Give Peat a Chance

Give Peat a Chance tells the story of Yorkshire’s peatlands.

Heritage, ecosystem, carbon sink and natural flood defence.

Yorkshire Peat Partnership is restoring blanket bog across North Yorkshire. Our goal is, where needed, to rewet, replant and restore all of Yorkshire’s upland peatlands by March 2035.

Yorkshire’s peatlands are remote and often overlooked. Through art, information and intervention, we can all work to understand and protect these important habitats.

Green, healthy blanket bog

Healthy blanket bog rich in brightly coloured sphagnum mosses. Credit: Jenny Sharman

What’s so special about peatlands?

What are peatlands and how do they form?

In Yorkshire, the development of blanket bog began around 5,000-6,000 years ago, as the climate became wetter and warmer. It is generally found over bedrock in places where rainfall exceeds the loss of water through evaporation and plant transpiration, leading to near-constant saturation. These conditions favour the growth of bog-mosses and cottongrasses, which do not break down when they die but slowly accumulate as peat.

  • Small, pink leaves of sphagnum capilifolium

    Sphagnum. Credit: Jenny Sharman

  • Close up of flowering sundew plants

    Sundew. Credit: Lizzie Shepherd

  • Picture of hare's tail cotton grass

    Hare’s Tail Cottongrass. Credit: Tessa Levens

  • A brown bird with a long curved beak

    Curlew. Credit: Damian Waters

  • An owl pictured flying against a clear blue sky

    Short-eared owl. Credit: Pam Jones

  • Photo of a snake with zigzag patterns, curled up on green grass

    Adder. Credit: Danny Green

  • Photo of a brown lizard camouflaged in dried vegetation

    Common lizard. Credit: Ceri Katz

What’s so special about peatlands?

A unique habitat

Peatlands are home to some amazing and beautiful wildlife: including many species of sphagnum moss, the carnivorous sundew plant, hare’s tail cottongrass, curlew, short eared owl, adder and common lizard.


Wet bog, with little pools and green plants mixed together

Saturated blanket bogs brim with mosses and bog pools. Credit: Lizzie Shepherd

What’s so special about peatlands?

A vital carbon store

Peatlands are impressive carbon stores and therefore important in the fight against climate change. As of April 2022, blanket bog across the Yorkshire Dales and Nidderdale stores 35 million tonnes of carbon. We need to keep the peat wet to keep that carbon locked up.

Capped water sample. The water is orange coloured

Water quality is sampled across many of our sites. Credit: Jenny Sharman

What’s so special about peatlands?

Reducing flooding and improving water quality

Healthy peatlands help to filter water before it reaches our reservoirs, reducing the costs of processing our drinking water.

They also play a vital role in reducing flooding. Surface roughness of bog vegetation slows the flow of water across the fell tops helping to manage flood risk downstream.

What's so special about peat?

Hester Cox reimagines the way artists and thinkers have explored peat bogs for centuries. Her intricate engravings catalogue the preciousness and diversity of these ecosystems.

  • Aerial photo showing deep fissures in the bog

    Aerial photography shows the damage caused by gripping and gullying. Credit: Alistair Lockett

  • A tuft of grass overhangs bare peat

    Hags expose bare peat. Credit: Jenny Sharman

  • Photo of a deep channel cut into the bog

    Grips drain water from the uplands. Credit: Tessa Levens

How have they been used and damaged?

The effect of draining peatlands for agriculture

In the 50s and 60s, the Government paid land managers to drain blanket bog to improve the land for sheep grazing

Narrow drainage channels called ‘grips’ were dug to drain water from the fells.

Drying out the peatlands killed off the plants that live on the surface of the peat, exposing it to erosion by wind and rain.

This led to formation of deep channels (known as gullies), and steep faces of bare peat (hags), driving the formation of areas of bare peat leading into a vicious cycle of further erosion.

Photograph of the head of a peat spade pointing down

Ribblesdale peat cutting spade

How have they been used and damaged?

A part of the identity of the Yorkshire Dales and its people

For centuries, peat was the main fuel used in the Yorkshire Dales. It was generally cut after lambing, dried and stacked over the summer, and carted down for use after haytime. The job involved the whole family- men, women and children all worked together to gather the peat.

Different tools were used in each Dale, and were made to be right- or left-handed, depending on the wielder.

  • Terrain map overlaid with colourful dots showing depth of peat

    Maps provide detail on how water is moving across a given restoration site and where it is driving erosion; this enables us to target our interventions where they will have the most impact. Credit: Yorkshire Peat Partnership

  • Photo showing GPS mapper, ranging poles and paper recording sheets

    Sites are surveyed using a range of methods, but much is done on foot with hand-held GPS mapping tools. Credit: Caitlin Greenwood

How is Yorkshire Peat Partnership repairing and restoring these habitats?

The tools of our trade

Planning our approach to restoring damaged blanket bogs starts with site surveys. We conduct both desk-based and field surveys. Aerial photos used in our surveys are often provided by our in-house UAV pilots. Using handheld GPS mappers, we categorise all the features of a site, including vegetation, damage and peat depths. Yorkshire Peat Partnership’s expanding team has already surveyed nearly 59,800 hectares using these methods.

  • Helicopter in a clear blue sky dropping a net of materials onto the peat

    Helicopters are used to drop dam materials in place. Credit: Dave Higgins

  • Orange digger on the bog

    Specially adapted diggers reprofile bare peat to encourage vegetation to grow. Credit: Matthew Roberts

  • Dams across the landscape

    Coir dams criss-cross a badly damaged site. Credit: Aaron de Raat

  • Gloved hands planting a fresh green plug of plants

    Bog vegetation is planted by hand on areas of bare peat. Credit: Ben Queenborough

How is Yorkshire Peat Partnership repairing and restoring these habitats?

Transforming the landscape

Restoring damaged blanket bogs focuses on interventions that reduce the loss of water and through blocking drainage channels and re-establishing key vegetation species that play a vital role in holding water in the peatlands and covering bare peat.

Yorkshire Peat Partnership works with specialists to block grips and gullies with peat, coir, wood and stone dams, and plant sphagnum mosses and cottongrasses.


For Bev Parker, years of working as the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Rights of Way officer meant she encountered blanket bog regularly and was, in her own words, ‘intrigued by its remoteness, the brooding solitude’. Now she depicts these landscapes using innovative painting techniques that mimic the movement of water within and across them and cleverly replicate the interventions that Yorkshire Peat Partnership uses to support the retention of water in these sites.

A group of people gathered around a lit up peat bog

The exhibition contributors on opening night

Thank you!

The Folly and Yorkshire Peat Partnership would like to acknowledge support from the Dales Countryside Museum and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Sustainable Development Fund.

The Development Fund is open to individuals, businesses, community groups or voluntary sector bodies. It provides an accessible source of money for a range of projects that result in positive benefits for the National Park’s environment, economy and communities, while enhancing and conserving local culture, wildlife and landscape.

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