Snippets 12: In praise of Bowness Moss

rogersceugh march17

Bowness Moss, looking towards the Solway; Rogersceugh Farm on its drumlin in the foreground (Copyright James Smith, with thanks.)

Bowness Moss or Common is one of the South Solway Mosses National Nature Reserves, NNR [1]. The near-pristine centre of this raised mire is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, SSSI;  it’s also a Special Area of Conservation, SAC. Acronyms are alienating but the reality of their being is important: I’ve tried to explain why in The Acronyms’ Stories [2] of the Solway Firth.

I could write a paean of praise to Bowness Common by searching for metaphors and complicated synonyms to exercise your mind, “sympathising in some fuzzy way with the totality of nature and the interconnectedness of things”[3].

Or I could write a check list – tick, tick, tick – of everything I have seen.

Here is the list, summoned from my memory not from a note-book, of some of the plants, mosses and animals I have seen amongst the hummocks, ‘lawns’ and bog-pools of the central mire (there are many more but they are currently nameless because I need some expert tuition in identification).

10 species of Sphagnum moss

Bog rosemary

Bog myrtle

Cranberry

Heather

Cross-leaved heath

Bog asphodel

2 species of cotton grass

2 species of sundew

Butterwort

Assorted sedges and grasses

Rushes

Frogs and spawn

Lizards

Adder

Roe deer

Fox scat & otter spraint

9 species of dragonfly and damselfly

Caterpillars and pupal cases of oak eggar moths

Grasshoppers

Midges

Curlew

Snipe

Reed buntings

Peregrine

Larks

Pipits

According to Fortey [3], “A list of animals and fungi could become tiresome, but it is necessary to grasp the true richness of nature. Think of it as not so much an inventory as a catalogue leading to compelling and interacting stories…”

Now enjoy trying to imagine how those ‘compelling and interacting stories‘ might play. This requires some effort and certainly some patience, but perhaps it will imprint in your mind the importance of the Moss – of any Moss or peatland. Perhaps, by creating the stories in your mind, instead of being handed the words on the page, you will start to understand the characters and the sense of place; perhaps you will enjoy a sense of ownership.

So, imagine those stories in three dimensions: burrow into the ancient peat, bask in the sun on a boardwalk, hide amongst Sphagnum floating in a pool, flit above the heather, rise up into the air.

And then throw in the fourth dimension, of time: imagine what is happening around you on your ‘virtual Moss’, minute by minute (as a damselfly flits), day by day, week by week, through the seasons … the years of growth past and future.

Imagine the smells, of wetness and hot, dry heather.

And then try to imagine the sounds – what might you hear?

But imagine too, and above all, the silence; a silence that is comfortable with itself.

***

The impact of humans on Bowness Common has been a grimace on the face of its geological history and now we’re working to smooth out the wrinkles. Let’s hope that we can continue to feel, in Paul Kingsnorth’s words, “that the natural world, the non-human realm, is not an obstacle in the way of our progress but a part of our community that we should nurture” [4]. Imagining the interacting stories on the Moss might help.

[1] The Solway Mosses

[2] The Acronyms’ Stories

[3] Richard Fortey, 2016. The Wood For The Trees. The Long View of Nature from a Small Wood. Collins

[4] Paul Kingsnorth, 2017. What future for environmentalism in the age of Trump?

Advertisements
This entry was posted in conservation, peat, bogs and moors, Snippets, wetlands and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.