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Saving the Turf

saving turfFor hundreds of years small families in the west of Ireland have owned small plots of ancient bogland from which they save enough turf for heating their homes during the winter.

However, in recent years the European Union has insisted that raised bogs in Ireland must be controlled. A ban on cutting turf is in place in 53 bogs which have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Even though compensation is available for those who abide by the law, hundreds of angry landowners are prepared to risk the threat of fines or even jail sentences by defying the new EU regulations.

Up to some years ago turf was a back-breaking operation. Individual sods were cut by slean, a special form of spade. The sods were then left to dry, brought home and stacked near the family home. Today small and large machines are used which lighten the drudgery.

The following video gives an idea of the bogland and how the turf is saved nowadays. It was in progress in Connemara last week when I was there. The landscape pictured was like that by which I walked.



And you never know when you'll dig up a bog man.
And we have done that many times. The latest was only last week - said to be 8,000 years there!
The Orkney word for that same spade is the fine Norse 'Tusker.'

Similar issues there- some folk on the more remote islands rely on turf for winter warmth so the ruling is ridiculous -yet another step in the destruction of remote communities and some, like my beloved North Ronaldsay (pop 58) are already on the edge. :o(

I was walking in the peat mosses on Eday quite recently.
It's another of those tricky problems. Those peat bogs take thousands of years to develop and yet can be destroyed in months.

The problem is, it's like fishing. When the few people who lived in the area did it using the traditional backbreaking methods, it was sustainable. Now with the larger population and mechanised methods, the resources get depleted faster than they can regenerate. :(
Too true. And not many households, even in remote areas, now need to use turf any more.