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