A new project in the uplands of South Wales aiming to restore a historic peatland landscape and help people enjoy their local outdoor space has been awarded £1.56m by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
With additional match funding from partners and Vattenfall’s Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Habitat Management Fund, the overall project value is now more than £2.8m.
The ‘Lost Peatlands of South Wales’ project will be delivered by the Lost Peatlands Partnership comprising Neath Port Talbot Council (Lead), Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Natural Resources Wales, Swansea University and Coed Lleol (Small Woods).
The project will provide an exciting programme of environmental improvements and community activities over the next four years.
Once referred to as the ‘Alps of Glamorgan’, the upland area between Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taf in the South Wales Valleys was historically an open moorland landscape of boggy peatland.
Today, commercial forestry plantations and renewable energy wind farms are a defining feature of this landscape – but large pockets of peat remain. Peat is invaluable in terms of carbon storage and wildlife habitat and is critical to climate change mitigation and reversing biodiversity decline.
The project will restore and manage more than 490 hectares of this historic landscape and habitats, including heathland, grassland and native woodland. Of particular focus will be the direct restoration of 256 hectares of previously afforested peat bogs and pools.
Such habitat improvements will encourage many local wildlife species currently in decline to thrive again. These include birds like the skylark and nightjar; invertebrates like the dark green fritillary and small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies; and mammals, including the elusive water vole.
The peat restoration works will be closely monitored and will inform important ongoing research by Swansea University to guide best practice restoration techniques and to understand impacts on biodiversity, water quality and CO2 emissions. Access to this remarkably wild landscape will also be made easier through improved, guided footpaths and interpretation.
As part of the project, local people will also be able to experience, learn about and get involved with the heritage on their doorstep through a variety of free activities, events, schools outdoor learning programmes and volunteering opportunities. People will be able to gain new outdoor skills and knowledge via dedicated training programmes. Families and adults will also be able to join or be referred to the project’s health and wellbeing activity programmes.
Cllr Annette Wingrave, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development said: “The Lost Peatlands Project aims to not only improve the local environment but to provide benefits and support for local communities and we are delighted with the funding this important project has attracted.”
A spokesman for Natural Resources Wales said: “Peatland environments in Wales are in need of urgent action to reverse habitat loss and poor condition. As well as being an important natural resource for carbon storage and capture, peatlands are important regulators of greenhouse gas emissions and support habitats for biodiversity and water regulation. NRW is proud to be a partner in this project which will deliver environmental and community benefits.”
If you would like to find out more and be involved with this project, please search @LostPeatlands on social media, contact [email protected], and keep an eye out for the project launch week – 19th – 23rd July – when a range of activities and online talks will be taking place.