£1m Goyt Valley environmental programme launched

The future looks bright for one of the south Pennines most dramatic, picturesque and protected valleys.

Landowners, farmers and gamekeepers in the Goyt Valley, between Macclesfield and Buxton, have launched an ambitious conservation programme to improve habitats and water quality.

The ten-year plan includes restoring 1,000 hectares of peatland, which should also reduce the risk of moorland fires and flooding.

Ross Evans, of major landowner United Utilities, which secured funds for the scheme from the Rural Payments Agency said re-wetting upland blanket bog would slow rain flowing down hillsides which would be better for habitats, rivers and water quality. 

The dramatic upland landscape of the Goyt Valley is part of the Peak District National Park and also a site of special scientific interest because of habitats including blanket bog and dry heath, and nationally important breeding populations of upland birds like merlin, golden plover and short-eared owl.

“By managing land differently, we will improve the favourability of the SSSI, restore up to 1000 hectares of peat, improve water quality in the locality, promote flood mitigation and reduce the risk of moorland fires,” he said.

“Most of the hard work will take place in the first few years including fencing to promote sustainable livestock grazing, installing blocks into grips and gullies to improve the water table, and planting large areas of sphagnum moss so that the ground absorbs water and stays wet.

“This has benefits not just for biodiversity and carbon storage, it also improves the quality of water in our two Goyt Valley reservoirs, Errwood and Fernilee, which supply drinking water to people in Macclesfield and Stockport.”

“The scheme is a true partnership project with farm and shoot tenants, local authorities and Natural England coming together to deliver multiple and wide ranging benefits, including making it more accessible to the public and school groups who can learn about its fascinating history.

“The Goyt Valley was once a thriving coal mining area and a lot of mining archaeology is still there in the landscape” added Ross. “Working together, we’ll be taking steps to conserve these features and providing new access furniture and interpretation boards to help people get even more from their visit to this spectacular area. One of the tenant farmers will also be developing school educational visits.”

A spokesperson for Natural England said: “In conjunction with the Leek Moors, the Goyt Valley SSSI is of international importance for its upland habitats such as blanket bog, as well as the community of upland breeding birds they support. This Countryside Stewardship agreement builds on many years of conservation efforts on the two sites. Habitat restoration work across significant areas of blanket bog will be carried out through the scheme, helping to improve the long-term health and condition of these important peatlands.”