In the run up to National Heritage Week Ireland, Rosie and Ben have put together a post-lockdown guide to the best peatland sites across Ireland that can be visited during the nation's staycation! Please see below for our tour and associated guide:
by Dr Abbi Flint (Research Assistant on the WetFutures UK team)
One of the aims of WetFutures is to explore the cultural heritage of wetlands. When we think about cultural heritage, often what comes to mind are physical remains – things like buildings, structures and monuments, changes to the landscape that show how it was used in the past, or objects found in and around wetlands – but not all aspects of cultural heritage are easily seen.
Cultural heritage also includes the traditional ways that people have used wetlands, local events and customs, the stories, songs, legends and myths that people tell, and even the art and literature that these places inspire. Some of which may be very specific to a local place or group of people. These contribute to what UNESCO define as ‘intangible cultural heritage’.
The UK WetFutures team have recently been exploring one aspect of the intangible cultural heritage, the folklore of wetlands, through a review of existing literature. We didn’t just look at what might traditionally be seen as folklore but included broader ways that wetlands, and specifically bogs, are portrayed.
Some folklore around bogs reflects historic views of these places as potentially dangerous and inhospitable – where mysterious lights (will-o'-the-wisps) may help or hinder travellers, where fairies or black-dogs appear, and where people may disappear into bottomless depths. However, our review of the broader folklore of one of our UK case study sites, Ilkley Moor, suggests these exist alongside other (sometimes more positive) associations. The moor has been portrayed as both dangerous and having health and aesthetic value, as both wild and shaped by people, and as playing an important part in local social history. The physical cultural heritage within wetland landscapes may also have its own folklore - for example, around the use and meaning of the prehistoric carved rocks and stone circles found on Ilkley Moor.
An example of one of the prehistoric carved rocks on Ilkley Moor (photo by Ben Jennings)
Just like physical aspects of cultural heritage, the intangible heritage of wetlands continues to develop and be relevant to the ways people use landscapes. Part of the Wet Futures project is to explore the perceptions that different groups of people, who have an interest in wetlands, hold about these places and their heritage. We hope that through this we will be able to share new and emerging aspects of the rich cultural heritage of wetlands.
We hope to be able to share the outcome of this research very soon and in the meantime we’d love to hear your experiences of the ‘intangible ‘or less visible aspects of wetland cultural heritage.
In the latest addition of the GeogPod, Dr Mary Gearey (Brighton University) talks about her latest book 'English Wetlands: Spaces of Nature, Culture, Imagination' - and WetFutures get a mention, so thank you!
Have a listen to Mary's full talk here!
Ben, Rosie and Kim from the WetFutures Ireland team have recently been interviewed by NatureVolve on their work that they are undertaking for WetFutures, Irish heritage and archaeology!
The interview includes photography by Tina Claffey - an incredible photographer with a keen eye for the natural world of the bog.
Read the interview here:
The WetFutures Irish team are speaking at the global Re-Peat global festival this Sunday (31st May)- a celebration of peatlands across the world! Ben and Rosie are talking on the subject of gender and peatlands - mixed in with a bit Seamus Heaney poetry - not one to miss!
The talk will be recorded and available here, following the talk!
In these difficult times, projects like WetFutures can take a back-seat. But even though we are not all in the same offices or even the same countries, we are still working away - and on an even bigger capacity! In the last few months, Dr Floor Huisman (Netherlands), Dr Abbi Flint (UK) and Rosie Everett (Ireland) have joined the team - so welcome!
Following the success of the WetFutures Ireland research on the perceptions of peatlands in the community (led by Dr Kim Davies), the Dutch and UK team are currently in development of tailored questionnaires to undertake at wetland sites relevant to their research. This is a fantastic approach for face-to-face engagement with the public, and allows for us to get honest and though-provoking answers on how people feel about the work we are doing as a project, and how we can use that effectively to engage with communities and stake-holders in these unique wetland sites.
One of the outputs of these questionnaires is to collect all the key terms that are most used in answers to create a word cloud - a visual representation of what is important for those that have undertaken the questionnaires. And we love it!
(Source: Dr Kimberley Davies)
We are all so excited to get back out in to the field - so watch this space!
Our very own Ben Jennings (WetFutures UK) spoke at Cafe Scientifique at the Bradford Media Museum this week, discussing the work of WetFutures and the way in which we engage with environmental policy makers, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Ben's talk highlighted how engagement and collaboration with the scientific and policy-driven community allows us to discuss the role of heritage management of wetlands can go beyond the perception that archaeologists are all about bog bodies. In particular, Ben highlighted the role of WetFutures in engaging with communities within areas of wetlands, and the value of this enacting change within government policy to ensure wetland protection.
The WetFutures Irish team swapped their welly boots for paintbrushes this week, and took part in the Creative Connections workshop hosted by the Glucksman Gallery, Cork. Ben and Kim spent the day chatting with teachers about creating peatland related teaching resources, and explored ways in which we as a project can communicate our research in a more creative way!
Creative Connections is an incredible example of the way in which interdisciplinary research can bring people together with creativity (for more information see http://peatlands.ucc.ie/).
The WetFutures team were back in their natural environment this week - on a bog!
The group visited Abbeyleix Bog in the Irish Midlands to see the work being undertaken by the Community Wetlands Forum
This was a fantastic opportunity to take a look at the way in which day visits and talks, such as this, can actively engage the community.