Restoration site – Shiel Farm (Airds Moss West)


Shiel Farm

Site summary
Location Near Auchinleck, East Ayrshire
Habitat type Blanket bog
Grid reference NS588243
Status SAC, SPA, SSSI
Size (ha) 235

Surveys being carried out at Shiel Farm (c) CEI 2016

Shiel farm is an area of blanket bog to the west of the Airds Moss Special Area of Conservation (SAC), covering approximately 235 hectares. The habitat is comprised of open blanket bog, recently felled coniferous woodland, a man-made water body that has been stocked with fish, and several bings and many in-filled shafts left over from past mining activities.  It’s fair to say that this is a diverse site, and despite being tinkered with by mankind over the years it is a wonderful, wet, wildlife haven with plenty of room for further enhancement.

Peatland re-wetting work had formerly taken place at Shiel Farm from 2011 onwards as part of mitigation for coal mining operations at a nearby opencast site.  The work ceased prematurely with the collapse of Scottish Coal, who owned the site, following which the site has been in ownership of Mines Restoration Limited (MRL).  However, watch this space; Shiel Farm may be winging its way to a conservation organisation in the near future with the aim of managing this special site for the benefit of the bog and its wildlife.

CEI had flagged up Shiel Farm as a priority site for restoration through its work to survey and rank of peat bogs across East Ayrshire. This was due to the site’s importance for nature conservation, condition, and the possibility of long-term positive management by a conservation body, making it both feasible to do the work and more likely that the benefits of enhancement would be sustained into the future.

CEI-led restoration work at Shiel Farm in 2016 focussed on re-wetting an area that was ploughed for forestry but never planted. The area was drained in the past by a series of small slit/grip drains with the intention of planting the drained peatland with conifers, similarly to the adjacent area of mature forestry that has been recently felled.  Specialist contractors re-wetted the bog using a series of deep trench bunds, installing 33 across a 5 hectare section, totalling 3,810 metres in length.

The innovative technique of deep trench bunding is not appropriate for all drained peat bogs. Bunding may not be appropriate if the site has a moderate slope or if the sub-surface peat is badly cracked, as this can result in leaks or even dramatic breaches.  It is also important that the bunds are correctly installed by an operator who can spot the difference between healthy and degraded peat.  Shorter ‘finger’ bunds placed perpendicular to the main bund prevent surface water from lapping at the exposed peat and eroding the bund.  It’s a fairly invasive method of slowing water, so should be used sparingly to prevent damage to the bog surface and its sensitive plants.

The video below is an interview with Openspace (Cumbria) Ltd Director, Jonny Rook, explaining the installation process. The video includes footage of the deep trench bund being installed at Shiel Farm in 2016. This video was filmed and edited by CEI volunteer, Willie Craig.

Creating a trench bund across a forestry grip (c) CEI 2016

How to tell if your bund is working 🙂 (c) CEI 2016

Since the work was completed in February 2016, the ground around the bunds has become a lot wetter and wetland plants and bog mosses have begun to colonise areas once dense with purple moor-grass. The CEI’s amazing volunteers have helped to regularly monitor the water levels, vegetation and animal life at this and our other sites.  This data will help us to determine how successful the project has been and share our findings with other projects and the wider public, helping to raise awareness of the importance of peat bogs in our landscape.  If you would like to find out more about the CEI’s awareness raising events, education or volunteer programmes, follow the links or contact Project Officer, Gemma Jennings, on 01563576771 or at info@ea-cei.org.uk.

Vegetation monitoring at Shiel Farm (c) CEI 2016