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From moonscape to landscape - transforming Park Pit

image depicting Park Pit as a mine in the 1970s
Park Pit as a mine in the 1970s
A derelict industrial landscape once likened to the surface of the moon has been granted special status for its nature conservation value after South West Water bought the land for use as a reservoir and took on the task of restoring the surrounding area.

Park Pit and surrounding land, on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, was bought by the water company in 2007 and was described by ecologists at the time as a "moonscape of waste sand and mica."

South West Water connected the lake to nearby water treatment works to supply customers in Cornwall. It also entered into an agreement with the former owners, mining company Imerys, to manage the land as an exemplar of post-industrial restoration.

Five years on, the 125 hectares of land around the reservoir have now been officially designated a County Wildlife Site by a panel of experts from Cornwall Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Cornwall Council and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.

Imerys re-landscaped the area and reseeded it with heather. South West Water commissioned studies to establish the best ways to manage the land, and under guidance from ecologists has been carrying out invasive species control to enable rich and diverse plant and animal life to flourish.

Park Pit in 2012 following regeneration
Reseeded heather at Park Lake on Bodmin Moor
Park Lake in 2012 following regenerationPark Lake reseeded with heather

Since the initial reseeding the vegetation has continued to develop naturally and ecologists surveying the land have recently found two species which are very rare in Cornwall. Park Pit is only one of two sites in Cornwall for Marsh Clubmoss (Lycopodiella inundata), a nationally threatened species. Stag's-horn Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum) is common in northern parts of the British Isles but was thought to be extinct in Cornwall.

John Sproull, an ecologist from Cornwall Environmental Consultants (CEC), surveyed the site five years ago and again this year, when he made the discoveries. He said in that time the site has transformed and is now one of the best sites for nature on Bodmin Moor.

He added: "Finding new populations of rare plants like this is not only really unusual and exciting but of some significance for the conservation of species countrywide."

China clay pit restoration expert Ian Davies said: "South West Water took the decision at an early stage to work with nature and the prevailing ecology at Park and avoid the temptation to rush to costly 'quick fix' solutions which only provide potentially inappropriate surface vegetation.

"Whilst the regeneration was initially slow - a characteristic of low nutrient habitats like Park Lake - the direction of travel towards a high quality heathland habitat was clear.

"Now, the heathland is looking very good indeed, with good populations of rare breeding birds and characteristic invertebrates."

Neil Whiter, South West Water's Head of Demand Supply Strategy, said "Transforming Park Pit from a derelict china clay site to a public water supply and nature-rich landscape was a daunting but exciting project and one which has already proved invaluable to South West Water. For nearly three years now, Park Lake has been supplying an average of over five million litres a day of exceptionally high quality water to our customers in Cornwall.

"South West Water has a long-term commitment to the environment of the region. Park Lake is already a diverse and fascinating site but it has an even more exciting future as it matures."

Club Moss
Stag's-horn Club Moss
Marsh ClubmossStag's Horn Clubmoss

Published: 12 November 2012

Notes for editors

1. County Wildlife Sites are the most significant areas for wildlife outside the statutorily designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
2. Despite their name, Clubmosses are not moss and are actually more like a fern.

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