A team of 60 soldiers has joined up with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to support its landscape restoration work. 

The troops have been working to reinvigorate the peat bog ecosystem at Haweswater in the second year of the British Army’s Global Charge green initiative, demonstrating its commitment to supporting local environmental projects.  

The soldiers used their strength and engineering expertise to move several huge boulders and 1,000 natural bags of earth in an area of peat bog in the Riggindale Valley. The work will allow water to be captured and held in place to re-wet the landscape for a thriving habitat to develop. 

Haweswater was selected as the site of the partnership due to its long-term conservation work and ground-breaking landscape recovery work as the result of a partnership between landowner United Utilities and the RSPB since 2011. 

Major Sean Mackey, of the Light Dragoons, who instigated the army’s involvement in the project, said: “As a local resident, I was aware of the vital work taking place at Haweswater to improve the habitats there. When the British Army’s annual green initiative was coming round again this year, I saw a golden opportunity to contribute. The team at Haweswater readily embraced our offer of assistance, knowing that with 60 soldiers, we can make a significant impact on the peat bog restoration.” 

The army worked at Sale Pot, which means ‘willow pool’, next to Haweswater Reservoir. Its meaning suggests how it used to be and RSPB vegetation surveys have revealed that the now dry area was once a flourishing wetland habitat evidenced by the remnants of bog plants that still exist. 

Richard Smith, an RSPB warden involved in leading the day, said: “We’ve previously investigated re-wetting this peat bog, but it would have involved helicoptering in machinery and the cost of that was prohibitively expensive. We’re a small team of three wardens here at Haweswater so it isn’t a task we could have done alone. 

“We’re extremely thankful to the Environment Agency who funded the natural bags we’re using to hold the earth in place, and of course, to the Light Dragoons for thinking of us. We hope to work with them again in future years.” 

John Gorst, catchment partnership officer for United Utilities, added: “We’re delighted to have the army’s help on this project. It’s a continuation of previous peat bog work we’ve carried out at Haweswater to improve drinking water, slow the flow during high rainfall and increase the wildlife and biodiversity that relies on this internationally important habitat. Wet peat bogs also absorb large amounts of carbon, so make a huge contribution to the fight against climate change.”