Celebrations took place yesterday on one of the largest and best examples of lowland raised peat bogs in the Lothians to mark its re-declaration as a National Nature Reserve (NNR). The 110 hectare Blawhorn Moss is owned by Scottish Natural Heritage and the organisation is keen for people to visit this internationally recognised reserve.
The bog, which has over twelve thousand years of moss growth, is a survivor of a huge area of peat which once covered the entire area of central Scotland. The Blawhorn bog has a carpet of sphagnum moss, heather, cotton grass, crowberry, hair moss and the insect eating round leaved sundew. At different times of the year different birds visit the moss including red grouse, snipe, curlew, redshank, teal, skylark, hen harrier and short eared owl. Butterflies and dragonflies are also regularly seen at the reserve.
Part of Blawhorn Moss, near Blackridge in West Lothian, the bog has been an NNR since 1980 but it has been extended a further 40.43 hectares to include a larger area of land, sparking the celebration. Bog habitat is still under
threat nationally - almost 94% of the UK's lowland raised bog habitat
has been lost since the end of the 19th century. Large areas of these deep peat deposits were dug out for fuel,
drained for farming or planted for forestry.
"In the past, bogs were considered unproductive land suitable only for cutting or draining," explains Iain Rennick, SNH's area manager for the Lothians. "Today that view has changed, and people appreciate them as important places. Not only do they provide habitats for many plants and insects, but they also act as carbon sinks, trapping carbon dioxide and helping combat global warming. Blawhorn is one of the best examples in central Scotland. We hope that today's celebration will raise people's awareness of the site and encourage them to pay it a visit."
Local school children have used the site for educational work for
many years and produced a book about the bog which two of the children
read from at yesterday's event. Local MSP Mary Mulligan also presented
all the class members with a copy.
"Our school has been working on projects involving Blawhorn Moss for
many years," said Alison Townley, head teacher of Blackridge
primary school. "It provides a focus for creative, cross-curricula work
including science, language and environmental studies, as well as
helping our pupils develop as responsible citizens and effective
contributors - a curriculum for excellence in practice. It also shows
that learning can, and should, be fun."
In addition to being a National Nature Reserve, Blawhorn is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation. The name Blawhorn is said to come from the days when the local village of Blackridge was a midway coaching station between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Blawhorn was used as a viewing point for watching coaches approaching, when a horn would be blown to signal to the coaching inn down the hill at Blackridge, hence the name ‘Blow Horn'.
People can visit Blawhorn at any time and there is a boardwalk on the moss. The reserve is located northwest of the village of Blackridge, 4 miles west of Armadale in Central Scotland. It can easily be reached by heading north off Junction 4 of the Edinburgh - Glasgow M8 motorway.The car park is signposted off the A89.
The reserve also links into the local path network for those wanting a longer walk. Blawhorn Moss is one of over 50 NNRs in Scotland which are places where some of the best examples of Scotland's wildlife and habitats are carefully managed. Some are in remoter mountain areas in the north, but others are often found on the doorstep of people in the central belt. Nature always comes first on NNRs, but they also offer opportunities for people to enjoy, and find out about, the richness of our natural heritage.