2020VISION Assignment: Peak District restoration work

John Beatty ventures onto Derbyshire's starkly beautiful Dark Peak moors to document the rejuventation of an exposed landscape. 

© John Beatty

John Beatty ventures onto Derbyshire's starkly beautiful Dark Peak moors to document the rejuvenation of an exposed landscape. 

iWitness Assignment: Peak District restoration work

Location: Kinder Scout Plateau, Peak District, Derbyshire

Photographer: John Beatty

It'd been raining for six weeks when I headed out on my photographic mission - onto what's essentially a giant sponge. My rain-sodden destination was the Dark Peak moors, where I would be documenting a vital planting scheme that aims to bring to life this soggy habitat.

This is an area close to my heart, and to my home patch - and after a lifetime of hard-won experience exploring this moorland plateau, I knew what to expect. I packed full waterproofs along with a map, a compass and my trusty bog-snorkel.

At first glance, it was a desolate scene. Decades of atmospheric pollution and overgrazing by sheep, compounding millennia of wind erosion, have stripped the once heather-clad landscape down to thousands of hectares of blanket bog, scoured now to bare peat. After this spring's seemingly endless rainfall it appeared to be little more than a quaggy mire.

© John Beatty

My assignment did not require balancing the tripod on a car bonnet or walking backwards to focus on seabirds. Instead, it involved an action-packed day of yomping through foul weather to photograph a project taking place on the most inhospitable and bleak upland of England, to a soundtrack of the melancholy calls of curlew and grouse.

The weather soon closed in on me and reached the gritstone ramparts of the plateau, reducing visibility to just a few metres. Somewhere in the swirling mist laboured a small horticultural army of volunteers, including National Trust members, doggedly working to bring the bog to life by planting tens of thousands of cotton-grass seedlings and germinated sphagnum moss. 

© John Beatty

Finding them was the first challenge. Out came the compass (actually, the GPS - because you have to fight nature's forces with science up here).

First I had to negotiate wave upon wave of 4m-deep natural drainage channels in the peat - hags or groughs, as they are locally known. I scrambled over the undulating terrain while trying to maintain a straight line to reach my target 2km away. Out came the bog-snorkel.

Finally, voices in the mist ahead revealed that I was approaching the team. I set up my camera to shoot a time-lapse sequence, and waded around in the glooping bog, making photographs to depict the scale of the volunteers' achievement and the value it will bring to this landscape. This is the coal face - or, at least, it will be in another million years. 

© John Beatty

Photography Tip

Very few specialist camera bags have enough space for protective clothing, food and equipment for a full day out on assignments. My simple solution is to consign all technical camera, lenses and electronic accessories into individual protective soft cases. I then put them into a large capacity outdoor rucksack - with room for the kitchen sink!


2020VISION is a multimedia project that highlights the link between people's wellbeing and the restoration of natural systems.

Uniquely, it pairs the talents of 20 of the UK's most skilled outdoor photographers with writers, editors, videographers, sound artists and scientists to make a compelling case for rewilding landscapes – for wildlife and for people.

To see some of the best images taken on 2020VISION assignments so far, click here.

To find out more about 2020VISION, click here.

To find out more about the Dark Peak moors restoration project visit here

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