The tales and trails of Turraun, a born-again wetland
Under a gray March morning sky in the Irish Midlands, I met Cathy Kerwin for a walk. We followed a sometimes submerged path around a wetland called Terraun. Terraun is near where Cathy lives and she often incorporates it into her morning strolls with her Husky-Border Collie, Jaxson.
The history of Terraun is an interesting one that includes a long life as a bog, followed by many generations of peat harvesting schemes, and finishes with the present, when it is finding new life as a born-again wetland.
Fifty years ago, it would’ve been unthinkable to take a morning walk at Terraun. It would’ve been stripped bare of vegetation so that large machinery could scrape peat from its surface. Today, Terraun is part of the Lough Boora Discovery Park. The park is a post-industrial peatland converted to public amenity with many miles of trails. It is set in a much larger landscape of drained bogs where peat extraction is ongoing and much of the peat soil remains drained.
As we walked, we passed over bare, black areas of dried out peat as well as many soggier places that have recolonized with wetland trees, grasses and other water-loving plants.
This type of place is a relatively new landscape for Ireland, an industrially harvested peatland encouraged back into a wetland. As Ireland grapples with the carbon emissions from their drained peatlands, it may be a landscape that is increasingly common if they choose to re-wet land to slow carbon emissions from the bare soil.
The entry sign at Terraun trails gives an inkling of all the tales the land could tell. It traces the beginning of large scale peat extraction back to the 1850s. In that stage of its mining, Terraun’s sphagnum peat moss was stripped from the top of the bog to use as horse bedding by the British Army, the sign says.
The most recent industrial harvest of Terraun’s peat was carried out by the semi-state Irish company Bord na Móna. Of all the re-wetted land in the Lough Boora Discovery Park, Terraun was the first to be exhausted of peat and left to recolonize more than 25 years ago. Today in the park, Terraun is the place that has had the longest opportunity to recover some flora and fauna. The entry sign stated that more than 110 bird species and 270 plant species have been recorded on the site.