Building bridges the hard way

Flanders Moss NNR

We have been building bridges the hard way out on the moss recently.

Transporting pine poles across the moss

One of our management problems on Flanders is that we have too many red deer. They have become established on the moss over the last 10 years and find it a perfect place. They spend the day on the moss, undisturbed, and then at night walk out onto the farmland to eat the crops. This is a problem because the farmers don’t want their crops to feed deer and also a large herd of animals only slightly smaller than cows doing a daily commute across the fragile bog surface is trashing the bog vegetation.

So some of the deer are culled to reduce the population. But taking an animal only slightly smaller than a cow off a soft, fragile peat bog is not easy. Special machines – Argocats – are needed but even these low-ground pressure machines are making a mess of the bog and getting stuck in ditches and holes.

Finishing off one of a number of bridges

So to make a better track surface we have been making basic bridges for the machines to cross the worst patches. And this is the clever bit. Out in the middle of the moss is an area of pine that has invaded the bog. We are now felling these trees to restore the open bog vegetation with its specialised plants like sphagnum and sundew. The poles from these trees we then transport across the moss and lay on the extraction routes so that the machines can cross the wet bits. It takes a lot of trees to fill the holes but once in they make an excellent, low cost bridge. Of course this isn’t a new idea – archaeological evidence from a number of countries, including fine examples in Ireland, show that thousands of years back people were using exactly this technique to make it easier for them to travel across bogs – corduroy tracks and bridges they are called.

It really is a win-win-win situation – bog vegetation restored – low cost bridges constructed – minimising impact of deer management – which it turns leads to a bog in better condition. And if you want another win then over several work parties, a number of NatureScot staff have been practicing their newly acquired chainsaw skills felling the pine.

Argocat in action on a new bridge.

There is always someone messing about – but at least Jamie is also showing how deep the holes are!

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7 Responses to Building bridges the hard way

  1. Anne says:

    This is very interesting to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. louisgibbbtinternetcom says:

    I’d be interested to know more about the management of deer on Flanders.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. peigimccann says:

    This reminds me of the Neolithic wooden platform mentioned on pages 51-58 here:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. nickmcw says:

    Might you expect the carbon from the felled trees to be stored in the bog, with time – another win??


  5. Pingback: Stuck in a rut | 2 bogs, a swamp and some islands

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