COMPARED with the craggy drama of the Lakeland fells or the sweeping beauty of Yorkshire’s Dales, the peatlands of Northern England attract little attention.

Perhaps that’s not surprising. Something called blanket bog which is, essentially, 90 per cent water doesn’t sound very appealing.

Landscapes characterised by waterlogged organic soils made of dead and decaying plants might not look much at first glance but it’s incredibly valuable stuff.

Peatlands cover less than three per cent of the land surface of the Earth yet they contain twice as much carbon as the world’s forests.

In the UK 70 per cent of our drinking water comes from upland areas dominated by peatlands like the North Pennines.

Peatlands provide a unique habitat for wildlife and their capacity to hold enormous volumes of water is vital in the battle to prevent flooding elsewhere.

I discovered all this, together with my fellow Yorkshire MP Julian Sturdy, during an information day held in Bishopdale last month which set out the work that is being done to preserve and repair this vital environmental resource.

Huge areas of bog have been drained and damaged in the past, and the carbon that was locked in the peat for thousands of years is now rapidly being released to the atmosphere. Damaged peatlands are responsible for at least ten per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

But restoring peatlands is an effective and cost-efficient way of reversing the carbon loss from damaged bogs and the Government is doing its bit. Along with water companies and the EU, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is helping to fund a £6m restoration project covering the Yorkshire and Durham Dales.

In Bishopdale work is underway to restore the carpet of sphagnum, this amazing moss which can hold 20 times more water than it weighs and makes up the bulk of blanket bog. This water-holding capacity was of particular interest to my Parliamentary colleague whose York area constituents have had to deal with the dire consequences of rainwater running too quickly off the northern hills and flooding their homes.

As I discovered during my time as a member of the Defra select committee, the ability of our upland and lowland landscapes to hold on to rainwater is vital if we are protect our towns and cities from future flooding.

Slow-the-flow projects like the leaky dams at Brompton, near Northallerton, are part of this innovative new approach to the problem - as is the work the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Yorkshire Dales River Trust are doing with farmers and landowners in Wensleydale to reduce the rate of run-off from fields into the River Ure through natural flood management measures.

As well as assisting with climate change and flood prevention, the culmulative effect of all these measures helps improve the water quality of the river with the attendant benefits for fishing and particularly the improvement in salmon and trout stocks.

In the last couple of years I have been pleased to see and assist all these initiatives to improve our approach to land and river management and the way they complement each other.

In my contribution to the discussion in Bishopdale, I stressed the Government’s commitment to continue to support this work once we leave the EU. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State at Defra, has set out clearly the opportunity we will have to direct money to support environmental initiatives like these while helping to sustain our upland communities.