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.

Plants to look out for

Plants you can find in Northumberland National Park's peat bogs

Bog Orchid

This nationally rare plant occurs at only one site within Northumberland National Park. It is easily overlooked, as it is small and well-camouflaged.

Bog Orchid seems to prefer bogs with water movement, which are extremely dangerous to walk on.

Cotton grass

If you are anywhere near a peat bog in spring, you will see what looks like tufts of cotton wool swaying in the wind.

Cotton grass, or bog cotton, isn’t really a grass at all, but a type of sedge. In spring it can look like tufts of cotton wool swaying. The “cotton” is made of long white hairs that help the seeds to disperse in the wind.

Cotton grass growing in peat bogs

Spaghnum moss

Moss is what eventually decays into peat. Six to eight moss species can be found on a rich bog, each highly adapted to a particular degree of wetness or part of the bog. In good growing conditions, it takes 10 years to create one more centimetre of peat. Please opt for peat-free composts at the garden centre!

Spaghnum moss

Moss is what eventually decays into peat. Six to eight moss species can be found on a rich bog, each highly adapted to a particular degree of wetness or part of the bog. In good growing conditions, it takes 10 years to create one more centimetre of peat. Please opt for peat-free composts at the garden centre!

Sundews

These carnivorous plants are covered with red hairs, each tipped with a droplet of sticky “dew” that traps unwitting insects.

The plant then secretes juices that break down the soft body of the insect, discarding the empty husk a few days later. We are home to the Round-Leaved Sundew, which is common to many bogs. The other is the Great Sundew, which favours the wettest bogs.

Sundews are common on peat bogs

Our Beautiful Bogs

Northumberland National Park worked with local filmmakers Haltwhistle Film Project to create a film encouraging families and young people to visit these unique Northumberland treasures situated next to Hadrian's Wall.

Good blanket bog spots

Bellcrag Flow

Viewing point and information board at Grid Reference NY 777 727 and can be approached in two ways, both of which involve a walk on the Pennine Way. Please take a map such as OS Explorer Map OL43.

Greenlee Mire

Boardwalk and footpath at the west of the lough (NY765695) owned by Northumberland National Park Authority.

Falstone Moss

Boardwalk (NY708860) with access from the south end of Kielder dam on footpath (NY708870).

Chartners Moss and Boddle Moss

These can be viewed from the Border County Ride in the Simonside Hills.

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.

Go Peat Free!

You can help conserve the world’s peat bogs by buying peat-free compost. A peat bog somewhere will have to be dug up to make peat-based compost, releasing carbon and damaging the special habitat that has taken thousands of years to grow. There are now lots of alternatives for your garden and pots, so ask your local garden centre or supplier.