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With a cool and wet climate, Northern Ireland is well suited to the formation of peat bogs. Peat, often called turf in Ireland, is partially decayed organic matter - partly rotted roots, branches, leaves and seeds. There are two main types of peatlands
Ballynahone is an example of a raised bog and, as the photograph shows, is located at the foot of the Glenshane Pass between Maghera, Tobermore and Castledawson, just north of the Moyola River.
While both types of bog make up 12% of the land area of Northern Ireland (about 170,000 hectares), there are 25,000 hectares of lowland raised bog. However much of this has been damaged by reclamation for agriculture and by turf extraction. Only 9% of lowland raised bogs in Northern Ireland are intact today. Peatlands began their growth after the last Ice Age had finished in Ireland, about 10,000 years ago and have been extensive since 7000 years before the present. The preservation within the peat of plant remains, particularly minute pollen grains, allows scientists to examine how the plants in Ireland developed over that time as the peat bogs grew.
The surface of raised bogs is made up of hummocks, hollows and pools, each of which supports a diverse range of plants and animals. Sphagnum moss
This raised bog has a large area of peat which is mostly undisturbed - the uncut portion of the dome is about 100 hectares making it the second largest area of uncut lowland raised bog in Northern Ireland.
In 1979 a producer of peat for horticulture opened a factory (with government aid) and leased two bogs in Ballynahone More townland. In 1987 there was an application for planning permission to extract peat by milling from Ballynahone, Mullagh and Knocnakielt. In 1988, despite objections raised against the scheme, the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland granted Planning Permission to the company. In 1990 the Ulster Wildlife Trust sent out a Press release inviting members to "... take their last walk on an Ulster Bog - now that the fight to retain its ancient flora and fauna has been lost". This walk drew in people from the surrounding area, a public meeting was held and the Friends of the Ballynahone Bog (FBB) were launched.
In 1991 the peat development company dug 13 miles of drains on the southern half of Ballynahone Bog threatening the plants of the raised bog. In 1993 FBB started the process of declaring Ballynahone Bog a National Nature Reserve. After pressure from Professor David Bellamy and Friends of the Earth, planning permission was revoked and the government announced their intention of declaring the bog an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI). In December of 1993, the peat company dammed the drains it had cut in the bog with about 1700 dams helping to maintain the height of the water table. In January 1995 Ballynahone Bog was declared an ASSI by the Environment and Heritage Service. FBB are now in partnership with the Ulster Wildlife Trust to try to reverse the damage done to the bog to encourage the revival of the specialized bog plants, such as the sundew pictured here by Maurice Todd,and the wildlife such as insects and birds which depend upon them.
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