Thursday, 16 April 2015

*That's* not a bog, THIS is a bog!

Osprey
A few years ago I wrote a light-hearted piece called "Survival Tips for the Bog Bound" outlining some practical, if not entirely serious, approaches to crossing boggy ground on the fells.  Having now spent an afternoon planting seedlings in a proper bog, it's clear I didn't have a clue what I was talking about.

Foulshaw Moss is a Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT) property a few miles from where we live.  It's best known at the moment for being home to a beautiful pair of osprey, but they are only a small part of the story. Since 1996 when they took over the reserve from the Forestry Commission CWT have been hard at work returning the bog pristine condition - they've done loads, but there's plenty still left to do.

PROPER bog!
Many years ago this area was a huge boggy expanse and crossing the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay was a preferable alternative to crossing the bog.  During the last century much of the bog was drained for agricultural reasons and in the 1960s was heavily planted with non-native species,  but as the water went away so did many of the rare plants and animals associated with it.  Stage one of the restoration was about removing of the non native trees and rebuilding raised banks to keep the water in.

Now that there is plenty of water around it's time to give nature a hand by replanting bog species to bind the soil and help maintain the conditions.  In all there are 27,000 seedlings to plant.  27,000 - that's enough to give me back ache just thinking about it!

One of the things I've often said to people about our new life is that we have a lot less money than we used to have, but we have a lot more time - and what's the point in having all that time unless you can spend it helping out a little, so with my philanthropic head firmly on, off we set, in the pouring rain, to plant seedlings in an enormous bog.

Expecting to spend the day getting very wet and muddy I opted for a set of ancient waterproofs which were so big they reminded me of school field trips.


Steve decided to get to grips with the plants we'd be working with...


And this is just a small selection to start us off.


Step one was distributing the seedling trays around the section of the reserve we were working on and step two was planting them all.

A spot of impromptu bridge building!


Reserve warden Simon showing me how to planter works.

Our handiwork.

Men at work

Men still at work - I did help, honest!

By the end of the day we'd managed to plant around 850 seedlings (only 26,150 to go!) and as if to reward all our hard efforts the sun shone down, brightening the landscape and almost making me forget my aching back (only almost!).

All that remained was for me to try taking an arty shot of some dead trees...


...before we finished off our flask of tea and maltloaf (the new orange one - have you tried it?  Fantastic!) while we watched the osprey from afar.  That's them in the picture below - they're on the small tree in the middle, right at the back.

Foulshaw Moss Osprey
And if that's not clear enough for you - here's some video Steve took with his super zoom lens of one of them preening.