A project exploring the archaeology and ecology of peatlands through visual art and poetry

Peatlands are rich yet dangerous. They repel and beguile, appal and enchant. Their liminality creates a space for wonder, for imagination, and perhaps even, for hope

Giles et al, introduction to PEAT (2022)

The ‘Peat: Past, Present and Future’ project was developed by Prof Melanie Giles with Anke Bernau and Joanne Tippett at the University of Manchester, funded by the University of Manchester Interdisciplinary Research Institute. The project was designed to explore the myriad worlds of peatlands: their archaeology, ecology, and myths, but also their restoration and future in an uncertain world. A series of workshops explored the past, present and future of peatlands, bringing together researchers and practitioners from a host of different disciplines. The project team also began collaborations with a peatland research network based at the University of Glasgow, where conversations continue to grow in the rich ground of peat.

Rose was commissioned to make a pair of collages that explored the ideas, sites and imagery associated with peatlands through time. As with Vestiges these images were designed to be stand-alone artworks as well as illustrations for a collection of poetry. Rose created Peopled Peat and Dynamic Earth using painted collage. Peopled Peat explores the traces and effects of people on and in peatlands through time; from archaeological finds and sites layered and nested in those wet worlds, to drainage and restoration. Dynamic Earth explores the many scales of intersecting cycles of life at play in peatlands. Rose drew on her work as archaeologist on peatland recovery projects for the South West Peatland Partnership in Exmoor National Park, as well as ongoing work around archaeology and nature recovery with the National Trust.

A host of inspiring poets were invited to create new work that explored the past, present and future of peatlands: Madeleine And, James Caruth, Liz Ellis, Abigail Flint, Melanie Giles, Rebecca Hurst, John McAuliffe, Richard Skelton, Jos Smith, Emily Topliss, Christine Roseeta Walker and John Wedgwood Clarke. The poems were brought together in PEAT – a book edited by Melanie Giles and illustrated by Rose. The book was designed by Rose and Luke Thompson. There are still copies of the book available – please contact Melanie Giles.