Cottoning on to Moorland Restoration

A community growing project in Burnley helped to restore moorlands high above the town working with volunteers and trainees as part of the Watershed Landscape Project managed by Pennine Prospects.

Offshoots Permaculture Project, managed by Groundwork Pennine Lancashire, was commissioned to grow 70,000 plugs of cotton grass by United Utilities. This was part of a wider initiative to restore the upland catchment area – reducing the patches of eroded bare peat which will ensure not only water quality is protected but improve the habitat for internationally rare ground nesting birds.

Through the Watershed Landscape Project this important work was extended to local schools so that children became aware of the importance of uplands and how important peat is!

As Phil Dewhurst, Offshoots Manager explained at the time: ‘The project is involving children from local schools, and volunteers, planting seedlings or ‘plugs’; this will be a springboard for larger scale restoration programmes. With the generous contribution from the Lancashire Environment Fund, our nursery is expanding to include other native moorland plants, such as crowberry and bilberry. These species are more complicated to propagate and we face an exciting challenge in developing expertise in those propagation techniques’.

Cotton grass or bog cotton, as its name suggests, grows in the wetter areas of moorland. Some species can even withstand some degree of immersion. The seed heads, covered in white plumes which are attached to the seeds themselves; turn the moor white in June. A little known fact is that the cottony heads were collected to be used for wound dressings during the First World War. 

See our video about Offshoots: Click here