Chartley Moss National Nature Reserve

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Chartley Moss, with some of the tops of the dead trees visible protruding through the peat. (Image from Natural England ┬ęPeter Wakely)

Chartley Moss National Nature Reserve is one of England's largest floating bogs with a raft of peat up to 10-foot thick floating on a 40-foot deep lake. Trees growing in the peat raft eventually sink through the surface under their own weight and drown as they mature. This leaves the dead trunks protruding half out of the moss. The site is of international importance and can only be visited with a permit or a guide as the bog is in a state of continual change and the surface is extremely dangerous. Located between Stafford and Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, it is privately owned but leased to English Nature, and is also classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

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Formation

Its formation is believed to be internationally unique, as most floating bogs are formed by the gradual closing over a shallow lake surface by Sphagnum. However, 5000 years ago Chartley was a spring-fed wet woodland with Sphagnum peat beginning to accumulate. The dissolving of salt in the underlying rock caused at least three subsidences and allowed water to flow underneath, and gradually a Sphagnum dominated community developed on the floating raft. The last and largest collapse was in the fifteenth century.

Flora and fauna

The site is considered the best in lowland Britain for species which frequent this type of habitat. It includes:

  • Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
  • Cross-leaved Heath (Erica E. angustifolium)
  • Cranberry
  • Cowberry
  • Bilberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus, V.vitis-idea, V.myrtillus)
  • Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)
  • Wavy Grass (Deschampsia flexuosa)
  • Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caeruylea)
  • Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
  • Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia)
  • several species of Sphagnum

The surrounding woodland consists of Rowan, Holly, Alder Buckthorn (which supports a large Brimstone butterfly population), Silver Birch, Hairy Birch and Scots Pine (believed to have been planted in the nineteenth century as a timber crop). The insect groups present contain many uncommon species, including 22 species of dragonfly, and several species of rare beetle which prefer the upright dead trees to fallen dead trees.

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References

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