Tullychurry Forest to Bog restoration


A section of afforested blanket bog was offered by Forest Service (DAERA) for restoration as part of the Source to Tap Interreg VA project. The 30 ha area, known as Tullychurry Forest, is located in County Fermanagh close to the Donegal border. Lough Awaddy lies to the north of the restoration site, which sits between two lobes of Pettigoe Plateau, a designated Ramsar site, Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The SAC is 1,270 Ha, making it one of the largest expanses of blanket bog left in Northern Ireland. Of special scientific interest are Marsh Fritillary butterflies, Greenland white-fronted geese (in the winter) and hen harriers, which regularly hunt over the bog. The restoration work at Tullychurry will join up two lobes of open bog and re-establish the habitat for breeding birds and invertebrates. The removal of the Lodge Pole Pine plantation, should aid the endangered Golden Plover, whose predators will no longer have cover.


The site was planted in the 1960’s using a ridge and furrow pattern typical for the time. This had to be dealt with to allow the water table to rise evenly. The site was harvested between December 2019 and the end of March 2020 by Forest Service (DAERA) contractors. Where trees were severely stunted, windblown or damaged by wildfire, the decision was taken to leave them in situ due to the cost of removal and the short expected timeframe for decomposition of 10-15 years. Project staff visited the site in June 2020 and noted large amounts of brash post harvest (one mat every 15m).

Project Aims

The Tullychurry restoration work will provide carbon sequestration and biodiversity benefits at a formerly harvested forestry site. The insight and data gained from this pilot project will inform future work in drinking water catchments. Indeed, the cell bunding technique has already been used at another restoration site, the nearby Lough Bradan reservoir.

Restoration Delivered

Work to restore just over 20 hectares of land that was previously planted with lodge pole pine has been completed within the INTERREG VA Source to Tap project. Already we are observing that the water levels are raised and that sphagnum mosses are starting to re-colonise. Over time as this continues the peatland will restore.

Site Activity

The site was split into 3 ‘treatment’ areas for the restoration work: 1. An intensive restoration area, where the new technique cell bunding was trialled. 2. A general drain blocking area, in which peat dams were used. 3. A control area, which aimed to mirror Forest Service best practice. Work started at the end of October 2021 using 2 diggers with 0.5m wide tracks and a 1.2m bucket. The work at the site took around 11 weeks to complete. Intensive Restoration Area In the 6.13ha intensive restoration area, 145 cell bunds were constructed. These are low watertight peat walls, placed in grids (or cells) to prevent water from escaping. An average of 16 cells were built per week by the 2 diggers, although differing ground conditions meant that progress was slower in some areas than others. General Drain Blocking Area In the 9.67ha general drain blocking area, a total of 237 peat dams were used to block both drains and brash mats (where they were acting as drains). Dams were inserted every 10 to 12m taking care to avoid tree roots. On steeper sections of the site the interval between dams was reduced to around 8m. Control Area In the 5ha control area, the aim was to replicate the approach taken by Forest Service when they leave a site as an environmental protection area. A minimal approach was therefore planned, but due to its wetness some intervention was needed. Ultimately, 3 drains were blocked with peat dams and a 531m cell bund wall was constructed, which blocked 15 brash mats and 2 drains. Sphagnum Seeding Following completion of the work, sphagnum seeding was trialled on a 1ha area of the cell bunded site. Sphagnum was collected from the open bog nearby using a softrax machine. Water and mulch was mixed into the harvested material, which was then applied to the trial area via high pressure hoses.

Monitoring Work Underway at Tullychurry Forest

Five different areas of the site are being monitored using shallow groundwater dip wells to assess water table recovery in each area.

These include the three treatment areas (cell bunded area, control area and general drain blocking area), an area of open moorland and an area of standing trees.

Monitoring is conducted every month whereby the fluctuating groundwater level is determined by dip meter. Furthermore, water samples are taken from each of the dip wells and returned to the laboratory where they are analysed for colour (254nm) and true colour (Pt/Co).

In the three peat restoration treatment areas, water level is monitored more intensively by automatic water level recorders. These hourly data are downloaded every three months.

Adjacent to the peat treatments, rainfall is monitored automatically. These hourly data are downloaded every three months.

We are keen for monitoring to continue beyond the end of the project to allow for long term learning from this pilot site. The monitoring work, which is carried out by Ulster University, started in early January 2021 and will continue for one year as the project itself will finish at the end of September 2022.

Project Name: Tullychurry Forest to Bog restoration

Organisation / Lead partner: NI Water

Location: Belleek, County Fermanagh

Approximate area covered: 30 ha

Predominately: Lowland

Peat Habitats: Blanket bog

Project Type: Restoration

Year Project Began: 2020

    Brown butterfly with black spots on pink bell shaped flower
    New species showcase - large heathOur latest species showcase introduces the large heath butterfly, its association with two iconic…
    Haresfoot cottongrass with blue sky in the background. Credit Laurie Campbell SNH
    New briefing addresses the peatlands and methane debateThe IUCN UK Peatland Programme has launched a new briefing “Peatlands and Methane” that summarises…
    Peatland with mountains in the background
    New £3 million fund for peatland restoration in Northern IrelandApplications for the new £3million Peatland Challenge Fund to help protect Northern Ireland's…
    Sphagnum moss on healthy peatland
    Scotland’s Peatland ACTION programme hits record restoration milestoneFor the first time since the Peatland ACTION programme began, more than 10,000 hectares of damaged…
    A cottongrass seedhead
    New species showcase - cottongrassOur May species showcase looks at the role that cottongrass plays in peatlands, its cultural and…
    Jennifer Fulton at an IUCN UK Peatland Programme conference
    Remembering Jennifer FultonWe, at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, are still reeling from the loss of Jennifer Fulton, Chief…
    Dotterel (c) Pete Quinn
    Conference 2024 tickets now on sale!Tickets for our 2024 conference in Aviemore, 17-19 September, are now on sale - join us to…
    Dunlin (c) RSPB
    New species showcase - dunlinThe third of our showcases explores the importance of dunlin as an indicator species for peatland…
    Landscape view of Red Moss of Balerno
    Peatland Code Public Consultation The Peatland Code is committed to continuous improvement and would like to invite you to comment on…
    Micrograph of testate amoeba showing internal structures
    Please give 10 minutes of your time to help answer the question: Is palaeoecological research utilised in UK peatland restoration projects? Can you complete a short survey on the extent to which palaeoecological research is utilised in UK…
    Group of people stood in an open peatland landscape
    Muirburn licencing made law in ScotlandScotland’s peatlands will benefit from increased protection due to a new law passed on 21st March…
    Molinia Mulching Agglestone Mire, remover higher tussocks to increase the connectivity of the floodplain (c) Sally Wallington
    Dorset peatland restorationThe Dorset Peat Partnership completed the first of their sixteen peatland restoration sites in…