Walking 380 miles to measure water

P1040905P1040973Flanders Moss NNR

We get slightly obsessed with water and rain at Flanders Moss. This is because we are trying to repair the damage on the bog that lowered the water table in the peat. All our water comes from rain from above. If we can hold that water on the site for as long as possible then the water table rises and we get bog vegetation back . You can assess how wet the bog is by the wobble factor (jumping up and down and seeing how wobbly it is) or the squelch factor (is it coming over your boots) but to be a little bit more scientific we also measure the water table within the peat.

We have just fitted some fancy electronic measuring devices that record the level every 15 mins. and send the data by telemetry back to a server but this equipment is very new. We also use a low tech method which goes by the name of a WALRAG. This stands for something but is basically a drain pipe set into the peat. Within the drain pipe is an old lemonade bottle that goes up and down with the changing water level. This records maximum and minimum water tables. This data is downloaded by hand, it needs someone to walk around the 21 Walrags 4 times a year and write down the data. It is low tech but still working after being set up 20 years ago. If the fancy electronic equipment is still working in 20 years I will eat my hat.


A Walrag on the moss.


The inside of the drain pipe with the lemonade bottle that goes up and down with the changing water table.


One of the new fangled, all singing and dancing data loggers.

This long-term data set is invaluable – the longer the time period the better able to detect trends in the wetness of the bog. So we will try to keep the system going for as long as possible. My impressions and initial look at the data suggest that in places the work we have carried out is definitely making the bog wetter.

Yesterday I walked the circuit round the moss taking down the data. It is a great way to get a feel of what is happening out on the moss but is hard going. It usually takes 6-7 hours to get around all 21 Walrags and is something I have been doing on and off over the last 17 years. In fact, I have gone round the moss about 42 times collecting this water level data which is roughly about 380 miles of bog walking. That is a lot of bog walking.

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