Plumbing the Depths of a Bog

Last night (28th April) the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership hosted a talk for our Peatland Connections project, encompassing and pulling together several different viewpoints of peatland, from the technical to the creative, in "Plumbing the Depths of a Bog."


Don't worry if you missed it! Here is a summary of all what the brilliant speakers said.

Our own Dr Emily Taylor began the talk with a quick overview of peatlands, their often degraded states, and what that means for both them and us. She covered the different levels of peatland restoration from the relatively light interventions of ditch blocking, all the way up to the incredibly intensive forest to bog restorations. Our favourite GIF showcased a restoration site quite nicely – this is South Dee, a forest to bog site, within just 18 months.


South Dee, a Forest to Bog site, over 18 months.

Next on the virtual stage was Dr Michael Stratigos, giving us a glimpse of a bog through an archaeologist’s eyes. He explained how peatlands are often co-created by humans due to changes in agriculture practices. In the Mesolithic period, we managed the huge swaths of forest through burning, and then around 6000 years ago (as we move into the Neolithic age), humans began to graze sites instead. This stopped forest regeneration and allowed bogs to expand rather than move to wet woodlands and then forest entirely.


A typical drain in a peatland site.

What Emily lamented for our bogs (the drainage, put in by humans), is one of the reasons we have so many well-preserved artefacts. Michael explained that in the 18th and 19th century, people drained and cut the peat, discovering plenty of interesting (and shiny!) things in the process. Everything from metalwork, to prehistoric houses, to bog bodies have been discovered.


We don’t often talk about – or even think about – the archaeological value of peatlands, particularly when we are in the process of restoring them. Michael argues that we need to change this, as the value of the archaeological finds are immense.



After Michael’s factual (and factually brilliant) talk, we welcomed Kate Foster, an environmental artist working with peatlands. Sadly we cannot give the full force of her talk in just words, as she presented many photos and soundscapes of her work. The way she spoke of her journey and artistic relationship with peatlands was extremely thoughtful and measured, the calm tone of her voice creating a peaceful journey.


Artwork from Peat Cultures.
“There are so many ways that wetlands and peat can inspire creations.”

This talk was a poetic love letter to peatlands, and could have easily been a full evening in itself.


From Ordnance Survey 6 inch, first edition (1854), via National Library of Scotland map images (maps.nls.uk)

Last of the guest speakers was Prof Thomas Clancy from the University of Glasgow, to shed some light on all the peaty words and place names in the Galloway Glens area. There were a whole list from mig to lapach, although we explored the more typical peat, bog, and moss which can be found on many a Galloway map. Thomas was incredibly knowledgeable but also highlighted where the gaps in knowledge existed, suggesting how words might have evolved based on some evidence and some guesswork at times.

Finishing the evening up was Jayne Murdoch, who runs our Peatland Connections project, explaining how the project is looking for people’s input on how they see, work with, or experience peatlands. She highlights how central the marrying of science and art is to the project, and invited the audience to engage with the project’s social media channels – which you can find here: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

The evening went by too quickly, if we do say so ourselves! This is the last of the GGLP's 'Natural World' series, but four monthly events are due to start next week as part of the Galloway Footsteps programme. The Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership says this about the events:


Are you concerned by our impact on our planet? Not sure where to start in measuring and reducing your carbon footprint? Join the ‘Galloway Footsteps’ initiative as we set out on a journey to measure our personal footprints and make small, manageable changes that result in a real environmental benefit and carbon reduction.



The aim of the initiative is to highlight how the decisions we make as consumers can make a genuine difference to the carbon footprint we all leave on the planet, as well as embedding changes in our lives.


The first event is on 5th May, at 7.30pm, and is entitled ‘What we buy’. This event will introduce the series of events, the Giki platform and will include a presentation from Anna Pitt from Zero Waste Week. Anna made headlines following her efforts to produce only one bag of rubbish in a year and is the author of ‘101 ways to live cleaner and greener for free’.


The events are being delivered by the Galloway Glens Scheme, in partnership with Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Environment Team, the Crichton Carbon Centre and Giki. The initiative is free to attend and open to anyone irrespective of where you live.

The Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme is a suite of projects happening across the Ken/Dee catchment in South West Scotland from 2018 to 2023. £2.7million of core funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will be matched by a variety of partners to bring over £5million of investment into the area over the 5 years. The area stretches from the uplands behind Carsphairn in the north, through the Glenkens, past Loch Ken, through Castle Douglas and out to the sea at Kirkcudbright. 35 headline projects plus more Small Grants projects all aim to connect people with their cultural, natural and built heritage, and to support sustainable modern rural communities. For more information about the scheme, visit www.gallowayglens.org.


For more information or to book your tickets, visit their event page here.


We’re looking forward to the event too – we’ve been involved in the steering group for the project, and will be presenting at the second event “What We Eat.” We hope to see you there!

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