Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors – Peatland Restoration Design Development

Coinciding with the end of two of our peatland restoration projects, Alex Jones has been asked to present at the Restoring England’s largest lowland peat mire – LIFE and Beyond That’s LIFE conference on the 15 May.

Both projects have complementary aims focused on the restoration of the Humberhead Peatlands. Alex has been working on the site since 2009, and the That’s LIFE conference provides an opportunity to reflect on the work achieved by the projects, to share knowledge and best practice with others.

Water Level Management Plan

JBA Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors Peatland Restoration Design Development area map
Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors Peatland Restoration Design Development area map

Over the last 12 years we have been tasked by the consortium of local IDBs to produce and implement a £2.9 million Water Level Management Plan (WLMP) covering Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors, England’s largest terrestrial Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Natural England Humberhead Peatlands £2.3million LIFE+ project focuses on the whole Humberland Peatlands and continues their restoration work on the National Nature Reserve (NNR).

This is the first of three blogs on the Thorne, Goole and Crowle Moors WLMP which will look into our implementation of the plan focusing on design development, stakeholder engagement and engineering implementation.

Developing a Restoration Design

The history of drainage, peat extraction, and past restoration works lead to a series of complex and subtle controls on the water level conditions on site. Peatlands, like Thorne Moors, need water levels to lie very close to the surface with minimum fluctuations. These are the saturated conditions that allow peat forming species to establish and ensure that the peat does not decay.

The WLMP was developed using the following key tools, allowing the eco-hydrological controls to be understood and designs to be developed:

1.    Walk-overs

The site is vast, so weeks of site walk-over were needed to get to know the site well, appreciate its variations, and begin to understand the controls on water levels.

2.    The use of LIDAR

Though the site is vast it only has a range of elevation of 4m. Subtle topographical and microtopographical changes could dictate whether an area was saturated to ground level or not. A 2m LIDAR DTM was available for the site, this allowed these changes to be appreciated, and the elevation of water control structures to be set to create the saturated conditions required.

3.    Real Time Kinomatics (RTK) Survey Pole

Leica RTK Survey pole was purchased as part of the project. This survey pole, which uses mobile phone signals to improve GPS measurements to millimetre accuracy, allowed the team of ecohydrologists to map water levels across the very flat site and find the topographical features which controlled them (e.g dips in tracks, lumps in drain beds).

4.    Developing a suite of restoration measures

JBA Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors – Peatland Restoration Design Development - restoration measures
Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors – Peatland Restoration Design Development – restoration measures

The unique and variable topography and microtopography was utilised in progressing a suite of restoration measures specific to the WLMP needed to develop the saturated conditions for the desired habitats. For example:

  • The ridge and furrow topography created by the peat extraction in part of the site was utilised with a few strategically placed peat plugs to create a system of bunds.
  • Where weirs could be built to saturate larger areas, full adjustable weirs were selected so that water levels could be modified in future as the habitats adjusted.

Want to know more?

Email Alex Jones for more information on wetland restoration. You can also speak to Alex in person at the Restoring England’s largest lowland peat mire – LIFE and Beyond conference on 15 May.

Visit our environmental services web pages to find out more about the many ways we can help you on your projects.

Read the second instalment of this blog which will explore the stakeholder engagement aspect of the project.



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