Lindow Manchester

Anything but a Bog Standard Landscape: Restoring Lindow Moss
Prof Anthony Jones opens the workshop

Prof Anthony Jones opens the workshop

It is a few years now since I have been in Wilmslow but I was absolutely delighted to be invited to a workshop about the future of Lindow Moss at the Friends House on Thursday 3rd April by Professor Emeritus John Handley of University of Manchester. John Handley is Professor of Landscape and Environmental Planning at the University of Manchester, and is involved in a collaborative initiative with Transition Wilmslow, Cheshire Wildlife Trust and others to explore a more constructive future for Lindow Moss. They are working to secure the restoration of the current peat working area as a self-sustaining wetland habitat and to conserve and interpret the surrounding peatland landscape. The workshop was the first step in trying to bring people together to discuss the development of a ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’.

Peat extraction 2007 (photo: B.Sitch)

Peat extraction 2007 (photo: B.Sitch)

The organizers wanted members of the archaeological community to be part of this initiative. They kindly invited me because I’d worked on the Museum’s Lindow Man exhibition in 2008-9 and because Manchester Museum has hosted Lindow Man three times for temporary exhibitions since his discovery in August 1984. In fact as one of the speakers reminded us, it will soon be the 30th anniversary of his discovery on Lindow Moss and surely that deserves recognition, doesn’t it? Prof.Handley read an excerpt from a short article by Rick Turner, the archaeologist whose painstaking detective work led to the discovery of Lindow Man’s body.

Many different groups and interests were represented in the audience

Many different groups and interests were represented in the audience

The proceedings were opened by Prof Handley and Tony Evans of Saltersley Common Preservation Society. John talked about the development of the landscape since the time of the last glaciation. Colonization of what was an area of woodland by sphagnum moss during the Mesolithic period killed the trees and created a raised bog. The exploitation of the peat deposits for fuel from at least as early as the Middle Ages resulted in the creation of distinctive field boundaries called moss ‘rooms’. Prof.Handley described this as one of the best-preserved landscapes of this type that he is aware of in Britain, and yet, astonishingly, it is not protected by designation of any kind.

This lack of recognition is compounded locally by the confusion between Lindow Moss and Lindow Common. If a fire is reported at the former, journalists apparently turn up at the latter! After the two opening addresses the participants were invited to join one of four sub-groups which went away for discussion and then reported back in a plenary session. I joined the ‘Education and Interpretation’ which did not have as many people as the other sub-groups. The photo below shows (left to right) local authors Christine Pemberton and Matthew Hyde, Prof Anthony Jones, Tony Evans and Gary, our Chairman for the sub-group.

Sub-group discussion about  education and interpretation. Local authors Matthew Hyde and Christine Pemberton are sitting on the left.

Sub-group discussion about education and interpretation. Local authors Matthew Hyde and Christine Pemberton are sitting on the left.

We had a wide-ranging discussion about what we should be trying to communicate and how to go about doing it. Without wanting to pre-empt the more formal report that will be made, we talked about a multi-disciplinary report that included all the subject disciplines in which Lindow Moss is important: archaeology because of Lindow Man, natural history, ecology because of the unique fauna and flora that live in a bog, and many others too. Christine reminded us that historically the moss was a place of refuge for people who had nowhere else to go.

Gypsey Taylor, Morley Green

Gypsey Taylor, Morley Green (photo: Christine Pemberton)

We said it was important to put Lindow Moss on the map, and ensure everyone knew where and what it was. We felt that people would be more likely to support the proposals if they could see that there were practical benefits.   By stopping the peat extraction the moss could recover and what Prof Handley called ‘keystone species’ re-colonize the wet areas. If rare plants, animals such as water voles, and birds and insects returned the moss could become a centre for bio-diversity, eco-tourism and education. There could be eco-friendly sculpture, demonstrations of traditional wood crafts and art and music. Stephen Vaughn has already captured the stillness and apparently timeless quality of the peat bog in a series of beautiful photographs.

Photo of Lindow Moss by Vaughan

Photo of Lindow Moss by Stephen Vaughan

More practically, by maintaining the water table, problems with subsidence would be avoided by local residents. We also felt there would be health benefits for people using the moss for recreation.   I kind of got ‘volunteered’ into reporting back to the main group. Many interesting suggestions were made, including one to build an Iron Age roundhouse at Lindow Moss but there were too many for this blog to list in detail; but one of the practical things to come out of the day was the proposal to commemorate what will be the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man in August 2014. Other ‘quick win’ proposals suggest themselves: joining in the Festival of Archaeology in July or Heritage Open Days in September. Other special interest groups will have their own dates for events and activities so that a multi-disciplinary programme for Lindow Moss could be put together quite quickly to help promote the initiative.

It was a very positive day and we now look forward to the dayschool on 18th October 2014. Richard Turner, who as the former Cheshire County Archaeologist played such a key role in the discovery and conservation of Lindow Man, has already agreed to take part. It is hoped to include a contribution from Manchester Museum too at the event . You don’t have to have attended the workshop in order to go to the Day School, which is seen as a free standing educational event, aimed at generating interest amongst the public and profile-raising for the ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’ initiative.

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[…] the intepretation and meaning of Lindow Man and where he should be. This event was a follow-up to a meeting held in Wilmslow in April to present a new approach to the Moss and its management, whereby peat extraction would […]

Pingback by Lindow Man’s 30th Birthday | Lindow Manchester

[…] will continue the work of raising the profile of Lindow Moss started at a public meeting about a ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’ held in Wilmslow in April and furthered by the recent dawn commemoration of the thirtieth […]

Pingback by Offerings in the Lindow Man exhibition | Lindow Manchester

[…] with different stakeholders was held earlier this April, and an account of it can be found in an earlier blog post by Bryan Sitch. The Lindow Moss Dawn Walk was a second successful initiative, led by Professors John […]

Pingback by Commemoration of Lindow Man at Lindow Moss (guest blog by Chiara Zunni) | Lindow Manchester

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