Over the coming weeks you may see activity in the Oldacre Valley on Cannock Chase. Work is being undertaken by consultants, engaged by Staffordshire County Council, to install equipment and to take core samples, as well as ongoing monitoring and survey work. This is all part of a 2 year study to investigate the hydrology of the valley to help understand why wetland habitats are declining and what can be done to restore them, while also conserving the archaeological features. The study is being funded by Natural England and will inform future restoration work which will be resourced through agri-environment funding.
Hydrological study at Oldacre Valley Mire now underway. A study is underway to investigate why wet heath and mire habitats in the Oldacre Valley are declining in quality, with a loss of rare plant species such as round-leaved sundew and a reduction in cross-leaved heath and Sphagnum moss. It is important to understand what is happening and to see how the decline can be reversed whilst safeguarding the historic environment features associated with the Great War camps within the valley. Specialist hydrologists from Penny Anderson Associates and archaeologists from Avalon Heritage Ltd are now starting the groundwork for the 2 year monitoring study.
This will involve taking a carefully located peat core sample to look at the historical development of the mire, as well as installing a number of small hydrological monitoring tubes in strategic locations in and around the mire; these consist of small tubes containing water level measuring devices which will be carefully dug in and concealed from view as far as possible to minimise damage or disturbance – if you do come across these please leave them in situ! These tubes will be removed at the end of the study. Water flow pathways following the existing Great War drainage network can also be measured using harmless dye tracing methods to see to what extent these are still functioning.
These methods, together with a number of surface measurements and the use of the new Cannock Chase AONB Lidar* data will help to build a picture of the current state of the mire, indicate what factors are affecting its quality and suggest how these can be migrated. A restoration plan will then follow to bring the area into better condition and benefit its rare species.
*Lidar (light detection and ranging) measures the height of the ground surface and other features across large areas of landscape with a very high resolution and accuracy. This data can be used to recognise and record otherwise hard to detect archaeological features.