Letterkeen, Ireland, April 2022.
Sheets of mist and rain cloud the Altacooney River Valley as it rushes alongside an old drover’s path known as the Bangor Trail. Surrounded by close to 5,000 hectares of commercially forestry planted on the drained peatlands, the limits of the vast uninhabited wilderness of the Wild Nephin National Park are under great pressure from erosion and invasive species. Regeneration projects within the national park are looking to restore swathes of the forested hills back to native woodlands, remove encroaching rhododendron and revitalise areas of bog badly damaged by walkers and overgrazing.

Shramore, Ireland, April 2022.
On the boundary of the Wild Nephin National Park, hill sheep farmer Frank McManamon’s flock spend almost the entire year grazing on the blanket bog that covers the surrounding mountains. Frank’s small holding has been in his family since 1801, passed on from generation to generation. “As farmers, we are the custodians of the land. It’s my job to look after it so that it can be fit so my son can live here too. It’s all about succession”. With so much pressure on the eroded peatlands, farmers such as Frank can come into conflict with the national park authorities who, as part of regeneration schemes, are looking to cut back on overgrazing. “There’s huge awareness about the environment but the economics have to work for us too. They can’t simply take all the responsibility for the management of the mountains away from the farmers. We need balance, we need to work together”.

Letterfrack, Ireland, April 2022.
Kneeling in a thicket of rhododendron, nineteen year old Marty Mullen saws through the thick roots of a bush. Working as part of a team of ten men, they are employed as part an intensive ongoing project to remove the invasive plant that threatens the ecology and survival of bog lands in and around Connemara National Park.
Originally planted in the area by wealthy landowners at many of the area’s hunting and fishing lodges, rhododendron bushes have since spread veraciously across the landscape, reducing biodiversity. Thriving in the acidic soils, rhododendron go on to prevent the vital accumulation of organic matter which is needed to form peat. With each of the prolific shrubs producing a million or more tiny seeds each year that spread in the westerly winds, the removal of rhododendron is key to preserving and regenerating the vast carbon store of blanket bog.

Bangor Erris, Ireland, April 2022.
Cut by what is colloquially known as a “sausage machine”, long sods of cut turf are left out to dry on the surface of the degraded Bangor Erris Bog. A former extraction site owned by Bord Na Mona, the national peat board of Ireland, the drained expanse of bogland provided fuel for the former nearby Bellacorrick Power Station. Whilst just three peat powered electricity plants remain in Ireland, cut turf from the bogs still provide a traditional and readily available fuel for many homes.

Belderrig, Ireland, April 2022.
Using a long iron rod, archeologist Gretta Bryne probes the layers of blanket bog as she demonstrates her decades long work uncovering and mapping a vast network of neolithic walls in North Mayo. At a remote site known as the Ceide Fields overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Gretta first started her field work as a student after nearby turf cutting for fuel in the 1930’s first uncovered a network of cultivated fields, houses and megalithic tombs that had laid uncovered for centuries. Dating back some 5,000 years, prior to the formation of the peatlands, the Ceide Fields make up the world’s most extensive stone age site, attracting tourists from across the globe to this wild region.

Moycullin, Ireland, April 2022.
Dried tufts of star shaped sphagnum moss are laid out in the education room at the ancient hamlet of Cnoc Suain, a “living lab” environment in the Moycullin Bog.
Carpeting ecosystems such as marsh, heaths and moors, sphagnum plays a vital role in the creation of peatlands. Soaking up more than eight times its own weight in water, the mosses act like a sponge, preventing the decay of dead plant material and eventually forming peat. With its highly absorbent and antiseptic properties, dried sphagnum moss has historically been used used to dress wounds and became a vital and sometimes life saving dressing for soldiers during the First World War.

Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, April 2022.
Red and what stripped poles used to monitor subsidence are placed around the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain on the border between The Republic and Northern Ireland. Surrounded in both directions by an expanse of blanket bog, a series of restoration works in the Special Area of Conservation have been tackling erosion caused by wind, rain and pressure from increased visitor numbers. In a bid to repair the damage and stop climate change, bare areas of peat and eroded gullies have been damed with coir matting and with wool and brush bunds allowing plants, mosses and wildlife to re-establish themselves whilst retaining water so that the peatlands can stay healthy. In a cross-border initiative that is the first mountain based project of its kind in Ireland, so far 17 hectares of land around Cuilcagh have been regenerated.

