FARMERS in Cumbria are being offered a helping hand with environmental projects.

It comes as Cumbria Wildlife Trust have been given a bumper boost for peatland restoration in the county.

A donation of £90,000 from People's Postcode Lottery initiative has enabled the trust to buy a 5.5 hectare field next to Nichols Moss Nature Reserve near Witherslack. This will nearly double the size of the peatland nature reserve.

The acquisition, says the trust, will enable them to restore the damaged peatland which sits beneath the field, to bring back lost wildlife to the site and importantly, to protect and safeguard the huge amounts of CO2 that are locked-up in the buried peat.

Stephen Trotter, Chief Executive of Cumbria Wildlife Trust said: “Our newly acquired field is nearly the size of eight football pitches. It means that we’ll be able to restore and enlarge our nature reserve at Nichols Moss, which forms part of a mosaic of internationally-important wetland habitats. We’ll also be working with local farmers, to provide advice and support to those who wish to undertake environmental work on their land.

“With more than 35,000ha of damaged peat bogs still to restore in Cumbria, our task is a massive one, so huge thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, your support is vital and timely.”

Out of sight, a huge amount of deep and shallow peat sits beneath the currently grassy field.

The trust says their priority will be to raise the water table level to preserve these layers in situ. An exposed area of dried bare peat is the initial priority for restoration, to prevent further loss of carbon to the atmosphere.

Over the next few years, wildlife-rich bog vegetation such as Sphagnum moss will be brought back to the site, so it can once again actively draw down and store carbon safely below ground

The trust protects 430 hectares of fragmented wetlands across Nichols Moss, Meathop Moss and Foulshaw Moss in South Lakeland.

These mosses were historically far more extensive, stretching along the north side of the Kent estuary and the low-lying land of the Lyth and Winster valleys.