International Bog Day – the Blob is spreading!

Flanders Moss NNR

Bare are once covered with rhododendron bushes.

SNH and its predecessor body have been restoring Flanders Moss for 30+ years repairing the damage caused by past land managers trying to dry the place out. The main method is damming the ditches to bring the water table back to the surface. This jumps start Sphagnum growth – Sphagnum being the key component of good, wet bog as it only grows in wet conditions but also acts like a sponge holding water onto the bog so making it wetter.

Today is International Bog Day and is the perfect time to celebrate the effectiveness of some of this work. 25 years ago Ballangrew wood on the west edge of Flanders was in a poor state. It was bone dry and a large amount of the wood was smothered by rhododendron – an invasive bush that is no good for bog nor wildlife. But work started on removing the rhodi – a massive effort that involved some 10 ha of rhodi being cut, burnt and regrowth treated with herbicide. Over the years seedlings keep coming back trying to reestablish the bushes but our indefatigable volunteers have helped to keep it in check by sweeping the wood, pulling any plants found.

A recent walk through the wood shows the effects of the ditch damming and the rhodi removal. There are bare areas with no rhodi at all and it is really rewarding to see carpets of sphagnum spreading across these open patches, taking over the ground layer and return the wood to bog woodland. Each year the sphagnum spreads over more woodland floor like the Blob from the horror film, covering stumps, branches, sticks and making good bog. We will still need to go through the wood regularly to remove new rhodi seedlings but it is very satisfying to see the pay back for all of the restoration work in the past. And it is a reminder that with bogs it can take many years for the site to recover but the most important part is starting the process by rewetting the site. So for all of the bog practitioners who are working away doing the hard yards your time in heaven will come!

A carpet of sphagnum gradually spreading over the woodland floor.
Sphagnum hummock forming over old rhododendron branches.
Old rhodi brash getting smothered by sphagnum
Rhodi regeneration about to by pulled and hung in a tree to dry out
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