Ballycroy, Ireland, April 2022.
Beneath the cloud covered peak of Claggan Mountain, a pool of water sits against a turf cutting in a soaked landscape of blanket bog. A common sight along the lowland roadsides of County Mayo, machine cut rifts dissect the bogs as they are cut away each year to extract turf for fuel.

Moycullin, Ireland, April 2022.
Bearing the the acronym BNM, the logo of Bord Na Mona, the Irish peat board, an industrially produced briquette of peat sits in a box amongst blocks of hand and machine cut turf. The traditional fuel of Ireland, whilst peat produces less heat than coal, it has until recently powered much of the country’s electricity and is the choice for the majority of hearths. Whilst some rural families still cut turf from their own land, the denser, drier machined briquettes of peat are still readily available to buy, with most these days come imported from Eastern Europe.

Clifden, Ireland, April 2022.
“I love the bog! It’s my favourite place to play” exclaims eight year old Lainey, out at dusk jumping between clumps of sponge grass on the bog that makes up the best part of her family’s 150 hectare farm in Connemara. Lainey’s mother Anne agrees, reminiscing fondly about her own childhood, “The bog is stunning. Walking out there I feel blessed. It’s the softness, the colours, the smell of the bog myrtle on a hot day, the bog cotton, the lakes and the old dwellings out there. It used to be such a thing to go out to the bog as a child. It was part of our summer holidays being out there with a sandwich and a bottle of milk but I suppose that’s gone for most kids now”.

Ballycroy, Ireland, April 2022.
Where the Wild Nephin National Park meets the sea near Claggan Mountain, eroded cross sections of peatland reveal ancient forests of pine and oak trees more than 4,000 years old. Covering Ireland’s west coast prior to a dramatic climate change event, the woodlands that grew prior to the formation of the area’s blanket bogs, have left a layer of history perfectly preserved by the acidic soils.

Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, April 2022.
Inspecting regeneration works on areas of common land that forms part of the Cuilcagh Mountain Park, ecologist Simon Gray of Ulster Wildlife climbs over a newly erected stock exclusion fence. Over grazing by hill sheep in the Special Area of Conservation is one of a number of factors contributing to erosion of the geopark’s vital carbon store of blanket bog. Working with local farmers, sections of commonage have been temporarily fenced off, giving vegetation time to re-grow on the damaged landscape.

Derrigimlaghd, Ireland, April 2022.
Gone to waste, a kilometre long trail of dried turf sods trail across Derrigimlagh Bog in Connemara. Cut by machines a year ago from what is described by travel guides as a an area of natural beauty, the uncollected sods, having been exposed to frosts, will now be useless as fuel. Made infamous by two major world historical firsts, the isolated coastal bog was the site of the crash landing of the first non-stop transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown and it was also the location from where the first transatlantic radio signal was sent by Marconi; made possible by a peat fired power plant that provided electricity to the huge transistors needed. With thousands of tourists visiting Derrigimlagh each year, walking tours take them through a bogland landscape, now severely degraded by turf cutting.

Moycullin, Ireland, April 2022.
Surrounded by reeds, protruding black rocks are reflected in the still waters of a bog lake at sunrise. Located on 200 hectares of privately managed peatland surrounding the ancient hamlet of Cnoc Suain, the restful hill, owners Charlie and Dearbhail see themselves as custodians of the bog, preserving it for their own daughters and for future generations. “Cnoc Suain is like a mini national park. The bog used to be a place of banishment but the reality is that it is a place of beauty. We love the bogland; the silence, the sense of space and freedom”.

Clifden, Ireland, April 2022.
Reflected in an installation at one of Derrigimlagh Bog’s information points, windblown molinia grasses frame The Twelve Bens mountain range in Connemara. Intensively cut for fuel, the now degraded landscape was the site of two major world historical firsts. The isolated coastal bog was the site of the crash landing of the first non-stop transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown and it was also the location from where the first transatlantic radio signal was sent by Marconi; made possible by a peat fired power plant that provided electricity to the huge transistors needed.

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