A vital part of the National Park's landscape
Peat bogs might not be great to walk on, but they are vital for the landscape here. Northumberland National Park has some of the best bogs in Europe.
Peat is only formed in waterlogged conditions which prevents plants, mostly sphagnum mosses, decaying normally when they die. Instead, they build up very slowly to form peat. This started to form 10,000 years ago and sometimes the peat can be more than 10 metres deep.
Cooler and wetter conditions like the high Cheviot hills produce a layer of peat known as a blanket bog. Here species such as cloudberry and crowberry grow.
The bog plant cotton grass been used in the past for making candle wicks, stuffing pillows and even dressing wounds. It is food for the Large Heath butterfly and black grouse.
Positive Action For Blanket Bogs
So sheep could graze or trees planted, in the past ditches were dug to drain the surface. Unfortunately, this ruins the bogs as they need to be waterlogged so peat can continue to form and bog plants can grow.
Conservationists and landowners are now blocking ditches with dams to re-wet and protect these important habitats. Trees planted on bogs are being removed.
Burning heather, to encourage new shoots to grow, dries out the peat and harms the bog. Landowners in Northumberland National Park are encouraged to have burning plans that protect these sensitive areas, so they will thrive into the future.
Walkers, cyclists and horseriders can sometimes damage areas without meaning to. Trampling large areas of fragile bog exposes the bare peat, leaving it vulnerable to erosion. Building and maintaining paths across fragile sections, like Cheviot Summit and Simonside, allows plants to re-grow nearby, protecting the peat.