Bare Peat: microtopographies and restoration.

A description of drawing the eroded faces of peat, eventually using peat itself to envisage a restored living surface.

I found myself creating microtopographies and envisioning a restored Raised Bog.

I began by wanting to characterise ‘Bare Peat.’ For people involved in peatland restoration, Bare Peat is an alarm signal. It is an eroded face of the landscape where carbon changes its form and moves into the atmosphere.

Peat erosion can be considered scientifically at a microtopographic scale. I referred to an authoritative text (Evans and Warburton, 2007:181, Figure 7.6) and focussed on nine photographs of different textures of bare peat denoting different erosion patterns, resulting from wind or rain.

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Nine microtopographies of Bare Peat @ Kate Foster 2019. Ink drawing,

Microtopographies? This is a word conveying detailed geographical study of small surface areas. This study helped me recognise the details of the processes by which peat is eroded. The description given with Warburton’s photographs gave a feel of the processes, such as ‘smooth surface of redeposited peat’ or ‘major step or wash front advancing from left to right.’

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I explored ways to represent the textures of bare peat – through drawing, frottage, and printing, on different papers.

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A Cut Peat from Lewis © Kate Foster 2019.  Frottage by pencil on tracing paper.

Drawing a cut peat from Lewis, I observed the presence of grassy fibres binding small segments of compressed peat moss together.

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Eroding Peat © Kate Foster 2019. Graph Paper, Bone medium, peat.

The drawing above was about how microtopographies indicate sites where carbon dioxide is invisibly moving into the atmosphere, reflecting on my dependence on science to envisage that this proces even happens.

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First Peat Print © Kate Foster 2019

I began to use peat itself to make the marks. Thanks to Dr Emily Taylor, Rachel Coyle, and Drumclog Plant, I was able to recognise and collect a small sample of ‘Squagy’ peat – defined as ‘the perfect consistencey for a digger driver to make peat dams with’.

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Image: print-making at Edinburgh College of Art, Kate Foster 2019

Working in the print room at Edinburgh College of Art let me explore peat as a material. It is easily dried and blown away, diluted and wshed away, and readily becomes friable – releasing carbon into the atmosphere as it goes.

This developed as a series of abstract prints reminiscent of landscapes.

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How could I show these prints? Which way up should they go?

In the field, I had seen where Rachel Coyle (Peatland Action Project Officer at Tweed Forum) had measured the depth of peat in an upland area, surveying before restoration began at Crunklie Moss. I had this in mind, with this drawing on one of the peat prints. The peat probe used is typically orange.

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‘A field-worker probes the depth of the remaining peat.’ Image 5 in Mending the Blanket © Kate Foster, 2019.  Peat print with ink drawing on A4 cartridge paper.

Turned upside down, these prints might make you think about what is under your feet when you are on a raised bog. Given a restored green layer, and plenty of rain, the water table can rise and the bog be restored as a carbon store and habitat.

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Ombotrophic Raised Bog © Kate Foster 2019. Peat print and ink drawing on A3 cartridge paper.

Peat seemed to convey the textures of a raised bog better than ink can, as I tested out with the prints below. Peat does its own thing well, especially when it’s wet with a living layer of sphagnum moss.

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Raised Bog © Kate Foster 2019. Monoprint with soluble ink on A3 newsprint.
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Raised Bog (2) © Kate Foster 2019. Monoprint with soluble ink on A3 newsprint.

 

This post was prepared as an element of my project, Developing Peat Cultures.

More info: www.peatcultures.wordpress.com

 

 

Mending the Blanket

This is a selection of drawings about the restoration of blanket bog. Peat ‘hags’ are a feature of badly eroded peatland, but they can be re-profiled to allow new growth of wetland mosses. Peat from a restoration programme at Crunklie Moss in the Southern Uplands was used to make the drawings shown in this post.

 

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I am working on a series of drawings about the restoration of Crunklie Moss,  which lies in a remote valley called Gameshope in the Scottish Southern Uplands. Gameshope is a former sheep farm which is coverd by ‘blanket bog’ – typical for this area. Borders Forest Trust now own Gameshope and want to restore the eroded peatbog. Tweed Forum is doing this through Scotland’s Peatland Action programme.

This is a selection from work in progress, which is made in appreciation of the work of people who are making peatland restoration happen on the ground. Rachel Coyle (Peatland Action Project Officer based at Tweed Forum) and Kenny Veitch (Drumclog Plant) worked on Crunklie Moss in early 2019 and helped me find some ‘squagy’ peat.

Squagy peat is the sort of peat that is good for creating peat-dams – and also perfect for making prints on paper.

 

 

 

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Acknowledgements to Peatland Action, Tweed Forum, Drumclog Plant, Borders Forest Trust, Crichton Carbon Centre, and Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership for support during the development of this piece.