Give Peat a Chance

Give Peat a Chance

Divine bog moss (Sphagnum divinum) © Jenny Sharman

We're curating an exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, look at thousands of years of peatland history in the Yorkshire Dales.

In an exhibition that starts thousands of years ago and runs up to the present day, we look at how Dales peatlands formed, the wildlife that lives there, how our actions have affected our peatlands, and what we're doing to restore them. We will explore these beautiful, brooding landscapes through visual arts, music and film, thanks to generous funding from Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund and  Pennine PeatLIFE.

Central to the exhibition is a “bog in a box”: a blanket bog recreated in a Perspex tank that will let people see how healthy peatland should look. The beauty of blanket bog is revealed by getting on eye-level with the myriad plants that inhabit these miniature and intricate spaces. Many visitors may never have been to a moorland and this exhibit will allow them to get up close and personal with blanket bog, and explore it as our team and volunteers engaged in our citizen science project ‘Eyes on the Bog’ would.

The tank will be combined with a series of interpretation panels to give visitors a deeper understanding of Dales peatlands. We look at how they formed, what has happened to them, why they are culturally and environmentally important, how we are restoring them and why it is important that we do so. As well as providing a superb habitat for some fascinating wildlife, blanket bog helps to filter drinking water, slow the flow of rainfall from the hills and is an immense carbon store.

Interpretation panel showing how peatlands have been damaged

How peatlands have been damaged

There'll also be original artwork reflecting local artists' responses to these vast and beautiful landscapes, with art from Hester Cox, Bev Parker, Andrea Hunter and Ann Rutherford. Ann's work is a collaboration with our good friend, Sarah Smout, combining art with music and poetry. You'll also be able to see the film we made on Fleet Moss with Sarah for her stunning song "Atlas".

Art by Bev Parker, provisionally entitled "Replant".

Art by Bev Parker, provisionally entitled "Replant".

We have been working with local filmmakers, Ian Kendall and Gary Lawson, to make a film explaining what peatlands are, how they have been damaged and how we are restoring them. You can see that, together with Jenny Sharman's film about the work of the Pennine PeatLIFE project in the Dales. A series of audio recordings from people who work on peatlands give an insight into what it’s like to earn a living in these spectacular habitats.

Overview of Pennine PeatLIFE restoration in Yorkshire Dales 2019-20

If you want to get  more involved in exploring the exhibition’s themes, Sarah Smout will be running four writing workshops – two for families and two for adults – exploring participants’ reactions to peatlands. The writing from these workshops will go on to become part of the exhibition.

Give Peat a Chance will run from 16 July until 9 October at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. Some of the content will then move to the Museum of North Craven Life where it can be seen from 15 October until 23 December.

The Nature Poetry workshops with Sarah Smout will take place for all the family on 23 and 24 July and on 30 July and 01 August for adults only. All workshops run from 1pm - 4pm. Contact DCM -, 01969 666210 - for more information and to book your place.