Baling Heather on Ballaugh Mountain.
DEFA recently employed a contractor to bale heather cut by their own staff. Rotational heather cutting is part of sustainable moorland management that helps to prevent the risks associated with unplanned wildfires. The result is a varied age structure of moorland plants which increases diversity benefiting wildlife and livestock whilst helping to protect the carbon stored within the peat soils. The heather bales can be used for various soft engineering and land restoration purposes. One of the main uses for these bales will be to partially block upland drains in order to re-wet previously drained areas of blanket bog and wet heath. Bales will be placed at regular intervals within selected drains in order to slow the flow of water. Silt containing small particles of peat and other organic matter will become trapped in the bales which will eventually naturalise in appearance and permit vegetation to grow and further slow the flow of water. This technique has been used with great success across many sites in the UK where the aim is to reduce silt laden run-off entering streams and ultimately reservoirs as well helping to improve habitats and carbon sequestration.
The Department aims to work in conjunction with volunteers from the Greenlane User Group Task force and staff from the DoI to utilise heather bales where appropriate on some of the Islands upland tracks. We have already experimented with bales on the East Mountain Gate track and early indications suggest that the bales are working well.
Some of the attached photographs show drains blocked several years ago on South Barrule. The results are encouraging as pools of water now remain in the drain for prolonged periods as opposed to just flowing off the hill at speed. Sphagnum moss (the building blocks of peat) has started to form in these recently created pools.