Turf or Peat bogs, Wicklow

This is a view of the bogland high up in the Wicklow Mountains.   Irish bogs began to develop more than 8000 years ago after the last ice age.  As the climate grew warmer plants started to grow on top of shallow lakes and pools.  When the plants died there wasn't enough oxygen in these areas to help them to rot fully.  These layers of roots, stems , leaves and flowers piled on each other compressing and forming what we now call peat, or turf.

There are two types of bog that cover Ireland ,blanket bogs  and raised bogs.  Blanket bogs spread over large areas of poorly drained land, mainly in the west of Ireland and they are rarely more than 20ft deep. Raised bogs form on lake basins and can be as much as 40ft thick!

Peat has been used as a fuel in Ireland for over 1000 years.  Each household would have their strip of bog and would go out on the first dry day of weather in April or May to start collecting their turf.  The top layer, or scraw, is cut off with a spade.  Then a tool called a sléan, a long-handled tool, is used to slice down into the peat and with one stroke toss up each sod onto the ground above.  The rest of the family then laid them out to dry in small piles.  After a few days they could be carried home where they would be stored to last the family all year.  

In the Wicklow Mountains families still rent strips of land to cut their own turf rather than buy it ready cut.  

Elsewhere Bord na Móna, the Irish Peat Board, has used machinery to strip large areas of bogland for fuel for domestic use and for power stations.  Recently the Irish Government and the Bord have had to face up to the impact this is having/ has had on the environment.  Many areas are now protected as natural bogland.

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