Moss of Many Layers Film

By Juliet Klottrup

Juliet Klottrup was one of the five artists who worked as part of the team on the Moss of Many Layers project – here’s the film she made after months of research. Click the link and enjoy – it’s a 15-minute watch.

The film now features in the COP26 Virtual Peat Pavillion – visit it there and find out more about peat, mires, mosses and bogs across the world.

An image of the virtual peat pavillion at COP26

To find out more about the project, and the extraordinary Bolton Fell Moss National Nature Reserve, visit the project page here.

Wide Open day at Bolton Fell Moss

What a day on Monday to celebrate Bolton Fell Moss and the work that’s been done through the Moss of Many Layers project. We were blessed with dry weather for the walk, and the buzz continued in Hethersgill Village Hall afterwards.

A group of people gathered in a car park before heading out on a walk

We were quite astounded with the uptake of tickets for the walk – more than seventy people came along. We separated into four smaller groups, each led by two members of the Moss of Many Layers team who shared insights about the bog.

Huge thanks to everyone who came along – in each group there were people who had never been here before, as well as people who have connections with this place, so there was a lot to be shared, including stories of working here during the bog’s time as a site of peat extraction, or of working on restoration tasks, surveying and conservation. The children shared their own stories and the knowledge they’ve gained during the past year and were able to show others the peat ‘bunds’ they had created, which are now holding water, ready for sphagnum mosses to become established.

In the hall there was plenty of time for people to chat and find out more about Bolton Fell Moss and about the Moss of Many Layers project. People arrived who hadn’t joined the walk, it was a real pleasure to meet so many people who live locally and have their own connections with the bog. There is a lot of pride in this wonderful place!

The ‘star’ of the show was the peat core, which at more than 8-metres long took pride of place. Other work on display included Helen’s beautiful map; a series of portrait images taken by Rob, to share the faces and stories of people connected with this place; artwork from Shankhill Primary School children and young people from William Howard School who have worked with Anne; information about the Moss put together by Emma; a set of poetry written by Harriet; and a drone and GPS tracking devices that the scientists have been using for their research. And Juliet’s film had its premier with back to back screenings.

As with most gatherings, the party extended into the kitchen, and around the wonderful ‘Moss of Many Layers’ cake.

The best way to tell the story is through some images of the day. A digital collection of the work that’s been produced will be coming in due course, and we’ll be sharing the film as well. Watch this space!

A cake decorated to look like Bolton Fell Moss, a recovering peat bog. The train in the foreground carried peat in the days of extraction, in the background the cake is green
Every event deserves a good cake

To find out more about the Moss of Many Layers project and the team, visit this page.

a young child looking at a fern through a magnifying lens

hand in hand

Working with young people: Reflections from Anne Waggot Knott


Let’s burrow and borrow,

hand in hand, for tomorrow.


a child's hands squidging a lump of wet peat_creditAWK

The crux of the Moss of Many Layers project has always been about facilitating a deeper connection between the community and Bolton Fell Moss, more than just visiting the bog and creating work inspired by our visits. Reflecting on our engagement with young people, I think we’ve achieved a rich and profound process of exchange and reciprocity, of sharing and balance, between the students and the bog itself. Not just sharing information and ideas, but a tangible, physical, corporeal exchange.

The students have contributed their time, their minds, their hands and their handiwork. They committed a level of bravery; physical and mental exposure to this unpredictable, new environment and its elements. They’ve been listening and looking and trusting and digging and pushing and probing deep into the peat itself, getting dirt behind their nails, and (literally, in some cases!) immersing themselves the bog. They planted restorative species, putting something back into the landscape, a physical symbol of their involvement.

In return, Bolton Fell Moss has given back to them. As new ambassadors and stewards for this valuable place, they have watched it change through the seasons and they carry with them fresh knowledge and understanding from the land. The bog also gave up pieces of flora and fauna to take away and use in their artwork.

a young child looking at a fern through a magnifying lens

Building relationships

Foraging forces a slow, vigilant journey in the landscape. Through the careful acts of identifying, collecting, handling, protecting and transporting their finds, students developed a sense of ownership and responsibility for these tiny fragments. Their pride was evident in producing their foraged items back in the art room, examining them repeatedly and becoming familiar with the detail. This physical contact with the plantlife over a period of time, this guardianship and forensic examination, cements and reinforces a relationship, like hugging or holding hands.

Prior to industrial peat extraction, bogs were similarly part of the community as domestic sources of foraged foodstuffs. People picked berries, fungi and medicinal plants, and enjoyed a familiarity with their peat landscapes. It’s satisfying to have catalysed an intimate, tactile relationship between the bog and people once again. I like to think of the students’ work as a collective portrait of the bog, personifying and celebrating it as we would a prominent member of the family. We’ve welcomed it as part of the community again.

