Peatlands and Uplands

Peatlands and Uplands Project

In response to the urgent need to address climate change, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park is working hard to conserve the extensive carbon store that our peatlands hold. This follows a recognised necessity to step up peatland restoration, both nationally and globally.

The National Park is establishing collaborative ties with other agencies such as the National Trust, Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru whilst working closely with graziers and landowners. As a result, the Authority has secured agreement, funding and support to carry out peatland restoration and upland path improvements across a growing number of locations within the Park.

For 2023-25, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park has received £360 000 of funding via the Welsh Government’s, ‘Sustainable Landscapes, Sustainable Places’, fund to restore peatland habitat and repair upland path erosion across the Park.

In addition, Natural Resources Wales have granted the National Park Authority £253 000 as part of the National Peatland Action Programme, with associated works being jointly co-ordinated by the National Trust and the Park Authority. In recognition of the beneficial effects on drinking water within the Central Beacons reservoir catchments, Dŵr Cymru have allocated £185 000 (2022 – 2025).

By carrying out these works we will create more resilient uplands and help fight climate change.

Works are continuing in Autumn 2023 and will be completed by Spring 2025.

Project contacts:
Richard Ball, Countryside and Access Projects Officer

Sam Ridge, Peatland Project Officer




Resilient Peatlands

Whilst estimates of the extent of peatland in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park vary, the highest estimate is of 15,922 hectares of peatland.

Peat is an important carbon and water store but is easily damaged. Working within the Peatland Restoration Strategy for the Brecon Beacons (link), the Park Authority will carry out restoration works across targeted upland areas to reduce peat erosion and rewet peat so that it captures carbon rather than emitting it into the atmosphere.


Locations of restoration works including Pen Trumau, Waun Fach, Central Beacons and Mynydd Du.


Resilient Upland Paths

Most upland paths in the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park have developed as a result of recreational use. A large number of these paths have become badly eroded especially where they are on steep slopes or cross peatlands or other poorly drained soils.

Erosion of the footpaths that cross our uplands can damage habitats and the peatland that they cross and can damage habitats. During this project, upland path repairs will be carried out alongside peat restoration to reduce erosion. This will allow our peatlands to heal, avoiding further carbon emissions from eroded and draining peat, protect the historic environment and increase the ecological resilience of our land in the face of climate change.

Location of path repairs in 2023-24:
Pen Cerrig Calch
Darren Lwyd
Rhos Dirion

Paths have already been repaired at a large number of locations in the National Park. The positive results of providing a sustainable path across peaty areas or on steep slopes can be seen reasonably quickly, at Waun Fach in the Black Mountains for example.

Path works are undertaken by experienced, skilled contractors and our work specifications are designed to ensure that path improvements are as unintrusive as possible. We achieve this by using locally sourced stone whenever possible, taking care to ensure path alignment sits well within the landscape, minimising disturbance to existing flora and fauna by undertaking works outside the bird breeding season and minimising ground damage by airlifting materials to site where necessary.



Why do we want to protect our peatlands?

Peatlands are the UK’s largest carbon store.

Healthy peatlands are able to store more carbon than they release, making them important carbon sinks. Due to the acidic and water-logged conditions present in blanket bogs, plants decay very slowly. This results in the slow but steady build-up of peat, which locks in the carbon. The waterlogged, acidic and anaerobic conditions that characterize peatlands are ideal environments for the long-term preservation of organic archaeological remains. The steady accumulation of peat leads to sequences with chronological integrity: a vertical section through an undisturbed peatland effectively represents a ‘slice‟ back through time. On undisturbed, healthy peatlands, peat depth increases at a rate of about 1 mm per year.

Peatlands are vital sources for drinking water.

Blanket bogs and upland raised bogs are sources of streams and rivers and the same is true in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, from where Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water obtains at least half of its drinking water supplies on a daily basis.

