Thursday 13 November 2014

A trial for sisal

This week we've been busy again up at Little Firthhope. We are continuing with our peat restoration works following a second grant from Scottish Natural Heritage, this time for the use of sisal mesh, rather than the jute mesh that we have been laying to date (see earlier posts First High camp and Second High Camp).

Sisal is a plant that is native to warmer climates than Scotland. Our mesh has come from East Africa. The leaves of the plant are picked, dried and made into a tight woven mesh by local community groups. This can then be used for any number of things. Our ex project officer Hugh met with John Ferguson of the East African Sisal company and the idea of using it at Little Firthhope developed from there.

The delivery to Little Firthhope was made by the usual Hagglund trip. The sisal is much heavier and bulkier than the jute so it took quite a bit of effort to move it on and off the machine. However once delivered we were then able to lay it out on site.

Loading up Hagglund at Talla Moss
The dump of materials is made to a misty, wet Little Firthhope
Assembly of workers at Sisal dump
We took the same approach of using it to target edge areas to prevent the spread of the eroded area. We also covered some larger areas. Whilst this will not stop further erosion, it will help to slow the flow of surface water across the bare peat, hopefully creating a more stable environment for plant matter to recolonise, as the the jute mesh has allowed.

Laying the sisal matting
The older jute mesh and coir rolls with the new sisal behind
Coir roll with establishing Sphagnum and Eriophorum (cotton grass)
Developing Sphagnum bog in netting
Empetrum (crow berry) stabilising peat under netting
Eriophorum growing through netting
We also purchased 150 hessian sacks. We started to fill these with peat and used them to provide stability to existing dams, as well as blocking smaller new gullies that were starting to appear due to water erosion.
Filling bags with peat
Dammed pool with peat bags and bag fillers
Despite a somewhat 'wet' day it was a thoroughly enjoyable one. It is great to see the current jute and coir rolls doing their job and we will monitor the new sisal mesh alongside to see how effective it is.

Site Officer
(all pictures are courtesy of Philip Ashmole)


  1. New Sisal seems a lot brighter and whiter, though I suppose it will weather down and dirty up. But the coir/jute looks as if it blends in better.

  2. Great. Are there any plans to plant at Talla & Gameshope? Is that area still being sheep-grazed?

    1. Hi Duncan. Thanks for your comment. The sheep have only just come off at the end October. We've been doing a lot of baseline survey work and recording up to now and our volunteers have been out working on securing the march fence.

  3. very very wet actually, and windy. a great effort to save the bog bilberry