Brackagh Quarry is a large sand and gravel pit near the town of Draperstown, north of Cookstown. RESTORE worked with Creagh Concrete throughout the project, advising on the creation of priority wetland habitats. The operator also used the site to showcase the potential of best practice restoration to the wider industry and key decision-makers.

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Draperstown, County Derry, Northern Ireland



Mineral Type

Sand and gravel


Creagh Concrete

Proposed restoration

Wet grassland
blanket bog
standing water
bare ground

Potential best practice

linking habitats
with the surrounding
natural landscape


Mid Ulster is an area consisting of mainly wetland habitats. The assemblage of habitat available provides an important natural environment with several areas designated for nature conservation at local, national and international level.

Brackagh Quarry map

Opportunities identified by RESTORE

Brackagh is just 2km from Tobermore quarry, another RESTORE project site. This offers opportunity to offer advice on restoration at a landscape scale within the Lough Neagh basin. Both sites provide ideal opportunities to restore to peatland habitats. The island of Ireland has the second largest amount of peatland habitat in Europe, yet only 15% in Northern Ireland remains intact.

The restoration plan, designed in 2009, denoted most of the site to be restored to heath with some areas of woodland and improved grassland.

Why Brackagh Quarry fitted RESTORE objectives:

  • Falls within the Lough Neagh Futurescape
  • The site accumulates to over 70ha
  • The site is surrounded by existing priority habitat and nature conservation designations
  • Chance to advise on removing plans to plant woodland in an upland area
  • Potential to share best practice, in an area which has a high concentration of quarries.


November 2013

RESTORE approached Creagh Concrete and visited the site to see potential for restoring to priority habitats

October 2014

RESTORE issued comments on the restoration plan and provided management advice for existing habitats present on site.

December 2014

Operator began implementing advice and continued to restore and manage priority habitat on site throughout the winter

May 2015

Hosted a best practice demonstration event for a range of stakeholders from industry, consultancies, NGOs and government departments.

Proposed restoration

Some areas have already been restored with peat turves as the sand extraction progressed. As these were not laid on a level surface, water levels in some places were too low for active bog, resulting in the creation of wet heath or grassland instead.

In addition, the operator had a restoration plan in place to include heath, woodland and agriculture. This has since changed and no longer includes woodland in the final restoration.

Our response and suggestions

Following a site visit and meetings with the Operations Manager, RESTORE issued recommendations that could be included in a restoration plan.


We advised on creating a mosaic of small ponds and scrapes within the wet grassland. This was to benefit invertebrate life and help provide suitable food for breeding waders that may be found in the grassland. Over the time of the project, the operator created three shallow scrapes and one pond in this area.

not approved


The proposed restoration plan specified areas of woodland but as the site is within an upland area, we advised against this. As well as hosting predators, the woodland would encroach onto the restored areas of heath/bog and result in expensive management. The operator no longer intends to create areas of woodland and favours the idea of creating large units of blanket bog or wet heath.


Parts of the site already have woodland scrub starting to encroach and we advised on cutting and treating all stumps to ensure the habitat is kept in good condition.


Silt ponds were restored to bog habitats, tying in with the adjacent blanket bog. This involves ensuring that water levels are maintained and berms of well decomposed sods of bare peat are installed. We also advised on insuring peat turves were relayed to have the upper peat at the top and the lower peat at the bottom, ensuring correct profile is maintained and the seed bank is near the surface. In addition to this, we advised on laying heather brash over these areas to speed up the rejuvenation of heather on the habitat.

Areas already restored to bog are undergoing management to improve the habitat, including removing encroaching willow and birch as well as reducing the amount of rush that was beginning to dominate in this area. Subsequently, rush management was implemented in winter 2014/15.

not approved

Open water

There are currently two extremely deep lakes on the site. Due to the lack of inert material, we could only advise on increasing the amount of edge habitat by adding excess material around the periphery to ensure there are at least a few metres of shallow water to benefit aquatic plants and animals. In addition to this, we advised on creating a floating island which was built and launched in spring 2015.

not approved

Sand martin banks

Sand martins have been nesting in the quarry perimeter for several years. RESTORE advised that to maintain these colonies it would be beneficial to re-grade the bare faces every year to ensure they stay vertical and any eroding sand below is removed.

not approved

End use

We advised on omitting the area of agricultural land on the restoration plan and restoring to blanket bog instead. Since then, the operator has revised its plan and intends to restore this area to blanket bog and wet heath.

Bare ground

The restoration plan indicated that 5% of the heathland areas are to be left as bare ground. This was only proposed on an extension area so we advised the operator to adopt this throughout the entire site.

How this best practice is transferable

The site has shown the potential of restoring to priority habitats on sand and gravel sites in Northern Ireland. With the proximity to other sites, it has the ability to influence others on key features such as:

  • Natural regeneration in the right place
  • Rush management
  • Tree or scrub removal
  • Maintaining water levels for peat restoration
  • Linking with surrounding natural habitats
  • Maintain areas of bare ground
  • Retaining interesting quarry features and micro topography
  • Floating island creation.

Operator benefits

In April 2015, the operator was the first quarry in Northern Ireland to be awarded platinum level of the Business and Biodiversity Charter by Business in the Community Northern Ireland.  This can contribute towards its environmental management system in which it is accredited ISO 14001 and with its corporate social responsibility policies.

Lessons learned

The operator learned the importance of water retention for blanket bog restoration and the importance of relaying turves on level ground.

This should save time and money, as if water levels are correct, there will be less non-desirable species encroaching.