What a difference 25 years can make – 25 years of SNH at Blawhorn Moss NNR


Volunteers and staff hard at work putting in dams to get the bog wetter.


The bog today, wet and wonderful.

Blawhorn Moss NNR – The time traveller’s bog

Scottish Natural Heritage has been in existence for almost exactly 25 years and Sarah Eaton looks at what has changed on Blawhorn Moss NNR in that time.

It’s 2017 and the Blackridge Primary School school children are bouncing on the trampoline of moss, laughing as the ground beneath them wobbles like a jelly on a plate.

The children love their local (and national) nature reserve. It’s the bog on their doorstep, just a bit of a leg stretch from school.  Some pupils come here twice a year to learn about bogs and why they are so special.   Students come from the nearby college, braving the cold, improving the boardwalk and making dams – budding nature conservationists gaining experience and learning their trade.  But it isn’t just the youngsters: others in the community value this place too.  It’s well-used by people to walk their (sometimes too lively) dogs or just get some fresh air and peace and quiet  around the boardwalk.  They are all rightly proud of and impressed with Blawhorn Moss, this large area of raised and blanket bog.  It makes up 2% of the total area of raised bog in Britain. It’s in great condition – the bog is wet, sphagnum and other mosses are flourishing and it’s hummocky.  It has an international accolade.

spahgnum picture

But if you were to fly back in time 25 years to 1992, you would land in a very different scene:  visitors aren’t really encouraged due to worries about their safety and the fragility of the site and even education is kept low-key.  Historical damage means the place is criss-crossed with ditches and peat cuttings, and surrounded by gullies so the surface is dry and not great bog habitat. Some parts get burnt nearly every year.  It was a bog in a sad state.

old damming picture Blawhorn

Some of the first dams being put in on Blawhorn

Fast forward again through the noughties and you see a speeded up film of restorative action on a reserve that has doubled the size (thanks to SNH’s purchase of a neighbouring area), the moss is rewetted through the actions of metal and timber dams put in (some of them humungous), ditches and gullies are blocked. And visitors are welcomed with a car park made, new paths created, a boardwalk installed, sheep are back munching on the heather and saplings to allow the bog moss to spread.

Progress can be hard to see over a short time but over 25 years SNH has brought a bog back to life and brought life to the bog on the doorstep.

Some of the recent work to improve the condition of the bog through ditch blocking and trench bunding has been provided through the EcoCoLife project with a contribution from the Life financial instrument of the EU – see more here


The nibblers making use of the facilities!


More dams, this time peat dams being put in with a special digger.


Local students helping with improving the boardwalk.


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