Damaged peat bogs in the Forest of Bowland

Yesterday afternoon I went up Hawthornthwaite Fell in the Forest of bowalnd some miles from Garstang. I cannot give the exact height of the hill as the Trig  point at 478m has fallen over and it is now about two metres lower as so much peat has been lost in a century. I walked about five miles with about 1000ft of climbing up the side of the fell. At first I followed a shooters road (poor things they can’t walk). amd then a vague peaty path by the side of an incised stream. The strata were basically Pendle Grit, the same age as Millstone Grit.001

At last on to the ridge! Note the clarity of the path. those with good eyesight will see the fence at the top. Much of the ridge is/was covered with a few metres of peat, which here has been eroded in a gully. Peat is incredible at storing carbon and one of the unique features of British hills, where so often one has to bog trot.


Along the ridge the path was boggy and liable to trap the unwary. Shortly before I had almost gone up to my knee!! Not the sphagnum forming the basis of peat.


Looking west towards Heysham, the Irish Sea and the Isle of Man.


The peat loss at the top of Hawthornthwaite Fell, Note the dark brown scars of eroded peat. The grasses are growing where the peat has gone leaving a mineral base of fragments of Pendle Grit. The “missile” is the toppled Trig Point


a close up of the trig Point, which had a 6 ft base sunk into peat, which has gone.


The late Trig Point showing Grit exposed.009

The same again showing an eroded gully going down the fell


Another view of the gully. Imagine how much peat has been lost.011

(For Americans, a Trig point is this “vertical” stone to assist map-makers from the Orndnance Survey. It is one thing the Brits do bigger than americans.) This photo shows the point which need 7 feet of rock and cement foundation. When I first came here in 2003 it was vertical but precarious. (Walking poles for scale)


The view eastwards of the trig point. Note the peat hags indicating how much peat has been lost. Grasses are now growing on the mineral base of grit exposed by the loss of peat.



From the same place looking the other way. Note chunks of grit lying around. The red are my gloves on the trig point.


The top of the trig point showing where theodolite would have gone!


Another gully washing peat away.


Heading back east along the ridge. The path is visible!


Looking back on the nice easy terrain 🙂


A pool with fresh green sphagnum. I will never forget my daughter at seven walking on what she thought was lovely green grass…………….


More erosion down to the mineral base.


This shows both the erosion and the delightfully easy nature of the terrain for walking………… Bog trotting is an acquired taste and requires waterproof boots and gaiters. The rewards are immense; total solitude as no one else is mad enough to go there; and wildlife – in summer cotton grass and dragon flies. Sadly no raptors for reasons I can’t spell out…


On my descent I hit burnt heather just before getting to the shooters road. Note the erosion into the peat. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

In a few yards I hit the road and it was a 200 metre descent back to the car. I had met no one on my walk and never do on those fells.


I hope this photo-log shows the remote beauty of the peaty moors, the damage to the peat  – often caused by heather burning and the need for peat restoration.



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