Kielder Forest and Border Mires

© NWT

Conserving and extending important habitats to encourage wildlife and visitors.

Our vision

To develop a large, connected Living Landscape of boglands and forest – one of the largest and best places to encounter wildlife and experience “wild” countryside in England.

Area

The area consists 3500 hectares of mires (bogs) and 50,000 hectares of forest.

What’s it like?

England’s largest intact series of peat bogs interspersed with woodlands and Europe’s biggest man-made forest and lake, Kielder Water and Forest Park. 

Who/what lives there?

It is a remote area, home to very few people but a wealth of wildlife, including the country’s greatest population of the large heath butterfly as well as herds of roe deer. The area is also renowned for visiting ospreys and other spectacular birds and animals and has the largest population of red squirrels anywhere in England.

How will Living Landscapes help wildlife?

Restoring the mires to their natural condition will benefit rare species including long leaved sundew, small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies and breeding birds like merlin and curlew. We will work to conserve the endangered red squirrel, and improve wetland and woodland habitats in partnership with the Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water and other landowners.

How will Living Landscapes help people?

By increasing and improving the area of peatlands (the largest store of organic carbon in the UK) to act as a natural flood control and filtration system for the drinking water for millions of people.

Kielder Water and Forest Park is already a well-established large-scale visitor destination. We will work as part of the Big Picture Partnership to lead the development of appropriate, sustainable nature tourism across the area. Developing opportunities to improve visitor’s experience and choices, making wildlife an integral part of everyone’s visit and stay and adding value to the local economy.

The area and project in more detail...

Mires (bogs) provide real environmental benefits to people and animals. They act as an important habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife. Their compactness also acts as a large natural store of organic carbon, helping to moderate the effects of climate change. If restored, they can provide a natural flood control and a natural filtration system for drinking water. 

The peat structure of the mires also provides a complete record of environmental change over the last 10,000 years as well as information on short-term climatic change; they are a living natural history museum.

Many of the mires in the area were drained and planted with trees as part of a large-scale afforestation plan between 1945 and1960. This programme will restore this lost habitat by removing trees and raising water levels to extend and link 58 border mires around the Kielder Forest.

In addition, and as part of the long-term forest plan for the area, more native broadleaf trees will be planted bringing a more natural feel to the forest and encouraging the spread of   native wildlife. This will protect the future of the endangered species that are currently in decline such as the black grouse.

Opportunities exist to consider the wider area in a more holistic way with the areas further north and to the west. Perhaps with a long-term view of developing a very large Living Landscape from the border mires in the south to the Cheviots and the Tweed basin in the north with links into Cumbria and Scotland.

Mike Pratt, CEO, Northumberland Wildlife Trust says, “This Living Landscape will contribute to the effort to mitigate some of the impact of global warming as well as conserving an internationally important habitat. Furthermore it will    provide a new focus for sustainable tourism based on new, improved and appropriate access to wildlife and the wild landscape”.

What we aim to achieve in:

5 years

The establishment of the ‘Kielder Nature Hub’ which will have set up and be actively promoting wildlife tourism in the area.  A strategy will be in place for the future of all border mire sites - with agreed rationales and plans in place for their restoration and extension.

10 years

Kielder will be a nature tourism destination renowned for its wildlife including red squirrels and much more. Over half of all border mires will have been restored.

25 years

Kielder Water and Forest and Mires ‘Nature Park’ will have been established and connected to the wider Northumberland uplands Living Landscapes to the north.

Funding

Work so far on the border mires has been funded by Forest Enterprise, the Carbon Trust, RAF Rural Estates Enhancement Scheme, the Higher Level Stewardship agricultural scheme, Northumberland National Park Sustainable Development Fund and investment by water companies. An active border mires steering group is in place and will co-ordinate activity. The Forestry Commission is committed to future resourcing of tree removal and bog management and so is the Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT). 

Major funding packages are being developed to roll out the Big Picture vision for Kielder Water and Forest park. This will include additional resources to develop nature tourism and   to manage the habitats and species on which this depends.

What’s next?

Restoration work has been completed on a number of mire sites covering at least 750 hectares and monitoring is in progress elsewhere. Further work is dependent on funding availability and agreement of a management plan by the partner organisations. There is also a need to purchase some land to move the programme forward and deliver more connectivity.

How to get involved

There are many volunteering opportunities for those interested in getting practically involved in re-wetting bogs and mires, it is more fun than it sounds! There are also opportunities to help plant trees and also to monitor and survey squirrels and other wildlife in the Forest.  Conservation volunteers carry out a range of tasks at Bakethin Nature Reserve and other sites at Kielder.

Contact

Duncan Hutt at Northumberland Wildlife Trust on 0191 284 6884 or via email at duncan.hutt@northwt.org.uk