The actions of a community task force, of farmers, artists, specialists and land owners, last month have successfully restored two important spring mires on Dartmoor.

It took over 30 people, from 15 organisations [1], working together, plus a fortnight of practical activity on Harford and Ugborough Moors, on the southern edge of Dartmoor.

It’s part of a long term ambition of the South West Peatland Partnership to re-establish Dartmoor’s globally important bogs and mires. They are at risk of disappearing according to the University of Exeter [2]. And the work is also part of project to secure the future of upland commons, led by the Foundation for Common Land [3]. Those involved included a Devon based artist collective Art & Energy, the Commoners’ Association, the National Trust and the Dartmoor National Park Authority. Dartmoor Headwaters Project officers were also on hand to help. As Tamsin Thomas, the Our Upland Commons Dartmoor project officer, explains: “The restoration task was quite complex, and all about reinstating the water table. The peat hags, or cut outs, were reprofiled, bunds were built and flow deflectors installed to spread the water across the mires. Contractors built timber dams in a tin mining gulley and filled in ditches. We also improved stock access to other brooks and natural watering points across the common to reduce pressure points. And sphagnum moss was planted.

“When they function well, spring mires are fabulous habitats for wildlife, provide clean water for livestock and people, deliver natural flood management and lock carbon. Sphagnum moss is a key ingredient in bog building, laying down layers of fresh peat and storing carbon, as it grows.

“But there’s a big task ahead of us if we want to see more of these benefits. The restoration of Dartmoor’s peat bogs requires urgent action and a wide range of organisations working together to achieve this.

“So it was good to see so many people involved in this fortnight of work. For the first time ever, there was a practical day of training for commoners and local contractors, on natural flood management and practical peatland restoration techniques. Thanks to specialist Andy Coleman, from Quantock & Exmoor Ltd, Dartmoor Headwaters Team and South West Peatland Partnership. And it was really well received,” adds Tamsin.

Tamsin says it was also important to involve a community group from Plymouth. They got to find out how their local moor, Harford, is managed and by whom and the importance of sphagnum moss for carbon sequestration. Plugs of sphagnum moss, wrapped in felted wool from local sheep, were planted, organised by Art & Energy as part of their project ‘How to Bury the Giant’.

“It was heartening that so many people come together, to care for their local common,” concludes Tamsin. “A job well done and only possible because lots of people with different skills worked together [4].”

Anyone interested in finding out about how Dartmoor Headwaters Project is reducing flood risks to towns by restoring natural processes can visit this web page. Details of the Our Upland Commons project in Dartmoor can be found here: And for information about the Art and Energy initiative visit: