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Licence acquisition assures future of important wetlands site

The future of one of Britain’s most important bog wildlife sites has been assured thanks to Natural Resources Wales’ purchase of the area’s last remaining peat cutting rights.

Fenns Mosses is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that straddles the Wales – England border between Wrexham and Whitchurch, Shropshire, and is part of the Fenns, Whixall, Bettisfield, Wem and Cadney Mosses system.

In addition to being designated a SSSI, the site is also a Special Area of Conservation, a Ramsar site (wetlands of international importance) and part has been declared as a National Nature Reserve.

Historically, the SSSI has been severely damaged by drainage for agriculture, transport systems, forestry and peat cutting.

However, because of the scale of the site, many special wildlife features have survived and these are currently expanding rapidly thanks to restoration work being undertaken by Natural Resources Wales and Natural England.

The Deed of Release for the acquisition of the remaining peat cutting licence term and cessation of moss gathering and peat extraction has now been completed.

Peat extraction, which has gone on at Fenns for centuries, is an activity that damages the SSSI which underpins the National Nature Reserve.

Peat cutting work requires the land to be drained, which damages the growth of the Sphagnum moss which forms an important part of the active bog. Stopping drainage will allow the water levels within the bog to rise to levels that are suitable for the restoration of the active peat bog as well as improved water quality.

A spokesperson for Natural Resources Wales said:

“The Fenns Whixall system is one of the biggest and best raised bogs in Britain, whose astonishingly varied wildlife and mosses make it internationally important.

“If the peat licence had not been acquired ditches would have been cut in other areas of the bog to dry these areas out before extracting peat and this would have undone conservation work on the site.

“This demonstrates the importance of acquiring the peat cutting and moss gathering licence rights.

"Doing this will help enable the recovery of Fenns Mosses, raising water levels, and protecting and enhancing its wonderful wildlife for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.”

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