Our Peatland Project Officer Matthew Cook, who will soon move on to a role with Forestry and Land Scotland, reflects on his time with the Crichton Carbon Centre.
"I see peatland in new ways."
Working as a Peatland Project Officer has been a steady learning curve, up and down the slopes of blanket and raised bog. I had worked in and on peat before, but whereas I used to track machines over sphagnum moss and dig down into peat for the cause of industrial renewable energy, the past three years has seen me change my relationship with peatland.
I always loved being out on the bog – the quiet mystery and eerie emptiness appealing to my imagination. Now I have learnt about the ecology and hydrology of this precious habitat and how we can restore it, I see peatland in new ways.
There is a lot of peatland in Dumfries and Galloway. Some of it relatively untouched but many areas showing the marks of human interaction – forestry plantations on drained and ploughed peat, windfarms towering high over blanket bog, domestic and industrial peat cutting and unique archaeological finds preserved in the black depths of accumulated time and matter.
Peatland reflects the shadow side of human nature and our relationship to the earth, it is not somewhere everyone wants to go. Life is not easy in a bog, things don’t happen quickly and there is no easy way across. A liminal, elemental space of earth and water, ever changing and moving yet these changes are often unseen to modern restless eyes.
The act of peatland restoration is humankind renewing its relationship with nature. What have we done and what do we do about it now? In pursuing our needs and desires, the law of unintended consequences reveals our contribution to the degradation of the landscape. Cutting, burning, digging, draining and dismissing this oft neglected part of our land, and thus ourselves, has had impacts that we now acknowledge and seek to repair.
"Peatland restoration is just the start."
The hydrology and ecology of peatlands can seem complex, its flow and form affecting and affected by myriad other aspects of land use, weather and water systems. But some things are simple – wet ground likes to be wet, nature flourishes when allowed to and we flourish when we work with and respond to nature’s ways.
Our awareness of the environmental, social and spiritual problems we face is growing by the day, as is our awareness of the solutions. For humankind to achieve the much needed harmony we seek, answers to all of our problems can be found in nature. Peatland Restoration is part of that awareness and part of the solution.
It has been a pleasure to play a part in the ongoing efforts to restore peatland across Dumfries and Galloway, and Scotland as a whole. We have the ability to create a future where all land is considered sacred and where we play our part in the cycles of nature with awareness, gratitude, awe and respect. Peatland Restoration is just the start.
The Crichton Carbon Centre wishes Mat all the very best in his exciting new role at Forestry and Land Scotland, and are delighted he has gone on to continue work on peatlands across the region.
Details on the vacancy and how to apply can be found here.