Today’s Treasures – Whixall Moss
The Marl Allotment (or Marlot as it is known locally) is an area of common land between Whixall Moss and the Llangollen canal which has now been designated a Local Nature Reserve. It gets its name from ‘marl’ a crumbly limestone clay which was used as a fertiliser and the clay may also have been dug out and used to line the canal – which could explain how the ponds were formed.
The Marlot has been incorporated into the circular Whixall Mosses Trails that can be accessed from Roundthorn Bridge and Morris Lift Bridge (pictured).
Whixall Moss is the most amazing place – a wilderness of bogmosses, ferns and cotton-sedges – described by Gladys Mary Coles as “a kingdom of sphagnum where space and time interweave”; it reminds me of a long-forgotten English lesson learning about D H Lawrence: “He breathes the fern seed and drifts back, becomes darkly half vegetable, devoid of preoccupations,” – which probably ignited in me the first stirrings of inspiration to be a writer.
Throughout the summer and autumn, a series of sculptures depicting wood and metal work measuring tools formed an art trail across the moss. This inclinometer, created by Elizabeth Turner & Keith Ashford is one of the waymarking sculptures. An inclinometer is “a tool for measuring angles to the horizontal. Its curve reminds us of the turn of our head as we scan the horizon”.
As well as being a SSSI, at nearly 1,000 hectares, Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses together form one of the largest lowland raised bogs in Britain. The acidic and waterlogged ground provides the perfect environment for rare bog plants and insects to thrive, including 18 species of sphagnum bog moss, cranberries, bog rosemary, bog asphodels, and sundews; nearly 2,000 species of invertebrates; bird calls from teal, curlews, skylarks and hobbys fill the air – and adders can be seen basking in the sunshine. Formed at the end of the last ice age, sphagnum bog moss absorbed and acidified the rain, water-logging the peat surface and dying vegetation became preserved as layers of peat which, in turn, preserved history – a bronze age axe and 3 peat bodies have been discovered on the reserve.
“It took millennia to lay us down, the ferns & moss decay.
Down in the ancient darkness, the ancient dead were laid.
The sedges and the mosses, the grazing lands of beasts.
And all the time the Earth rolled on and nature was at peace.”
(From ‘Bogoration’ by Dave Lock)
Published in the December edition of the Whitchurch Gossip