Flanders Moss NNR
25 years ago, in what was also Scottish Natural Heritage’s first year, Gordon Stronach was appointed as the first warden for Flanders Moss. Flanders NNR was only 10 years old and 210 ha (500 acres) in size at that point, and more importantly, only part of the Flanders Moss peatland was protected. A large chunk of the unprotected moss was ready to be dug up for horticultural peat and another part was covered in conifer plantations.
But about this time the thinking on peatlands was changing and it was realised that you have to either protect the whole thing or nothing. Because the whole peatland blob was connected hydrologically so if you drained one bit the whole thing would be affected. So SNH stepped in and decided to protect the whole of the Moss. This included having to buy out the peat planning permissions for £1.8 million to stop the bog from being dug up, removing the conifer plantation and damming the ditches originally put in to drain the bog.
The bog now is well on the way to being transformed. The National Nature Reserve covers about 95% of the peatland. The wetting up work is really starting to take affect. Some previously dry areas have a full carpet of sphagnum, while others have dragonflies, snipe and curlew in places where they never were before.
And perhaps more importantly, people can visit the place. Flanders Moss was once a no-go zone where local people feared to tread. Now with a boardwalk and viewing tower and over 10, 000 visits a year it is a valued and appreciated asset to the local community. And an economic asset as well as it brings in money from visiting tourists and from contracts delivered on the site.
Over the 25 years of SNH’s management of Flanders Moss NNR there have now been 4 more wardens (or Reserve Managers as we are now known) after Gordon Stronach working on the site. I am the latest and have been lucky enough to see many of these changes over the 17 years I have been associated with the site. But the thing to always remember at Flanders is that while a lot has been achieved in 25 years it is still only the start of the recovery process that could take hundreds of years and many more wardens to complete.