Reflecting on a changing environment

Welcome to this site, created by artist, Andrew Howe, to bring together a series of walks, conversations, narratives and artworks made with others in response to the fascinating landscape of the Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield NNR and the environmental issues it faces.

World Wetlands Day 2021

Building a link with the Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales by working with artist, Kim V. Goldsmith, the Mosses and Marshes project will put the changing environments of two of the world’s internationally recognised wetlands are under the microscope in an exciting collaboration between artists, land managers and environmental specialists in the UK and Australia. Exhibitions, a publication and public events get underway from mid-2021. Click on link above to preview video

Kim V. Goldsmith & Andrew Howe, The Tone of Things, HD video with sound, due: 0’33”
A taste of what’s to come, The Tone of Things is a video and sound mix layering handmade paper made from the reeds of Whixall Moss (UK) with underwater footage from the reedbeds of the Macquarie Marshes (AU), accompanied by tones generated in post-production from field recordings captured on both sites, atmospheric sounds from the wetlands, and hydroacoustics of water plants with their roots deep in the mud. Click on link above to preview video

Explore the site to find out about the projects’ activities and how you can get involved.

The Mosses

The National Nature Reserve (NNR) straddles the Anglo-Welsh border in North Shropshire and Wrexham. It is Britain’s third largest lowland raised bog, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a European Special Area of Conservation, and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

It formed about 9,000 years ago, after glaciers retreated leaving a melt-water lake which became populated by swamp and fen plants, and Sphagnum moss. This acidified the groundwater, stopping plant decay and allowing peat to form a large dome.

Draining of the land to aid construction of the canal and railway and then commercial extraction of peat during the 19th and 20th Centuries, right up to the 1990s, resulted in the collapse of the raised dome.

Since Natural England and Natural Resources Wales acquired the centre of the Mosses as a NNR in 1990, they have been restoring conditions to regenerate the bog, by clearing woodlands and blocking drainage.

What are the issues?

Peat bogs are a vital carbon sink, since once it is cut, this carbon is released into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.

The Mosses wetland habitats support rare species of birds, invertebrates, small mammals and plants. The biodiversity of these ecosystems is thriving but must face up to the threat of climate change.

Humans have lived in and depended on the land in the NNR and surrounding area for millennia. The interdependent relationships between humans, the land and its ecosystems continue to shift and re-balance.

What is the future for the Mosses and what can this tell us about the future for humankind?

Artist projects

Many visitors are inspired by the wild and intriguing landscape of the Mosses . It is a place offering different viewpoints and opportunities for artists and writers to explore for individual or collaborative projects. Andrew Howe has been creating his own work in response to walks on the Mosses for some time and aims to be a catalyst for others to make and share their own responses to the landscape. This may include:

  • Collaborations with other artists
  • Artist residencies
  • Engagement projects with schools and community groups
  • Exhibitions and artist talks
  • Walks, events and workshop activities

The collaboration with Kim V. Goldsmith, and her work at the Macquairie Marshes in New South Wales, Australia, is an exciting project putting the Mosses into a global context. Learn more about the artists:

If you have something to share, interested in arranging or attending an event or wish to discuss an idea with Andrew please get in touch.

Latest from the Blog

Tracing Human history across the Moss

Most visitors to the Fenn’s Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses today, will be coming to enjoy the Nature Reserve and to look for wildlife or simply get some fresh air and exercise, but few can escape noticing the physical traces in the landscape and interpretation boards which tell the story of human involvement on the Mosses over many centuries. It is this aspect, the evolving relationship that humans have with the wetlands, that really intrigues me.

Mosses and Marshes project comes to life

After almost two years of research and discussion, the Mosses and Marshes project was officially launched on World Wetlands Day, February 2nd 2021 with preview videos of some of the preliminary work that Kim V. Goldsmith and I have been creating together.

Being with the Landscape

How would we describe the experience of seeing and being in this wetland landscape? It is not a place of classically dramatic views and spectacular rock formations. It is not particularly a place with natural physical challenges for the adventurous outdoor enthusiast. Yet there are challenges, perhaps more psychological than physical. Its charms are more understated, but no less impressive.

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