Welsh bog restored

The entrance to the RSPB's Arthog Bog site. Photo: OLU (commons.wikimedia.org).
The entrance to the RSPB's Arthog Bog site. Photo: OLU (commons.wikimedia.org).
Scottish Power has helped RSPB Cymru to restore a unique bog in the Mawddach Valley, Gwynedd, back to its former glory.

RSPB Cymru’s Arthog Bog covers almost six hectares and is renowned for its rare plants, like Touch-me-not Balsam and the nationally scarce Wavy St John's Wort. This was recently discovered at the site for which it is thought to be at its northern limit of its known world distribution.

Last December, while completing clearance of land adjacent to power lines, Scottish Power asked RSPB Cymru if they’d like help with clearing more of the land. Graeme Decke from Scottish Power explained: “It just made sense; after meeting on site with the RSPB warden and learning about the special plants and habitat that were deteriorating, we knew we could do more to help.”

He added: “We were clearing a section of vegetation around our high voltage lines to make the power lines safer, and ensure customers continuity of electricity, so we thought we’d go the extra mile and clear trees that had potential to impact our lines. This also assists in our commitment to making our network storm resistant to adverse weather conditions. In total a team of eight specially trained arborists from our vegetation contractors Amey have removed approximately five acres of trees and scrub in less than a month.”

Over many decades, Arthog Bog’s habitat and wildlife has changed due to changes in management practices, particularly a reduction in grazing pressure, and trees and scrub have encroached on the site, resulting in the bog becoming dryer and the special plants being shaded out.

This means the rare peatland flora has been replaced by dense scrub, slowly suffocating the special plants that call it home. As Lesley Fletcher from RSPB Cymru explained: “We are delighted by the work Scottish Power have done on our behalf. The restoration of Arthog Bog to its former glory is our objective here, but for many years it has been a very slow process of very gradual scrub removal by a team of dedicated volunteers. Also the re-introduction of pony grazing in partnership with a local farmer ahs helped expose the bog again.

“The work Scottish Power has done has brought this work forwards in one huge leap and  has saved the charity a lot of time and money. We hope to continue this wonderful work and return Arthog Bog to its former glory. Our volunteers are now very busy clearing the remaining brash!”

RSPB and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are now hoping to work together on the next stages of restoration, with future work needing to focus on removing more scrub, maintaining appropriate grazing levels and managing water levels to keep the water table as high as it should be on a bog.

Lesley added: “Keeping the water high will promote more specialist plants and invertebrates to recolonise and will encourage the existing rare and specialist bog plants to thrive, whilst introducing ponies to graze the regenerating scrub and the taller vegetation will help to keep it under control encouraging more open conditions.”

The Mawddach Valley volunteers are vital to this process having spent many hundreds of hours removing scrub, pulling rhododendron and clearing ditches and will work with RSPB Cymru and NRW staff over the coming years to see the bog restored to its full potential.

If you live in or around the Mawddach Valley and would like to help as a volunteer and get your hands dirty please call Lesley Fletcher on 01654 700 222 or for more info about the site go to the Arthogh Bog webpage.

Arthog Bog can be found within the Aber Mawddach Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is part of the estuary feature within the Pen Llyn and Sarnau Special Area of Conservation (SAC).