Conservation in a post-industrial context: Chat Moss

The industrial landscape of Chat Moss is one of drainage infrastructure, railway lines and industrial peat cutting. Cadishead / Little Woolden Moss in particular has only seen peat cutting contracts end in 2017[1]. Some of the industrial heritage of the wider landscape has been in coal mining also.

Picture: Little Woolden Moss on a beautiful bright day in November 2020

However, an industrial context isn’t all necessarily ‘doom and gloom’ for conservation. It can present unique habitat creation opportunities: flashes such as Wigan and Pennington originating from coal mining subsidence for example (see the work of Dr Mark Champion for more). Colliery spoil heaps themselves can house unique assemblages of flora, fauna and fungi, unique enough that they have groups dedicated to their study[2]. Certain species of fungi have been used by scientists in post-industrial contexts, for their effects on pollution remediation[3].

Peatlands such as Chat Moss, when restored and functioning as ecosystems, store greenhouse gases and filter water[4]. This helps to remediate climate change and combat threats to ecosystem and human health. Lancashire Wildlife Trust Peatlands Initiative is doing fantastic work, with the help of volunteers, to make restoration back from the industrial brink a reality. There is an important place for heritage in conservation discussions, not least because landscape heritage can help connect stakeholders to the nature around them. After all, in knowing what a place was like in history, we can better inform ourselves of what it could be in the future.

References

  1. https://friendsofchatmoss.org/about-friends-chat-moss/the-moss/
  2. https://www.collieryspoil.com/biodiversity
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro2519
  4. https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/about/what-we-do/living-landscapes/wildlife-conservation-projects/peatland-restoration

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