Droids in the dale

04 February 2016

A Strange force has awakened across the North Pennines with several familiar-looking droids landing on the moors.

Walkers have been doing double-takes after seeing what look like droids from the film Star Wars appearing in Teesdale.

Although movie fans would be forgiven for thinking that the futuristic-looking machines have got lost while making their way to a galaxy far, far away these high-tech creations are in fact monitoring the quality of the area’s waterways.

Through a joint project funded by Northumbrian Water as part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Peatland Programme, the machines will take water samples every day for the next five years to help measure the amount of unwanted peat sediment being deposited into rivers and streams by damaged bogs.

Northumbrian Water is investing £500,000 in the Peatland Programme between 2015 to 2020.

Extensive treatment is needed to remove the peat and it’s colour from water before it is fit to be supplied for drinking.

It is a process which requires adding chemicals and then removing them together with the peat sediment from the water. It is hoped that this project will both help reduce the amount of chemicals used as well as reducing costs for customers.

Restoration of the peatland is also not only a major boost for biodiversity – it also helps to combat flooding downstream by acting as a better sponge to soak up rain.

Alistair Lockett, Field Officer, said; “This is part of our ongoing restoration programme which aims to repair about 3000 hectares of damaged peat throughout the North Pennines. When peatland is restored and healthy, it’s less likely to wash into our waterways.

“We’ve been working with Northumbrian Water and Wemmergil Estate to get these little droids into place. Whenever anyone sees them they comment on how much they look like something from Star Wars. And if they can do as good at saving the planet, then we’ll be more than happy.”

Rob Cooper, Northumbrian Water Catchment Adviser said: “Northumbrian Water has been involved in supporting the management of upland drainage channels and restoration of peat habitats for a number of years.

“Water from peatland habitats can have a colour not dissimilar to weak black tea and the company believes that by implementing peat restoration, we can use less of ‘The Force’ to take our drinking water colour from the ‘Dark Side’!

Richard Johnson, from Wemmergill, Estates said: “We have also been actively blocking up ill-advised historic agricultural drainage ditches to help re-wet the peat and keep it on the hills.

“Across the North Pennines AONB on grouse moors over 4000km of drains have been blocked and 120 Ha of bare peat has been re-vegetated.

“We hope the monitoring will show improving water quality from the catchment which may even bring down water bills while also helping to mitigate climate change and reduce flooding.”

1. For further media information contact XX for AONB
and Alistair Baker, PR & Media Manager for Northumbrian Water 0191-301 6851 / 07711 793493

2. An image of a North Pennines AONB droid is attached.
For alternative images please contact Kaye on 01388 528801 or email kaye@northpenninesaonb.org.uk

3. The North Pennines is one of England’s most special places – a peaceful, unspoilt landscape with a rich history and vibrant natural beauty. It was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1988. The purpose of this nationally recognised designation is the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the area.

4. Northumbrian Water provides water and wastewater services in the North East of England for 2.6 million people.

5. Northumbrian Water has been workinig in partnership with the North Pennines AONB for more than 10 years, providing funding towards blocking the drainage ‘grips’ dug on the moorland and responsible for peat erosion.

6. For more information about peat restoration and Northumbrian Water’s approach to river catchment management visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik8qk64VjFw

7. At almost 2,000 sq. kilometres the North Pennines is the second largest of the 46 AONBs (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and is one of the most peaceful and unspoilt places in England. Visit www.landscapesforlife.org.uk for information about the AONB Family.

8. The North Pennines lies between the National Parks of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and Northumberland with the urban centres of County Durham away to the east. Parts of the AONB are within the boundaries of five local authorities; the three counties of Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland, Carlisle City Council and Eden District Council.

9. The North Pennines AONB Partnership is an alliance of 24 public, statutory and voluntary sector bodies with an interest in the future of the AONB. The work of the Partnership is carried out by its Staff Unit which takes action to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area, to raise awareness of its special qualities and to improve the quality of life for local people.

10. UNESCO Global Geopark - As well as being an AONB the North Pennines is a UNESCO Global Geopark. This puts the area’s Geopark status in the same UNESCO family as World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves. Global Geoparks are places with outstanding geology where special effort is made to make the most of geological heritage to support community and economy. Locally this includes producing geo-trails, developing projects with school and community groups, producing displays for visitor attractions and holding geology festivals and events. A new programme is being planned for 2016-2020 that will, if funding can be secured, include new downloadable trails, interactive facilities at Bowlees Visitor Centre, a range of community and school projects, the creation of a ‘rock park’ and establishing an international Geo-Youth Camp in the area. Visit www.northpennines.org.uk for more information.

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