Peatland Restoration Project Shortlisted for Award

by Alastair Hamilton -

A Shetland project aimed at restoring eroded peat moorland has been shortlisted for the 2015 Golden Plover Awards.

The project has been carried out in the hills above Cunningsburgh, a village in Shetland’s south mainland. Anyone venturing into the hills in that part of Shetland quickly realises that the peat which blankets the landscape has been subject to serious erosion in places. Local crofters, Hazel and Kenneth MacKenzie, were keen to tackle the problem and Sue White of Shetland Amenity Trust says that their land has been “transformed” by the project.

The restoration involved constructing 460 peat dams, which stablise the surface, as well as re-profiling eroding peat hags and re-vegetating bare peat. Three kilometres of ditches and gulleys were blocked to reduce carbon losses and improve the habitat, which is home to whimbrel and golden plover. The work was carried out by Shetland Amenity Trust, Hazel and Kenneth themselves and local digger driver Sean MacKenzie. It was funded by Scottish Natural Heritage from its Peatland Action Fund.

The Golden Plover Award for Moorland Management is open to estates, farms, individuals and syndicates who have shown an outstanding commitment to the uplands on a wide range of issues, from grouse production and wader conservation to carbon storage and rural employment.

If the project wins the award, it will be presented at the Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace, Perthshire. Sue White says: “The project has proved that relatively simple methods of peatland restoration are possible in Shetland, and great results have been achieved using local materials and experimental techniques.”

Whether or not they win the award, the Mackenzies now plan to extend access to the site and establish a farm shop.

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