Roaches recovery - 12 months after fire

Grasses are covering some of the area affected by fire, while green shoots are showing through some of the burned landscape

A year on from a devastating fire in the Roaches, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust say signs of recovery are beginning to show.

Around 200 acres of moorland, woodland and heath were destroyed, as dozens of firefighters spent days tackling the blaze in August 2018.

Several residents also had to be evacuated from their homes for their own safety for a short time.

Fire crews spent days tackling the blaze (Photo courtesy of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue)

Over the past 12 months the Trust have been monitoring the site and carrying out work to help restore the area.

That includes using helicopters to carry hundreds of tonnes of stone to create mini dams to block artificial drainage ditches, as there is not enough vegetation to slow down water - which could see peat being washed away.

Jon Rowe, the Roaches warden, says that the damage they needed to address was extensive.

He said: "There are areas here where we have lost over 300 years of peat development, and we have seen a loss of sphagnums.

"Sphagnum mosses are the ones that create the peat, so we will be re-establishing them.

"The dams will help us re-establish active blanket bog, which is what we need to do to try and repair the peat system up here."

One of the mini dams created after tonnes of stones were airlifted to the site during the winter

The Trust have been working with Moors For The Future, who are peat specialists, to get advice on the best way to re-establish vegetation. 

While they are having to reintroduce some plants, Jon says that nature is also doing its bit.

He said: "We are seeing numerous grass species and they are all setting seed and spreading, which is fantastic.

"The reason for that is because we are not grazing the area, so that is allowing recovery to naturally happen without being nibbled off.

"The young heather and bilberry shoots are also able to pop up without being eaten straight away, as they are nice and tender and the sheep and cattle will go straight for them."

In the areas of the Roaches affected by the fire, there is a noticeable absence of birds singing or circling above.

Jon says that it is because the site is no longer suitable for many of them.

He said: "All of this habitat now is unsuitable for meadow pipits due to there not being enough cover for them to nest in.

"We have seen the loss of invertebrates species and loss of vegetation to support them.

"And as the invertebrates are at the bottom of the food chain, it has a huge effect further up."

Roaches Warden Jon Rowe

The Trust is keeping a close eye on the area, but have also welcomed PhD and Masters students who are carrying out projects looking at how the site is recovering.

It is hoped the work they are doing will help with prevention work, as well as offer help in cases of future wildfires.

While it would be down to professional firefighters to deal with those, the Trust has been able to improve how it can respond to events like those of 12 months ago after buying its own fire fighting and prevention equipment.

That was thanks to the £7,500 raised through an online appeal following the fire, with cash left over used towards continuing recovery work.

The Trust, along with the fire service, is also trying to educate visitors to the Roaches about the dangers of lighting fires.

It was a camp fire that started the blaze last year.

Jon said: "We want people to be able to enjoy it, and they can't if selfish people are lighting fires and barbecues and putting the area at risk.

"We had to close  the whole site down to put the fire out last year.

"It is bad for wildlife and bad for people."

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