Cyfoeth Ein Corsydd
This is a unique and interesting project funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund to record the heritage associated with Snowdonia’s bogs in terms of their use and significance to people over the years. It will also look at ancient treasures that have been discovered in bogs, as well as how man has used them over the years.
What is a bog?
The definition of a bog is a piece of land with a depth of at least half a metre of peat, formed under rainwater. Bogs are characterised by peatland, which defines the vegetation and the creatures that have grown or lived there at some time.
Peat forms when vegetation such as mosses and sedge start to accumulate and rot on a bogs’ surface. As more vegetation grows on the surface, the semirotten vegetation is pushed down deeper into the bog, where the wet, acidic and anaerobic conditions halts the decaying process. Over time the organic matter is compressed by the weight of the bog above, and thus peat is formed. The depth of peatland increases by around 1mm each year, and so it acts like a time machine: each millimetre representing one year, and so one metre representing an entire millennium of history! Some peatland can be deeper than 10 metres, providing an insight into the vegetation and climate of the site since the end of the lat Ice Age – over 10,000 years ago!
Bog (© SNPA)
Sundew (© SNPA)
The practice of cutting peat for fuel to heat our homes goes as far back as the Middle Ages, with harvesting rights existing so that common people could obtain peat to heat their homes from common land. Even earlier than that, the Romans used to heat salt water in a shallow pan over a peat fire to obtain salt.
Peat was harvested in areas such as Cwm Cynllwyd, Llanuwchllyn and Abergeirw, Trawsfynydd as recently as 1992, and so the old tales and memories are bound to be alive today! If you have any stories or memories of peat harvesting that you would like to share then we would love to hear from you!
Before the arrival of electric lighting, rush was collected from bogs to make candles. This was a craft practiced by the entire family, which continued on some farms in Meirionnydd until the middle of the last century, when electricity arrived in the countryside. The rush candles gave out a very dim light, filling the house with a strong smell of molten fat.
Peat cutting, Cwm Cynllwyd, 1984 (© Simon Jones)
Rush candle making (© Geoff Charles Collection - NLW)
Moss has been harvested as far back as we can remember as it has a multitude of uses…
Historically, moss was used to fill holes in the walls and roofs of crofts, a practice that has now disappeared.
Owing to its water retention qualities it is used as a lining for hanging baskets, and to prevent valuable plants such as orchids from drying up.
During the First World War, owing to its liquid absorbing qualities, sphagnum moss was used to pack wounds, saving the lives of thousands of soldiers. There are records of its use in battle dating even as far back as the eleventh century.
Sphagnum Moss (© Warren Photography)
Nurses prepare sphagnum moss (© I Rotherham)
Layers of history
Extraordinary treasures have been discovered in peat over the years! The most remarkable of which is the Arthog cauldron, a bronze bucket that was discovered while cutting peat in 1826. The family of Plas Nannau near Dolgellau used it as an ashtray…before they realized that it dated back to 1100BC!!
Amongst the other treasures are the Moel Hebog shield that dates back to around 1000BC, found while cutting peat in 1784, and the Trawsfynydd Tankard made of yew and bronze that dated back to the Iron Age (500BC-75AD). The tankard appeared in peat in the mid 1850’s, a replica of which can be seen at Llys Ednowain, Trawsfynydd.
Bogs are also of ecological importance as they act as carbon stores of extreme importance, they act as a water store in terms of quality and flood control, and are an important habitat for a diversity of plants and creatures.
Arthog Cauldron (© People's Collection Wales)
Moel Hebog Shield (People's Collection Wales)
For more information on this project contact Haf Roberts, our Cyfoeth ein Corsydd Project Officer :-
Tel - (01766) 772 236
E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org.