South West Water has been awarded £2 million from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for a three-year project to restore peatland on the South West’s moors.

The government has handed out £10 million worth of grants in total for such work across England as part of its 25-year Environment Plan.

South West Water will work with regional and local organisations to restore 1,680 hectares of damaged peatland on Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor. Partnerships have been formed on all three moors including landowners, commoners and other interested parties to develop the proposals and this will continue through the delivery of the restoration.

The project is being led by Morag Angus, South West Water’s Exmoor Mires partnership manager, and will complement the company’s Upstream Thinking catchment management programme.

Angus said: “This is an incredible partnership delivering peatland restoration. The peatlands of south-west England are very important for water quality, carbon storage, biodiversity, cultural history, recreation and farming but they are the most vulnerable in the UK to the impacts of climate change, due to their southerly position.

“For this reason they need to be prioritised nationally and restored for the benefit of all and future generations. The £2 million from Defra presents a real opportunity to make a significant difference and to deliver sustainable management in these upland river catchments.”

Defra said the total £10 million funding will help restore more than “10,000 football pitches-worth of England’s iconic peatlands” and will deliver commitments outlined in its Environment Plan.

The grants will support a total area of 6,580 hectares of upland and lowland peatlands and work will be delivered through four local partnership projects.

The projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by creating a natural store for carbon.

“This vital work will abate and store an estimated 23,000 tonnes of carbon per year contributing to the UK’s climate change goals,” Defra said.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey, added: “Peatlands are an iconic aspect of the English landscape which are not only a haven for wildlife but also provide us with clean water and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The 25-year Environment Plan sets out the government’s commitment to improve peatlands and grant schemes such as this one will enable us to leave our environment better than we inherited it.”

South West Water said the moors of Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor “hold significant” regional and national deposits of peat in the form of blanket bogs and valley mires.

“These wetland habitats are complex ecosystems that support diverse and unique ecology of national and international importance.”

Alison Kohler, director of conservation and communities at Dartmoor National Park, said: “Dartmoor Peatland Partnership is pleased that Defra have approved the grant funding. Dartmoor’s blanket bogs are crucial to our daily lives. Forty-five per cent of South West Water’s daily water supply comes from Dartmoor and with peat up to seven metres deep they can store up to 10 million tonnes of carbon, that’s equivalent to a year’s emissions from UK industry. Visiting these iconic places can be truly uplifting and the plants and species they support are very special.”

The project will be delivered by a partnership including government agencies, non-governmental organisations, landowners and farmers. Restoration work will start in August 2018.

The other projects awarded grants include:

  • The North of England Peat Partnership led by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will restore 394 hectares of lowland raised bog and 1679 hectares of blanket bog across 21 peatland sites in the north of England.
  • Meres & Mosses Carbon Capture Project led by Shropshire Wildlife Trust aims to restore a mix of nine lowland and upland peatland sites covering 98 hectares across the Meres & Mosses Natural Area.
  • Moor Carbon, led by the Peak District National Park Authority, will be working in the Peak District National Park, West Pennine Moors SSSI, and Rossendale Gap to restore more than 2,000 hectares of blanket bog.