Nestled between Sheffield and Manchester lies the beautiful Peak District National Park. Since becoming the United Kingdoms first national park in 1951, it has become increasingly popular, and now receives around 13.25 million visitors every year.
While the Peak District provides a wonderful destination for walkers, climbers, and mountain bikers, it also plays an important role for the environment and climate. Large parts of the national park are covered in peat, which is now known to be a huge store of Carbon. Should the peat degrade, this Carbon would be released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. It is also home to vast array of wildlife and provides a variety of ecosystems for them to thrive in.
It is important that these national parks remain accessible for the public to enjoy, whilst also being protected and restored. For the last 18 years, this crucial work has been carried out by Moors for the Future. They promote the park for public and recreational use while also maintaining and restoring the moorlands. They also work to help enhance habitats, improve water quality, reduce wildfire and flood risk, and tackle climate change.
A part of their conservation work involves stabilising and revegetating bare peat. Exposed at the surface and with nothing to hold it in place, bare peat is very susceptible to erosion from the weather, walkers, and animals. It also plays a key role in flood management. One way to help this is to plant heather. Heather brash, which consists mainly of heather cuttings, is used to cover the bare peat across the Peak District. Once it takes root it holds the peat in place.
Covering 1,440 km2 and with bare peat spread throughout, the only way to deliver the heather brash to where it is needed is by helicopter. Earlier this year, we were awarded this role by Moors for the Future. We were tasked with load-lifting 1,000 dumpy bags of heather brash to the Kinder Plateau.
Speed is Key
There are several advantages to using helicopters for this role. Firstly, and most critically, moving the brash into the remote moorlands by ground vehicle would cause significant damage to the very land that they are intending to restore. Lifting the brash by helicopter is also significantly quicker. Our load-lifting six-hook carousel fitted to one of our AS355s, allows us to carry up to six bags at once. With a remote release function operated by the pilot, we can quickly drop a bag at six GPS tagged sites in a single trip.
Kinder Scout is the highest peak in the national park, standing at 2,086 ft. As thousands of bags of brash must be lifted and placed over a massive area, and that it all must take place in the winter months, speed is crucial. The quicker the bags can be placed, the quicker the spreading of the brash can be done.
It is a common site to see a helicopter flying over the Peak District in winter, so now if you see one with a few bags underneath, you have a good idea of what it’s up to.