How peat bogs helped heal wartime casualties

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Local researchers have uncovered a series of surprising discoveries that will be presented at a special event to be held in Sheffield from 4 Cinema. Because of generous sponsorship, the price is only £10 per person including food, refreshments and the proceedings.

With due deference to Leo Tolstoy, the conference is intriguingly called War & Peat and covers a wide range of aspects of moors, bogs, heaths and fens, from their contributions to the wartime efforts in WW1 and WW2, to the importance of wetlands, heaths and bogs in the arena of war as battlefields and especially as defensive landscapes. However, there are also presentations of the battles both for access to the moors, and then to save the remaining peat bogs. This is an event with something for everyone, and it will appeal to all those interested in local history and heritage, and to anyone involved in education about moors or about history more generally.

We have leading international scholars presenting, but the event will be accessible to everyone. Indeed, we want people to come along (though pre-booking is essential), with memories and memorabilia such as a local family whose grandma helped collect sphagnum moss to bind wartime wounds when she was a nurse at Longshaw, or another, now elderly, lady who as a schoolgirl spent her lunch breaks out collecting sphagnum to help the wounded. At Thorne Moors, the cutting of peat to provide horse litter was vital to the WW1 frontline powered by thousands of horses. Moors and bogs around western Sheffield with their Iron Age hill-forts trace military presence across millennia.

In modern times, they were used as military training grounds and during WW2 as decoy areas to protect the vital steel industry in the city. Moors and heaths provided the sites for airfields for the Battle of Britain and the strikes against Nazi Germany. There also, famously, are the last resting places of aircraft and crews that crashed on Kinder Scout and Bleaklow in the uplands, and Thorne Moors in the lowlands. This is a tragic history, which should not be forgotten. In Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, commons, heaths, and fens were turned to use as airfields; some still surviving today. Around Sherwood, the famous heaths of old Sherwood Forest became military training grounds, and in WW2 Clumber Park was a transit and camouflaged storage site for tanks.

All this and more will be discussed as we investigate this remarkable hidden or forgotten heritage. Full details and booking forms are on our website below, or telephone 0114 2724227 or info@hallamec.plus.com. There will also be more information on my blog next week so do check that as well. Above all, come along and find out.

n Professor Ian D Rotherham, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues, is contactable on ianonthewildside@ukeconet.co.uk; follow Ian’s Walk on the Wildside, www.ukeconet.org for more information.