Words from a volunteer

Flanders Moss, Blawhorn Moss and Loch Lomond National Nature Reserves

We are currently looking to recruit new volunteers to help with practical work across our reserves. Whilst some people might be put off by the fact that 2/3rd of our reserves are of a ‘bog’ and have this mind-set of them not being that interesting to volunteer on, they couldn’t be more wrong! One of our volunteers who was more interested in volunteering at Loch Lomond, NNR gave Flanders Moss a chance and this is what he had to say:

‘Flanders Moss is the largest lowland raised bog in Britain. The boardwalk and viewing tower are worth visiting but they cover a very small part of the bog, and there’s so much more to see. No sane visitor would step off the boardwalk, so volunteering is the best way to get the full ‘Flanders Experience’. Wellies are essential, and there are some very deep pools and ditches that must be navigated, so it can be quite challenging.

A raised bog would have covered much of the Forth Valley before the agricultural improvements of previous centuries stripped off the peat to create the lush farmland we see today. The area of bogs that remains has been getting drier…which is not good if you’re a bog. Volunteers help to raise the water table again in various ways.

A key task is removing invasive plants that are soaking up water from the bog. One of these is actually native, the Scots pine, but is simply growing in the wrong place. As well as the usual suspects (spruce, birch and gorse) I have got up close and personal with Labrador tea-plant, a form of miniature rhododendron. Invasive plants are removed by cutting and lopping, or in the case of the Labrador tea, a lot of tugging!


The other way to raise the water table is to install dams. I will never forget hammering plastic sheets deep into the peat in a Force 10 gale (I’m exaggerating, but as Paul Daniels would have said, not a lot). We also dug turfs from the peat and used them to dam the ditches which creates pools for dragonflies and damselflies.


One of the more unusual tasks was to build a hibernaculum. If your Latin is rusty, it’s a structure made of logs, branches, bracken and turf where adders hibernate.IMG_5314

One of the great advantages of volunteering is that you get to visit remote parts of the bog that are inaccessible to casual visitors who (wisely!) don’t stray off the boardwalk. Once you’re out in the heart of the bog you’re acutely aware of how flat the surroundings are and how big the sky is, something that is quite unusual in a country like Scotland that is so dominated by hills, glens and undulating farmland. The open views mean that it’s a great place to spot birds, especially raptors such as kestrel, red kite, osprey and hen harrier. Counting hen harriers at dusk on the viewing tower is another volunteering experience (one of the few that don’t involve getting mucky). On the bog, those dragonflies and damselflies are worth looking out for, as well as the wide variety of bog plants.

Volunteering at Flanders has certainly made me appreciate that ‘bog’ certainly isn’t a dirty word’.


David McCulloch

If you would like to experience what a days work out on the ‘bog’ is like, please get in touch with NNR Officer, Amee Hood via email: amee.hood@snh.gov.uk.

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