Letting things happen

I had very fluid expectations of these creative sessions. Although structured, I’ve assumed a broad acceptance of whatever the students and the bog bring to the table on the day. The act of making has proved fruitful as a vehicle for continued, pressure-free conversation and discussion. As we drew and stuck and printed, we’ve created so many opportunities for holistic conversations, anchored in the bog but relevant to the climate emergency and the way we use our natural resources. The students have enjoyed an opportunity to manifest their findings in a personal way, playing to their own strengths, reaching their own conclusions, and processing their experience with no judgement or assessment.

Art, science and community

I think we’ve also helped to embed the idea, early and subconsciously, that science and art don’t sit separately. And that this is a generation of connected, multidisciplinary young people who are broad, creative, confident, analytical thinkers, capable of bringing great breadth and depth to future environmental research and policymaking.

Artists and scientists work in similar ways: we research, experiment, create outcomes, disseminate and evaluate. From my perspective, Moss of Many Layers exemplifies the successful intertwining of approaches and processes, with funded time and space for experimentation. It has created a basis for triangulating art, science and community around our protected landscapes. It’s encouraging to see many more research and engagement projects take this approach as a matter of course, recognising the value of embedding artists and scientists in relationship with our natural world, hand-in-hand.

a child's hands holding the root ball of a plant
a child's bright collagraph print of a butterfly

Find out more: the NERC-funded Moss of Many Layers project.

Film still: Simon Carr on Bolton Fell Moss

Restoration Joy

A quick post with a short piece of ad-hoc filming at Bolton Fell Moss back in December 2021. Dr Simon Carr, PhD student Jack Brennand and Natural England Senior Reserves Manager Emma Austin share their delight in the progress that’s being made. Looking over some of the peat milling fields, they explain what we can see. Restoration work has included the creation of bunds, where peat has been moved to re-profile the land so that water can begin to settle.

Slowly, mosses and grasses will begin to colonise but all this happens much more quickly with a little help. Jane Barker of Barker and Bland has been critical in this process, and some of the restoration work on Bolton Fell Moss has involved adding sphagnum moss and cotton grass back to the bare surface of the peat.

More about this process, the way peat works, and what’s needed to restore damaged peatlands, will be shared on the Wide Open Day, and in the work that Rob and Juliet are creating with their photographs and film.

For more on the team, see this page here.

Art piece: Determined Pasts (iii) by Anne Wagott Knott

Determined Pasts

blog by Anne WagGot Knott

Determined Pasts (iv) by Anne Waggot Knott

Pitted metal, sinking, taking its stories down. Broken remnants of an excavation that shattered our bonds with this earth.

And now we pit ourselves against the tide of time, to build a fire once more. Our fingers and minds picking and unpicking, scratching and collecting.


In order to get on with designing forward-looking schools activities I felt a strong need to first make some work about the industrial past of Bolton Fell Moss. This is enabling me to consider and process the history of the site, freeing myself to move on in my creative mind.

Art piece: Determined Pasts (iii) by Anne Wagott Knott

Often we only understand a place in the context of what we can see there now, but the now is built on layers and layers of history. To understand a place more fully, we need to go back in time. This is particularly true of a peat bog.

I anchored Determined pasts around rusted metal fragments scavenged from the peat bog, left behind when the peat excavation came to an end. I think I have coined a new term: peatcombing.  A Google search for the word reports that “it looks like there aren’t many great matches for your search”, which is a rare and rather lovely thing to read.

I embellished these industrial remnants of peat excavation with waxed linen, a natural, malleable material. The colours of the thread are inspired by field visits to the bog, evident in the flora and fauna and the huge sky it shares with all of us.

Determined Pasts (i) artpiece by Anne Waggot Knott

By weaving the colours of a bright future around the redundant machinery parts I am wrapping up the destructive, invasive history, swathing and choking it with our newfound determination, our will to change things for the better. I am packing it away into the past and changing its context, but preserving its memory for a new and thoughtful audience.

Borrowing from ancient craft techniques, like weaving and basketwork, lends these pieces the aesthetic of archaeological relics or talismen. They toy with our recognition of time, seeming older than their rusty components, like trinkets from a pre-mechanised age. They blur the boundary between artworks and artefacts, between gallery pieces and museum exhibits.

And so I look back into the past and forward to the future. Understanding the long, deep passage of time, well beyond our own generation, is crucial in our quest to protect and nurture our peatbog environments.

Anne is one of the PLACE collective artists working on Moss of Many Layers. As part of her work, she is running creative activities with young people from nearby schools, helping them enjoy and engage with Bolton Fell Moss, a peat bog in north east Cumbria. The bog has been intensively excavated and depleted, the peat extracted for compost over a number of years, resulting in severe degradation. It is now a National Nature Reserve, and is being slowly restored.

Determined Pasts (ii) by Anne Wagott Knott