Where the bogs are in poor condition, they release dissolved carbon, other compounds and peat silt, which affects water quality in the Park’s drinking water reservoirs. Gradually restoring the bogs contributes to improving water quality and reducing the costs of water treatment engineering. Upland water storage in bogs is also vital to the viability of future small scale hydro-electricity generation.

Blanket bogs in poor condition release more carbon than they take in.

Without plant cover bogs have reduced ability to take in and store carbon. Peat is exposed to air and the elements, so it is susceptible to erosion and decomposition and is lost from the moors. This can happen at a rate of up to a metre of peat depth per year in some parts of the UK. Huge amounts of carbon that were previously stored in the peat are released into the atmosphere and rivers. This is why damaged peatlands contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions and one of the reasons why it is so important to protect and restore them. They are also home to rare and vulnerable wildlife species.

By protecting and revegetating the areas of damaged blanket bogs, we aim to:

  • halt the erosion of peat from the moors
  • reduce the loss of carbon
  • increase the amount of carbon absorption
  • turn the damaged carbon sources back into carbon sinks
  • improve water quality
  • conserve and enhance the special wildlife of peat bogs
  • protect the Historic Environment of our uplands
  • heal the landscape and improve experiences for visitors

Our work can effectively increase the carbon uptake, helping to fight climate change, protect our environment and restore nature.

The revegetation and conservation of peatlands allows us to reduce erosion, enhance the quality of the landscape and transform a source of carbon into a sink.

By calculating how much carbon is being taken in and how much is being lost, we are able to assess the impact of land management practices in terms of carbon regulation.

In addition, moorland in the best ecological condition provides better areas for wildlife, and is better able to withstand the shocks and stresses of a changing climate to deliver positive benefits for the communities and settlements downhill, downstream and downwind.

All of these works form part of a wider recognition that many species such as Curlew are in decline across the Park. By collaboratively working opportunities can be grasped to bring nature recovery, improving connectivity to enclosed land and river systems in accordance with our Nature Recovery Action Plan.

Volunteers helping on Pen Trumau. If you would like to help, please see our Volunteering Opportunities.

Climate, Water, Nature, People and Place are the key missions outlined in the Bannau Brychieniog Management Plan.

Climate, Water and Nature are directly addressed by peatland restoration. The people include skilled contractors, with an understanding of the sensitivity of these landscapes. A growing number are within the Park, and where possible local materials such as wool are used, bringing revenue back into the local economy. Within the Authority, the support of the Warden team alongside a path and peatland assistant help deliver the projects with specialists providing technical advice. Of equal importance are the National Park volunteers who feel a close connection with the Park’s uplands and offer time, often in poor weather towards practical restoration and surveying, helping to gain a better understanding of our peatlands.

Peatlands occupy a strong sense of place within communities in the Park. Archaeological remains from thousands of years of human activity remain well preserved on, within, and beneath the peat. Peatlands are valued for the information they hold on past changes in climate, environment and vegetation, which can be revealed through the study of pollen, plant, insect remains and other proxies. Peatland restoration within the National Park is informed and supported by archaeological assessment, to ensure that our Historic Environment is protected during works. To find out more about the Park’s heritage please see the online database of Historic Environment records. For further information about the heritage of our park, please visit our website.

How we are halting erosion

Blanket bogs in this area have been badly damaged by 200 years of atmospheric pollution, as well as a host of other factors including uncontrolled burning and arson, historic heavy grazing pressure and trampling pressure from visitors. This has led to a severe loss of certain important types of vegetation on the hills, resulting in bare and eroding peat exposed to the elements.

We restore bare peat in three broad stages:

Our first step is to stabilise the bare peat to stop any more being lost.

In cold weather the higher moors are subjected to repeated daily cycles of freezing and thawing. In hot, dry weather the peat dries out. So both cold and hot weather loosen the surface layers of peat which may then be blown away by the wind and washed away by rain.

Our second step is to stabilise the bare peat so that plants can grow.

Once they have established, their roots hold the peat together, stopping any more being lost. On flat areas and shallow slopes we cover bare peat with cut heather ‘brash’.

