Swarth Moor Restoration

Swarth Moor is a nationally important lowland raised mire near Helwith Bridge. Designated in 1958 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, there has been a long history of human impacts at the site –analysis of peat cores reveals that peat cutting occurred during the Iron Age, in the medieval and post-medieval periods, and more recently in the late eighteenth-nineteenth century.

What is the problem?

Peat cutting, together with inputs of dust from the nearby quarry, atmospheric nitrogen, and agrochemicals applied to the surrounding farmland, has altered the hydrology of the raised mire surface, causing parts of it to dry out which has contributed to the dominance of a species-poor purple moor grass Molinia caerulea vegetation. Natural England currently classifies the site as being in an unfavourable condition.

However, it is thought possible to raise water levels on the central peat dome to promote growth of Sphagnum (bog moss). This will keep the surface active and encourage accumulation of peat and also help to control the dominance of purple moor grass.

How will it benefit the public?

In conjunction with conservation management of the site, a new boardwalk will be created to allow public access across part of the SSSI and interpretation materials will be installed so that visitors can appreciate the special wildlife supported by the habitat. The boardwalk will also improve access between the public car park and picnic area at Helwith Bridge and the footpath that runs between Swarth Moor and Dry Rigg Quarry.


Natural England is leading the project, with the support of Tarmac and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. Specialist ecological advice, survey and monitoring have been provided by PlantEcol.

Get in touch

If you’d like to find out more about this project, please contact Chris Lodge, Stories in Stone Project Officer.

Map references for the project: SD806695