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Andrew Painting

From Wasteland to Wild Land: The Flow Country When we think of wild land, most of us will think of the mountains, the Caledonian woodlands, the islands. Yet it is the vast bogs of the Flow Country which are perhaps Scotland’s true wilderness, and which, on a global scale, are our most important area of wild land. I first discovered the Flows in 2014, when I spent a cold wet midgey summer helping with the ecological monitoring programme at RSPB’s Forsinard nature reserve. After five years of working in London, it was a tonic. It was the place where I learned that the land is not placed here for our enjoyment, but must be understood on its own terms. I studied black-throated divers, common scoters, greenshanks, golden plovers, some of our rarest Golden plover. Photo Andrew Painting

A walkway on the peat Photo James Fenton

birds. I learned that the peat accumulates over thousands of years, as sphagnum moss slowly decomposes. I probed the peat, finding areas ten metres deep, which had been slowly growing since the last Ice Age. I was told that the peat in this vast area contained the same amount of carbon as a century’s worth of Scotland’s emissions. There is really only one landscape in Scotland that truly deserves to be called ‘vast’. It is the Flow Country, the watery wild bogs of Sutherland and Caithness. Covering around 1,600 square miles, they are the largest area of blanket bog in Europe – one of the world’s rarest habitats. Here, there are few large hills. Instead, long straths give way to uplands which are literally


Profile for Scottish Wild Land Group

Summer 2019 issue of the Scottish Wild Land Group's magazine, Wild Land News.  

Summer 2019 issue of the Scottish Wild Land Group's magazine, Wild Land News.  

Profile for swlg