completely unique view on the importance of these protected landscapes.
Jane said: “We are very proud of the innovative techniques we use to restore peat bogs and are delighted that they have contributed to the Cairngorms Peatland Restoration Project being recognised in this way by the RSPB.”
Stephen Corcoran, the Cairngorms Peatland Action Officer, who led the work said: “I am delighted to win this award for innovation and it is a recognition of the skills that Barker & Bland brought to the project. The new methods trialled at the three sites, including the highest in the UK at 840m, will be closely monitored for their effectiveness in the challenging climate of the Cairngorms and we are extending these methods to new sites.”
The Nature of Scotland awards were launched by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in 2012 to recognise excellence, innovation and outstanding nature conservation in Scotland.