The UK’s third-largest lowland raised peat bog in Shropshire, the Marches Mosses Boglife project, has taken an innovative approach to making the site accessible to all. Both the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England engaged locally with disabled people to ensure that the 665-hectare site provides a wide range of access, including a bird hide and virtual reality headsets.
The peat bog encompasses the Fenn’s, Whixall, and Bettisfield national nature reserves, Cadney, and Wem moss north of the county. The Marches Mosses are one of Shropshire’s most valuable habitats in the fight against climate change.
Covering three percent of the earth’s surface, lowland-raised peat bogs are becoming increasingly rare. Lowland-raised peat bogs are formed of sphagnum moss a central building block of peat. Their acidic waters enable specific plants to thrive. The habitat attracts a wide variety of species, including the Snipe, a ground-nesting bird that feeds on invertebrates. The Large Heath butterfly flourishes on the wet acidic peatland throughout its lifecycle.
In 2016, the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £5 million to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust. The Marches Mosses project was led by Natural England in partnership with Natural Resources Wales. The three organizations set up an ambitious five-year project to enhance the Marches and Mosses reserve and to restore 665 hectares of peat bog to its former glory, improving the eco-system, increasing biodiversity, safeguarding 1.1 million tonnes of carbon, and finally incrementing all ability access to enable more people to experience the site.