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Take a walk on the wild side

New walk guide for Munsary Peatlands reserve released for International Bog Day

July 24 2015

On International Bog Day, Plantlife Scotland are encouraging the public to take a wilderness walk to its Munsary Peatlands Nature Reserve in Caithness to discover some of the unique peatland wild plant specialities that grow there and to raise awareness of the international significance of this spectacular and rare Scottish habitat.

Munsary is a vast plain of peatland, with endless horizon and huge skies, spreading over 3,058 acres and an incredibly important and large part of the famous Flow Country. The Flow Country contains 4% of the world’s blanket bog habitat which is now critically endangered and is the largest intact peat mass in the UK and Europe, supporting many peatland wild plant species.

Why are peatland habitats like Munsary so important?

Dominated by carpets of colourful bog mosses and cotton grasses, and dotted with bog asphodel, rare sedges, cuckooflower, marsh violet, sundews, common butterwort, marsh cinquefoil and marsh willowherb, peatland is one of our most valuable habitats. The wild plants that thrive on it, in turn, support a range of butterflies, dragonflies and birds, including snipe and curlews, merlins and skylarks. Peatlands also provide us with crucial ‘ecosystem services’, like clean water, and they keep huge amounts of carbon locked up.

What can I see at Munsary?

Davie Black, Plantlife Reserve Manager at Munsary says “Munsary is a vast open natural space and much of the terrain is rough and wild - so being in the peatlands here you can really feel the wild qualities of this unique Scottish landscape. It is just you, the sky, the wind and the acres of heather...until you start looking more closely and realising just what lies amongst the heather and mosses and in and around the ditches".

Restoration has been undertaken over the past 10 years to improve the conservation status of the peatland at Munsary, through a programme of ditch blocking and vegetation monitoring, to check how the peatland recovers from decades of sheep grazing and the impact of tree planting. Look out for the old stone sheep pens in the inbye and scattered across the bog. Visitors will be able to follow signage along a purpose built track to the reserve - important so visitors don't stray and damage the fragile habitat surrounding the track or get bogged down!