This protects the peat from erosion and creates stable conditions for seed germination and a micro-climate which helps to protect new plants from harsh weather. The brash contains heather seeds as well as moss fragments and spores. As new plants grow, they form networks of roots that help to keep the peat in place.

Sometimes we re-profile the land on heavily eroded and gullied terrain.

Some landforms, such as gullies formed by erosion, have sides that are too steep for heather brash to stay in place. One way of tackling this is to re-profile them. Where we can get access to the gully with machinery, steeply sloping sides can be reduced to gentler angles of 30 to 45°. Vegetation removed during re-profiling, and which was in danger of being lost to erosion, is planted back onto the newly shaped slopes to help to stabilise them. Elsewhere, we use a water-permeable landscaping fabric (geo-textile) which seeds and plants can grow through, and which is completely biodegradable. It stays in place for around three years; that is long enough for seeds to establish and take over the role of stabilising the peat.

Working with water
Rewetting – getting peat bog habitat back into wetter, boggier condition.

The problem

A blanket bog in good condition is really wet with the water table (permanently saturated ground) within 10 cm of the surface. Peat erosion has resulted in the drainage of many areas of peat bog in the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park making them much drier. Our conservation work aims to reverse the drying out of the moors in order to rewet the bogs, benefiting water supply and biodiversity.

Across the National Park many blanket bogs are in poor condition and are actively eroding. This leaves the peat bare and susceptible to erosion.

Over time, erosion gullies have formed some of which are now so deep that they reach the bedrock. They can be as much as 4 metres deep, draining the peat and drying it out. Elsewhere, blanket bogs have been drained and dried out by the historic policy of cutting ‘grips’ into them, i.e., gridworks of deep, linear drains.

What we are doing to help

Blocking gullies and grips by installing dams reverses these effects by trapping water and sediment, slowing the flow of the water and storing more of it in the peat. This raises the water table providing the conditions necessary for bogs to develop again.

There are two main categories of dam:

Permeable – using materials such as heather bale, timber or stone. These are designed to slow the water flow and trap sediment which will build up and become vegetated.

Impermeable – using peat or plastic. These are designed to trap water, creating pools and raising the water table. The type of dam we use depends on the location, what is available, what is practical and what we want to achieve.

Sphagnum mosses
An active blanket bog contains a special community of plants.

The most essential of these plants are Sphagnum mosses – the fundamental peat-building plants. Without these mosses, blanket bog cannot sustain itself, so it is essential that Sphagnum mosses are encouraged where they persist or are reintroduced where they have disappeared.

In some parts of the National Park Sphagnum species have been lost due to industrial pollution, historic burning, heavy grazing pressure, trampling by footfall or a combination of all of these. In many places, Sphagnum of any kind is absent or scarce, and newly stabilised restoration sites are often a long distance from healthy blanket bogs from where Sphagnum could naturally re-colonise them.

To restore the balance, we need to find sources of suitable Sphagnum species to re-introduce onto restored sites. To do this, we use Sphagnum moss in the form of plug plants which have either been cultivated or harvested from local commercial forest sites, which we plant by hand.

A healthy blanket bog has a wide range of plants. If there are no local seed sources near a restoration site, in addition to Sphagnum and heathers, we may plant native moorland plants that have extensive roots to help stabilise the peat, increase the biodiversity of the moors, and provide important habitat and food for a wide range of wildlife.


Prior to commencing any of our peatland restoration and upland path works, we consult with Natural Resources Wales when the sites are within a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with the relevant landowner and the relevant commoners associations because all of the Park’s blanket bogs and raised bogs are on registered common land. We advise the Local Access Forum because all of these sites are also on access land.

Science and understanding

We are building a growing body of scientific understanding as more universities and researchers undertake important research about the impacts of peatlands in poor condition and the benefits of habitat restoration.

Through surveys, we are also building a better understanding of the extent and ecological condition of the Park’s peatlands.

Peatland and Restoration Strategy


Much of this information has been drawn from Moors for the Future ( )