Silver Flowe – Reflections from the Bog
Updated: May 9, 2022
On a recent sunny spring day the CCC team and two colleagues from the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere took to Galloway’s dusty forest tracks and hiked up to Silver Flowe. Silver Flowe is an iconic place in the deepest depths of the Galloway Hills and is the jewel of peatlands within Galloway. Designated as a National Nature Reserve, SSSI and a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance the Flowe certainly has a lot going for it. How we see, read, and connect to peatlands depends much on our personal and professional experiences and the purpose of our visit was to understand and discover from one another within the landscape. Here, we reflect on our experiences being on Silver Flowe through our own unique lenses.
Silver Flowe is the very idea of remote. Far from any modern settlements, to reach it takes a long 7km walk through a complex of forestry and it is a few hours before the bog stretches out before you. Silver Flow sits in a U-shaped valley with the craggy Merrick plateau to the west, and the loopy Rhinns of Kells to the east. Stepping off the track and out onto the bog we struggled through knee-high grasses, heather and moss but we were soon faced with a series of pools too wide to jump and too dangerously soft to dare stepping into…
“Having visited peatlands in many states, shapes, and forms across Galloway I am used to viewing peatlands through a practical and restoration-focused mindset, so it was great to step back and just appreciate what was there” says Jack, CCC Project Officer. “The natural bog-pool system at Silver Flowe is one of the best examples of its kind in the South of Scotland. Despite the dry spring, the pools were still wet and formed a beautiful meandering labyrinth, rimmed with a rainbow of moss, that will come to life during the summer months.”
Kerry, Peatland Connections Officer at CCC adds: “I’ve been told that landscapes like this can swallow diggers whole. This coloured my experience with a degree of trepidation. But I was in safe hands as we navigated our way through a large pool system; my first encounter of a series of dark, shallow, peatland pools. Don't step into the pools! I wanted to…”
Walking across the bog gave us the opportunity to see some work that was carried out back in the earlier days of peatland restoration. Silver Flowe was one of the first mountain bogs to be restored when the old (and rather useless) drainage ditches were dammed 10 years ago. “Blocking drains using peat dams is a staple technique in peatland restoration” says Jack. “The technique been refined and developed since then, but it was interesting to see how these dams had contributed to restoring the hydrology by helping water spill out across the bog.”
We know peatlands in a very practical sense. But what of the sensory sense? Our aesthetic appreciation of peatlands appears to be lagging behind our scientific knowledge. As the rest of the team headed off across the bog, Kerry stayed put with her wellies dangling in the water…
“I wanted to be quiet, to be still, and to be ‘alone’ in the sublime landscape. Listening. Watching. Deep hanging-out immersed in the aesthetics of the bog. To fully appreciate these landscapes, and for more people to appreciate and connect with them, perhaps we need more artful and alluring interpretations too. Like the Alps of the past, peatlands are hard to access. They can be remote and require long walks in rugged boots, and then wellies to wade through the wet and the glar. They are also potentially treacherous. Perhaps we need to be able to experience them from the comfort of our armchairs, or at a concert, or in unexpected social spaces.”
A significant area of Galloway is covered in peatlands, and they form a vital part of our environment and heritage. In their current state all of Galloway’s peatlands have been modified and degraded to some degree, but their importance and the drive for positive action has never been more significant.
“Silver Flowe is part of the core area of the Biosphere and its unique environment was one of the reasons our UNESCO designation was awarded in 2012. Blanket bog is one of our High Focus Habitats, so I was excited to visit this key location for the first time” adds Mary, Land Use Advice Officer for the Biosphere. “Emily showed us some of the complex natural peat pipes which link pools and dangerous sinkholes, which gave an opportunity to test the water’s pH (very acidic!). It’s clear that CCC has built a team of experts with creative and scientific mindsets who not only work to restore and protect deep peat, but also connect people more closely with the landscapes that surround them. One of the Biosphere’s goals is to share the stories of locations such as Silver Flowe, something we’re looking forward to achieving through a continuing partnership with the Carbon Centre team.”
Silver Flowe is a hidden a hidden, remote, and empty place – a haunt for rare wildlife, intrepid hikers and the folk who have worked on the land throughout history. These rem landscapes are the sort that make you think big and think what if? Throughout the day we discussed and imagined the changes we would like to see as this landscape evolves and adapts.
CCC Founder and Trustee Dr Mary-Ann Smyth brings together a future vision for the landscape in which Silver Flowe resides:
“This is a huge, rare landscape at the core of the Galloway Forest Park. For decades, it has been surrounded by conifer plantations. It has the potential to be a huge restoration landscape: a place for beauty, wildlife, and carbon at the heart of Galloway. At present, Silver Flowe is an icon entombed in a dark case. Work continues to open up the landscape. What if more of the bog could be restored so that the floor of the glen was covered in soft healthy moss; what if the conifers were restricted to the slopes; what if native woodland were to fringe the bog with willows and birches buffering and softening the surrounding environmental impacts?”
In the future, Silver Flowe could be the beating heart of a living landscape.