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  • Writer's pictureRae Story

Ancient Landscapes, a trip to Cadishead + Little Woolden Moss

On 3rd May we visited Cadishead and Little Woolden Moss. Just over thirty minutes from Manchester and we arrived in a transformed landscape. Two and half hours later we left transformed. This was a nature based art walk exploring history of the local landscape with drawing and poetry.

Image by Rae Story

We were so lucky to have been joined by Nye Merrill-Glover, a PhD Candidate at Manchester University working on the history of bog lands to be our guide. Nye was so enthusiastic and generous with his knowledge and experience and filled us all with good energy and inspiration. Nigel Wood also accompanied us on this walk working with people to collect words and vocabulary in the field for poems they can construct later. Many thanks to Jamie Lawson and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust for supporting this visit and making us so welcome.

Images by Rae Story

Manchester is built on Moss. Moss is part of our history and the heritage lives on in our place names. Chat Moss, Carrington Moss, Ashton Moss and Clifton Moss originally supported huge expanses of mossland habitat. Closer to home we have Fletcher Moss and Turn Moss. Moss Side Is a place that ran alongside a peat bog that ran from Rusholme to Chorlton until it was eventually drained and built on as Whalley Range. Peat bogs are made over millennia by sphagnum mosses and other vegetation that creates a unique micro environment and creates these layers of what we know as peat as they build up over time (1mm per year). So moss plays an important role in the creation of these wetland environments and these peat bogs are also known as ‘Mosses’. Hence these place names.

Images by Jenny Thomas

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has done fantastic work in restoring the lands back into wetlands and moss lands by taking out the drainage infrastructures and allowing the Mancunian rain to do its job! They also work with volunteers to plant and take care of the lands. The peatbogs are not exactly as they would have been hundreds of years ago because the process happens in slow time. But what we see at Cadishead and Little Woolden is closer to the natural landscapes than what we see in the drained and built on or farmed lands.

Images by Bernadette O'hanrahan

As the Manchester Mosses were drained and turned over to agriculture this change in land use produced both gains and losses. Gains for the successful engineers who presumably profiteered from this action and for the agri-industry (and our access to cheap food) but a loss of natural landscape, ecosystems, biodiversity and the loss of access to the fuel that peat provided. Previously, the mosses were a form of a common land and local people were able to cut peat for themselves. Although some allotments were given as part of a program of compensation it wasn’t enough to support the families and many people never received any compensation.

Images by Severine Cochard

We all enjoyed the wildlife at the site, we saw birds of prey, nesting birds, water birds, one member doing some sound recording had a little vole run right past his foot! The fresh air, the distant sounds of the motorway and the closer sounds of birdsong and ourselves chattering and walking on peaty earth gave us all such a refreshing experience.

It was such a pleasure to explore Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Cadishead and Little Woolden Moss with Nye who kindly and generously shared his vast knowledge and expertise with us. Nye Merrill-Glover is a History PhD student at the University of Manchester specializing in Bogs. He is about to finish very soon so we were so lucky that we could bring together all of the elements to do this walk together today.

If you would like to visit the Mosslands yourself please read the Lancashire Wildlife Trust page about it:

Find out more from the Lancashire Peatlands Initiative:

Please do check our Nye’s video about the history of Chat Moss:

And if you are interested in Mosses, and what we might learn from these ancient humble allies that are virtually unchanged in time and offer so much please take the time to listen to this wonderful podcast by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Meanwhile we hope you enjoy some more images and poems from our trip:

Top row left Drawing of Cotton Grass in the landscape by Mr Riding, middle: Sketch of bog landscape by Annette Ebanks, middle row centre sketch of bog landscape by Severine Cochard, middle row right drawing of bull rushes by Rae Story, and bottom row Jex recording soundscape from within tube, centre nature journal entry by Rae Story.

Poem written in the field by Mr Riding

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