08 Nov War and Peat
by Edited by Ian D Rotherham and Christine Handley
PUBLISHED BY WILDTRACK PUBLISHING, VENTURE HOUSE, 103 ARUNDEL STREET, SHEFFIELD S1 2NT
War and Peat is a fascinating compilation of recent research on the military and ecological heritage of moors, heaths, bogs and fens. Wars, political and economic unrest and extreme weather have all affected peat landscapes. Harvesting resources like peat and moss have also had an impact on the landscape and ecology. Conversely, the peat wetlands have themselves influenced battle strategies, outcomes and resources.
The moorlands of Southwest England, such as Dartmoor and Sedgemoor, have long been used as military training grounds, or sites of military campaigns. Dartmoor still has military training grounds at Okehampton, Willsworthy and Merrivale.
The moorland has also provided materials essential to wartime activities such as peat, horse litter and sphagnum moss for wound dressings. In WW1 there were collection centres for processing the moss into dressings at Princetown and other collection depots at Mary Tavy, Tavistock and Okehampton.
Sedgemoor in Somerset has also had sites of military activity. King Alfred the Great had an isolated stronghold on the Isle of Athelney, surrounded by marshes. From this retreat he went on to defeat the Viking attack in the Battle of Eddington in 878 AD .
In 1685 The Battle of Sedgemoor was fought on the Somerset Levels at Westonzoyland, near Bridgwater, between James Scott, First Duke of Monmouth, and troops loyal to James II. Victory went to the royalists and Monmouth escaped, but was later captured and taken to London for trial and execution.
There was also a military airfield at Westonzoyland, Sedgemoor near Bridgwater during WW2, of which remnants still remain.
War and Peat (with apologies to Tolstoy) came from an international research conference held at Sheffield Hallam University in 2013. The papers are written in a popular style and each provides a fascinating insight into the history and ecology of these important moorland landscapes.
Review by Ann Pulsford