Bell Crag Flow is one of the 58 or so bogs that make up the Border Mires on the Northumberland and Cumbria border. They lie scattered around the southern part of Kielder Forest and many have recently seen a huge amount of restoration work following past damage through drainage and tree planting. Bell Crag Flow is a little different in that it was damage by a short-lived attempt to extract peat. The business soon failed but the bog was badly damaged. Following years of work in restoring the site it is now recovering well and a great haven for the specialist wildlife that lives here.
Yesterday Duncan’s job was to check all the old drainage ditches and dams that had been installed to raise the water level again. The results were twofold, the dams were all checked to see if they were working or could benefit from remedial work to repair or improve them, secondly, it was possible to see where a few extra dams might make an important difference.
It’s still quite early for bog plants to be at their best and dragonflies and the specialist large heath butterfly are still to emerge; and yet there were things to be seen. Tiny sundews were sprouting from areas of bare peat or from lawns of Sphagnum mosses. These miniature plants have sticky hairs on their leaves to catch passing insects so that they can devour them to supplement their otherwise meagre existence. Elsewhere the straggling cranberry plants were out in flower with some of last year’s berries still remaining, the juices fermented inside the tiny spherical packet.
Some of the lichens were also providing a small splash of colour. There are a number of species of Cladonia around the site, normally on the drier patches, but none as striking at the Devil’s matchsticks (Cladonia diversa) with its bright red tips on grey and brown ‘stems’.
Another visit is needed, over 150 dams were checked but there are still more to do. These sites are not easy to walk over especially as the ditches are virtually impossible to cross. Good news for the bog, less good news if you are trying to get around it!