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Peat officer Jenny Sharman, Farmer Andrew Kiely, Textiles entrepreneur Ruth Lindsey, with Jake Hill, Dave Adam, Damon Barrett and Adam Sherriff from contactors Marsden AES Ltd

First wool logs laid on Dales peatland

Tuesday 28 March, 2023, by News Release

A trial that could rejuvenate the trade in hill sheep fleeces began this week on a vast peatland on the Craven/Richmondshire border. 

In December the National Park Authority said it had awarded a Farming in Protected Landscapes grant to Wensleydale textile entrepreneur Ruth Lindsey.

The grant enabled her to work with four local farmers to produce ‘wool logs’ for use in peatland restoration. 

On Monday a total of 30 one-metre-long logs – each stuffed with scoured wool from three otherwise almost worthless Swaledale sheep fleeces – were laid across erosion channels at the Fleet Moss peatland.

If the logs prove successful in holding back water and allowing the bare peat to revegetate, the production of wool logs could be massively scaled up.

Yorkshire Peat Partnership, which includes the National Park Authority, has spent the past five years carrying out intensive restoration work on the Fleet Moss bog.

Until now logs made of imported coconut husk have been used to block erosion channels. The logs, as well as other restoration measures, have seen the return of the sundew plant, mosses and native grasses to areas of bare peat. 

Peatland restoration is regarded as an urgent conservation priority in the National Park; functioning peat bogs can sequester huge amounts of carbon and provide a home to insects such as dragonflies and wading birds such as golden plover.

One of the four Upper Wensleydale farmers who donated part of their wool crop to the trial was Andrew Keiley from Hardraw.   He said: “For decades fleeces have been worthless.  My last wool cheque was £35 for 500 fleeces – and it cost me that much to send the wool to the depot. 

“It’s pleasing to see this trial taking place and seeing our wool doing this job.  I think a lot of local farmers would be very happy to see our wool going to these peat restoration projects.” 

Textiles entrepreneur Ruth Lindsey said: “The wool in these logs have travelled only 150 miles from the farm to the processors in West Yorkshire and back to this peatland. That makes wool a lot more sustainable than the coir which has come across the world – and we think it is capable of doing as good a job, if not better.

“We’re aiming to pay 30 pence a kilo of wool, if the trial is successful.  That’s still not enough, but it’s much more than the fleeces are currently fetching.”

Mrs Lindsey said she had received enquiries that could lead to orders for many thousands of wool logs next year.    

Peat Restoration Officer at the Yorkshire Peat Partnership, Jenny Sharman, said: “I think we’ll know whether the wool logs work as well as the coir relatively quickly – perhaps as soon as six months.  We’ve tried using wool before put it hasn’t been packed properly like these logs.  I think they are likely to hold the water back. 

“The coir logs we use are a critical part of peatland restoration.  Before we put the logs in on Fleet Moss, all you could see was bare peat.  The vegetation has all come back within a couple of years.”

“Wool would be a win-win.  It ticks all the boxes in terms of the environment and supporting local farmers and businesses.  Everything becomes a team effort.  We’re all working together.” 

Member Champion for the Natural Environment at the National Park Authority, Mark Corner, said:  “It’s great to see a Farming in Protected Landscapes grant being used to jump start this wool log business.  It’s a captivating project for us, as it brings together the National Park emblem, the Swaledale sheep, with the vital work of peatland restoration.  At the moment this is only a small scale trial but the potential for scaling up is clear to see and this could become an interesting development over the next few years.”

**This news release was edited on 31 March to correct a name spelling. It should have read Andrew Keiley (not Kiely).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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News Release

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

Website: www.yorkshiredales.org.uk

9 Replies to “First wool logs laid on Dales peatland”

  1. Shirley Everett says:

    Surely it would be more sustainable to set up an industry making logs in the YDNP than have them travelling to Keighley to be processed. This could also keep more working people in the dales instead of them having to travel out to work.

    • Jamie Wharton says:

      It might be, but this is just a trial, they might not be effective in the long term. An industrial scale production of wool logs might be jumping the gun a little at this stage. I’m sure they’ll consider the nature of mass production when they know they work!

    • Rob Macdonald says:

      Not really. The facilities already exist in Keighley, as do the skills and the economy of scale to make a competitive product. Surely it’s important not to lose site of the real sustainability benefits this initiative uses – a potential use for large amounts of otherwise unmarketable local wool and a tiny fraction of the travel miles required for imported coir. What impresses me is that the whole process has been thought through carefully with the best possible outcome in mind.

    • Rob Macdonald says:

      Sorry, forgot to add. There is an awful lot of wool looking for a use. And there is a need for peat restoration beyond YDNP. So ultimately it’s a bit restrictive to think these logs would only be used in the Yorkshire Dales (in fact, I think trials are taking place in other National Parks too).

  2. Rose White says:

    Erosion can be stopped by natural swaling or berm building so is it possible to offer working holidays for teams of youngsters from schools who could get a few days camping or bunking in return for a few hours with shovels digging contour ditches to block erosion gullies?
    How many safe campsites or bunking barns and sheds are available?
    Or could families with caravans get a free parking on farm fields for a few days in return for a few hours trenching?

  3. Leslie says:

    Why haven’t you put some walks in the peak district

  4. Tony Watson says:

    Hi.
    Im working with the WaterLANDS project in the West of Ireland and we are currently using coir logs and mesh to mitigate erosion and promote revegetation. We are exploring the viability of woolen logs, however we are at a standstill.
    How are the woolen logs processed? what is the cost of processing the logs? can they be made up to 3 meters long? Did you encounter any problems with water retention etc? Did you compress the wool prior to installation?
    Thanks for responding.

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