The Mysterious Lochan


Flanders Moss NNR

Many aspects of Flanders are a bit mysterious with knowledge having been lost in the midst of time but the lochan in the centre of the moss is probably the greatest mystery. It is not thought to be a natural feature and there is no record of when and why it was created .

aerial lochan high res

On some of the biggest bogs there can be a natural feature called a ‘fen eye’ that is a water body where peat hasn’t formed. These water bodies are often very deep, the bottom of the pool being the bottom of the bog itself so the water can be metres deep. In 1999 David Smith and Lucy Holloway of Coventry University with the help of Tim Jacobs, my predecessor, made a study of the Flanders lochan.  Basically they sent Tim out into it with waders and a measuring stick and he came back so it was not a natural fen eye. What they found was that the lochan had a flat floor and consistently steep sides which show man-made but by whom and when?

lochan in forst 2

A study of the maps going back in time doesn’t help. The lochan doesn’t appear on any OS maps until 1997-98 but it can be seen clearly on an 1945 black and white aerial photograph and it looks well established at that time and not a new feature. In a further archive search of other historical estate and local maps and documents no mention of the creation of the lochan or is purpose and use can be found. It never appeared on maps because almost certainly it was never surveyed and perhaps the landowner didn’t know of its existence but someone knew about it as they made it.



Perhaps the clue of its purposes can be found from aerial photographs. There is a ditch that leaves the lochan close to its outflow and instead of flowing of the moss it follows the contours of the peat dome heading east to an area of extensive peat cutting at what is now West Moss-side farm. We know that during the early 1800s when the peat clearances were at their most active, water to flush the cut peat away was in desperate need. So perhaps the landowner needing to increase his water supply  dug the lochan, dammed it to hold water and dug a ditch several hundred metres to carry water to the moss rooms but without ever asking the actual estate owner? Is this a case of pinching a bit of water? If this is the case, the sheer effort to do all that digging shows how keen they were for the water and also how little the moss was visited for it to be never formally noted.

For now the lochan is still an incredibly wet place and very difficult to get to but that is very much to the benefit of the wildlife that uses it today, plenty of amphibians in spring, geese and teal in winter and dragonflies in summer.

aerial showing lochan



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