Flanders Moss NNR
Its been a hard few weeks out on the reserves recently. Lots of long, physical days or as an esteemed colleague and fellow NNR blogger might call it – hard yaka.
The latest tasks is helping with the reconditioning of our WaLRaGs. And what are WaLRaGs? Well they are not some Tolkeinesque creature of the bog that is in a poor state but rather our low-tech water level monitoring devices. WaLRaGs stands for (Water Level Range Gauge) and is a kind of dipwell that measures the height of the water within the peat body. They are a piece of clever engineering, no electronics but made out of drain pipes, tape measures and amazingly an old lemonade bottle, empty but for a bit of sand, which goes up and down in the drain pipe with the changing water levels. Our WaLRaGs are read 4 times a year (in normal years) and give the current depth to water table and also shows the highest and lowest water level since the previous reading. How far the water table drops below the surface is especially useful to know as if it drops too low then specialist bog vegetation like sphagnum won’t grow. So using the data collected by the WaLRaGs we can target bog restoration works to dry areas and also see if works carried out are successful.
Our WaLRags were installed in 1997 so we are building up a really long data set for water levels at Flanders Moss. The longer the dataset the more valuable it is as it can show the impact of our restoration works and other changes in the bog.
But some of our WaLRaGs are not working properly. This is mainly because we have made the moss so wet there isn’t room in the kit to record the higher water levels. So we are getting them upgraded, reconditioned, repaired and generally brought back into full working order. One of the jobs is to anchor some of the WaLRaGs to the clay under the peat. This allows them to measure the rising surface of the moss. Anchors are metal rods that are fitted together. A contractor will be doing the technical stuff but firstly someone had to get 45 metres of metal rod out to the WaLRaGs needing it. The iron horse could carry them so far but as driving an iron horse over bog is a bit like a full-on wrestle with a grizzly bear even this isn’t easy work. For the last few hundred yards the bundles of poles then need to be carried by hand to the right position. As you can imagine a big lump of metal across your shoulders helps sink you into the soft peat at each step so the whole process gave you a full workout that even Davina McCall might grumble about. It was the sort of day that needed second helpings of dinner at the end of it. Still, at least it saves on a gym membership.
But all the effort is well worth it. With the WaLRaGs back functioning properly we hope that the dataset can be extended for another 24 years, giving us a really valuable picture of how this big, old bog is recovering from past damage.