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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.

Mosses and Marshes book cover

Explore the site to find out more 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:

Latest from the Blog

Journey to the Centre of the Moss

Keith Ashford and Elizabeth Turner are Shropshire-based artists who have worked together to create sculptures, sited in the landscape at a range of different locations across Shropshire, Telford and further afield.  During 2020, we began a conversation about making some work at Fenn’s and Whixall Moss, and we discussed these ideas with Shropshire Wildlife Trust.  We were all excited that the National Lottery funding I secured from Arts Council England would enable these ideas to be turned into reality during 2021.

Wem Youth Club on the Moss

Engaging with the local community is one of the key parts of the Mosses and Marshes project that gives it meaning and brings it to life. I teamed up with artists Kate Johnston and Dr Sue Challis and Shropshire Wildlife Trust for a fabulous collaborative project with Wem Youth Club at Whixall Moss.

Across the Border

During last year, I was contacted by Sheila Birch who said to me that some of my artistic responses to the Mosses resonated with her experience of the landscape.  Although she no longer lives in the area, she still has family connections with Bettisfield and is a regular visitor.  I invited her to recount some of her childhood memories

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