Recently I’ve started walking with the Manchester and District (MAD) Walkers, a local 20s and 30s group of The Ramblers. A few weeks ago I set off on a walk with them from Glossop.
It was absolutely stunning. Snowy ground with dark gritstone and peat glaring through, giving a dappled landscape.
We climbed the Doctor’s Gate path out of Glossop and then turned left when we met the Pennine Way. Here, we met an alien landscape of snow covered peat hags. Dark peat glowed through the snow on the sides of steep troughs in between.
Peat hags are formed when the vegetation that binds together the top surface of a peat moorland disappears, and the peat below is eroded away. This is a problem for three main reasons. Firstly, peat stores a great deal of carbon – it is a carbon sink. When the peat is eroded this carbon is released into the atmosphere. You already know about carbon, I won’t go on about the problems that this causes.
Secondly, the peat also stores a lot of water. When it rains on the moors the water is captured in the peat bog and released slowly, allowing rivers a change to take it away. When the peat is eroded, the bog cannot hold as much water meaning the rainfall hits the rivers a lot quicker. So peat can help to reduce flooding downstream.
Finally, when peat is eroded it colours the water. People don’t like to drink brown water, and so water companies spend huge amounts of money removing the peat from the water before it goes through your taps. And of course this cost is passed on to households.
A flat moor is a healthy moor, and there is hope for restoration. Programs by the Peak District National Park Authority (which you can read about here) and the National Trust (here) are working to restore the peat moorland and protect the vital services it provides.
We carried on, up and down over the peat hags, to a rather sobering sight – the B29 Superfortress ‘Over-exposed’ crash site.
This plane went down on Shelf Moor in 1948 whilst on a routine flight. Whilst flying in foggy conditions, the crew thought the hill had been cleared and began to descend. Unfortunately, it hadn’t and the plane crashed near Higher Shelf Stones, killing all 13 crew members.
And so we carried on to the trig point, and the descended back into Glossop.