Ancient History

Lindow Moss is a raised mire peat bog. Its origins date back to the last Ice Age. When the glaciers were melting the gravel sand and clay was carried from the Pennines and deposited on the Cheshire plains.

The resultant wetlands saw weeds, algae, mosses etc. thrive and, in time, peat formed which eventually sustained trees.  The trees' leaves and needles choked water supplies and killed flora at ground level with the result that the trees themselves died and were, in time, covered by more and more peat. And so the bog came into being. An unwelcoming place for animal life - including humans.

Traces of ancient Britons have been located in the area whilst the Celts would possibly have settled here - maybe taking refuge from invading Romans. "Lindow Man", whose body was found in 1984 (see separate section)  is believed to have lived in this era.

Middle Ages to Victorian Times 

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the landless and poor would have been forced to live as "Bog Warriors" on this unpromising land, away from Wilmslow-proper

Some of the Moss was enclosed in the 1770s whilst the area was finally surveyed in the mid 1800s and then divided amongst local landowners.

Traversing the bog has been treacherous over the years with some pathways gradually constructed by putting layers of wood and vegetation onto the boggy surface - people and animals have fallen off these tracks to their deaths.

There have been fires over the years as the peat has ignited - often due to man's carelessness.

It is understood that gypsies inhabited the area since the Middle Ages - some just transiting through whilst others settled more permanently. Locations used included Strawberry lane, Greaves Road and the top of Moor Lane. The site of Lindow Common (prior to being turned into public common land in 1897) was used for gypsy horse trading and what is now Racecourse Road was used to put the horses through their paces.

The bog extended to 1500 acres at its peak but by the mid 1800's was only half of this and the figure now is only 150 acres as suburban sprawl and peat extraction have taken a heavy toll.

The 1850's saw the Crimean War being fought and volunteers rifle butts were developed at Lindow Moss for firearms training. This is where the Riflemans Arms pub (rebuilt in 1938) on Moor Lane got its name whilst Rotherwood Road (which runs through the bog) was once named Battery Lane.

Volunteers returning after the campaign in 1856 were often shell-shocked and ridden with diseases laced with stigma. Some eked-out a living on the Moss - on the edge of society both physically and metaphorically.

In the early 1900's many Irish workers came over to work on cutting the peat. Sany Lane, off Greaves Road, became the centre of the local drinking scene until the Boddington Arms was constructed. Sandy Lane developed the nickname "Long Bar" and was very much frowned upon by "polite society". The last of the bog dwellings was demolished in the early 1970's and now it takes considerable detective work to deduce where they once stood.

Recent history

Over the past century the Moss has been under attack from suburban development and peat extraction, reducing the area to a tenth of its original 600 hectare size.

Croghan Peat Industries Ltd of Meare, Somerset purchased the Moss in 1997-8. The owners also own E.J. Godwin (Peat Industries) Ltd of Meare.

Saltersley Common Preservation Society (SCPS) was set-up in response to local concerns about the company's proposed activities and the impact on the local hydrology and wildlife. It forced Cheshire County Council (CCC) to insist on an Environmental Statement (ES) in 1997. This was work was contracted to Terraqueous, coincidentally also based in Meare.

Terraqueous called in The Environmental Consultancy of the University of Sheffield (ECUS). They reported that 'the impact of the further deeper workings…. will almost certainly be to lower water table levels in the regional acquifer'. ECUS then proposed various mitigation measures.

Croghan objected to the finding and were allowed by Cheshire County Council (CCC) to bring in a second opinion - which in most aspects agreed with ECUS.

Croghan, meanwhile, went on to submit a planning application in 1999 to build 90 houses on the Moss. When the application was rejected, the process to continue extraction proceeded.

Eventually, in 2003, a Planning Decision Notice permitting extraction was issued by CCC containing 51 conditions to protect the hydrology, flora and fauna - especially the rare water voles. (click here to view: Planning Decision ). In a letter dated 2 May 2003 CCC stated 'once the conditions become valid the County Council will be seeking to rigorously enforce compliance' (CCC Letter May 2003)

In August 2005, after evidence collection and lobbying by SCPS, Croghan Peat were prosectuted by CCC and fined £700 plus legal fees of £5175 having admitted to breaching an order that forbids digging in established drains and ditches.

Terraqueous called in a company called Biota to prepare and submit the Water Vole Protection Scheme. Unfortunately, whatever Biota recommended appears to be inadequate as evidenced by the lowering of the water table.

As of 2009 the Nature Reserve Protection Scheme is incomplete. The Settling Pond Design and Sluice Control Structure have not been started, nor have parts of the Hydrological Code of Good Practice. The measuring of the water table was finally implemented in 2007. As a result of the delays it is estimated that the water table has dropped up to five feet, with disastrous results, especially for the water voles, Britain's fastest disappearing mammal.

Digging was still taking place earlier this year where evidence of water voles was found last year.. Communication with CCC in May 2008 revealed that sluice control would not installed for the time-being so as "to protect the water vole habitat". SCPS pointed out that without water there is no water vole habitat!

Another indication of how the water table has dropped is the recent fire that raged for three days destroying 150,000 sq ft of peat bog taking the lives of many protected wildlife species. Previous fires were easily put out as the peat was waterlogged. One wonders how much this fire cost the Cheshire Council tax payer.

The peat being extracted from Lindow Moss appears to be of little commercial value yet it continues to be excavated to the great detriment of the area.

One wonders why this is so - speculation that Croghan's are holding out for a windfall from a property development would seem to have credence based on the experience of 1999.

In late 2008 there were rumblings of a new submission via firm called r-gen Development, for 30 "eco homes" in 2009. This has failed to materialise - perhaps due to the current recession - so peat extraction continues.

Why CCC (now Cheshire East Council) who have not 'rigorously enforced' the conditions they themselves introduced is open to question.

A question worth asking is: "Is Lindow Moss being sacrificed in an attempt to make money through residential development while a valuable wildlife, archaeological and historical site could be lost to the nation forever?"

"What remains of Lindow Moss, the peat bog flora and fauna it has supported for thousands of years is in its death throes. It is dying from dessication".

 

Fact file/Further Information

  • It takes approximately 100 years to create one metre of peat.
  • Lindow Peat Bog goes to a depth of about 30 metres and is a perfect carbon record of that environment over the last 4-5,000 years.
  • Lindow Man (a.k.a. Lindow Pete) was found on April 19, 1984 and was dated to 200AD, since then excavations have gone deeper and have currently exposed a Bronze Age forest where tree roots face upwards.
  • The bog started life as a Scot's pine forest and was "drowned" by a rising water table which eventually receded leaving an acidic environment which turned to moss then to peat.
  • Peat bogs store Carbon Dioxide and are a very useful tool against the Greenhouse Effect.

Click here to view a film of the history and threats to the Moss made in 2011:

Lindow Moss Film

Report prepared by Tony Evans of the Saltersley Common Preservation Society.

 

 

 

For further reading we recommend a purchase of "Lindow and the Bog Warriors" by Matthew Hyde and Christine Pemberton (Rex Publishing, 2002). This can be obtained by sending a cheque for £16.50 (£14 plus £2.50 mainland UK P&P) to payable to Rex Publishing, 32A Sunnybank Drive, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 6DY. Call 01625 529168 for more details.