SOIL ASSOCIATION Scotland are running a series of on-farm events to highlight how restoring peatland can help farm businesses – and to explain the funding available to conduct restoration work.

Host farmer Malcolm Hay of upland sheep and livestock unit Edinglassie, near Huntly in Aberdeenshire, explained: “Where they drained the peatlands we had three miles of 18-inch trenches, eight feet deep in some places. They were death traps for animals which would fall in and we’d never know what happened to them. On top of the hill there was an area where peat had been cut out for fuel – 100 acres where it had been cut down to the bedrock, with nothing on it.”

Mr Hay applied for a peatland restoration grant and in 2015 Scottish Natural Heritage came in and 'did all the work': “They went in with diggers, blocked up the gullies, got the vegetation back into the bare ground – they spread brash to reseed with sphagnum moss and heather so the soil wouldn’t blow away. They installed fencing to prevent snowdrifts and stabilise windswept areas. You can’t even see now where the trenches were. We can put the sheep out now and know they won’t disappear.”

Reduced such blackloss is one benefit to land managers, but others include improved soil health, water retention in dry periods and flooding prevention in the wet. “But there’s more to life than economic return,” said Mr Hay. “Particles from decaying peatland get into the rivers, and water companies have to pay millions to take it out. Juvenile salmon and trout can’t see their food in the cloudy water and their gills get infected and they die. Wading birds and grouse love peatland. It’s worth doing peatland restoration on a district wide scale – to prevent flash flooding for example.”

Farm conservation advisor Richard Lockett agreed: “The general benefits are huge – carbon storage, flood prevention and habitat restoration – that’s why the Scottish Government is putting so much money into it.”

As well as offering an opportunity to see peatland restoration in action on farm (including ditch blocking with a digger), the two Soil Association events will cover funding possibilities with the Peatland ACTION scheme, which covers 100% of capital costs, and through AECS, where peatland restoration means increased points weighting.

The first 'For Peat’s Sake' event is in Huntly, Aberdeenshire on October 29, from 9.30am to 3.30pm, and the second is in Callander, Perthshire, on October 30 from 10am to 3pm. The events are free, with lunch included, but booking is required, via Jane Dingwall on 0131 666 2474, or email