WORK has started to protect and restore blanket bog on an area of Dartmoor as part of the Dartmoor Mires Project.

The work is being carried out at Winney's Down, north of Postbridge, after a lot of planning. It is being undertaken by the Dartmoor Mires Project, a partnership of Dartmoor National Park Authority, Natural England, South West Water, the Environment Agency, Dartmoor Commoners' Council, Forest of Dartmoor Commoners' Association and the Duchy of Cornwall.

A restoration plan has been drawn up by the Dartmoor Mires Project partnership in consultation with local graziers. A wider range of partners has also ensured that historic, biodiversity, farming, recreation and military interests have been taken into account. A range of research and surveys have been undertaken to provide baseline information about the site, and the effects will be monitored carefully. Practical work is now being undertaken by contractors using machinery which has been specially adapted for working on bogs. The work is being supervised by DNPA staff so that the special ecological and historic qualities are protected.

It will take place during October, and is expected to last for five weeks.

Winney's Down is an area of high quality blanket bog which is threatened by encroaching erosion. This has already reduced the quality of blanket bog in places across the site, particularly around the edges. The erosion can be seen on the ground as networks of gullies which channel water off the area, causing a drop in the water table. The gullies are frequently bare of peat and the surrounding vegetation shows a reduced presence of characteristic bog plants such as sphagnum moss and cotton grass.

The restoration aims to halt and reverse peat loss by using peat from within and immediately around the gullies to form numerous small blocks across the gullies. Rainwater will be held longer behind the blocks, forming a series of small, shallow pools. This will enable the water-table to recover in these degraded areas, and will protect the bog from further damage.