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Published: 29 January 2022

By Andy Ross

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The Peat Project

Peat historically was important for heating and cooking, not just in Shetland but in many parts of the world. 

Nowadays peat is being considered even more important because it is a carbon-sequester and, if harvested for domestic use, can be completely sustainable. Peat grows a millimetre a year in Shetland so, a metre down into a peat bank is rather like digging back to Viking times! If the peat is harvested so that the bank is not cut down to bedrock and the topmost layers are replaced after cutting then it can regenerate. Restoration is also successful in bringing back degraded landscapes.  It has given the islands a characteristic look with old peat banks edging parks and fields, while newer ones reveal sharp lines and neat "walls" of drying peat brickettes. 

The new project, run by Kate Lonsdale in Yell, is in two stages - the first with Primary children and the second with the community. The first part will teach children about the importance of peat and encourage new thinking through drawing, writing and conversation about the resource so that it can be protected for the future. The second is about exploring the diversity of colours and textures of the peat in the islands to create a new textile. All the information, stories, poems, art and designs will be used to create a booklet, and we plan that a larger project will be delivered across the islands in future.