Peat has been exploited on Dartmoor for centuries, both for domestic use and as a commercial product. In the 19th century, there were several attempts to produce peat on an industrial scale, but these were ultimately unsuccessful. The last commercial peat works on Dartmoor closed in the 1950s.
Domestic use of peat
Peat was traditionally used on Dartmoor as a fuel for cooking and heating. It was also used to make turfs, which were used to thatch roofs and to build walls. Peat was a valuable resource for people living on Dartmoor, as it was a renewable source of fuel that was readily available.
Commercial peat production
In the 19th century, there were several attempts to produce peat on an industrial scale on Dartmoor. The first commercial peat works was opened in 1830 at Rattlebrook Head, near Meldon. This works produced peat for use in horticulture and as a fuel for steam engines.
Other commercial peat works were opened in the 19th century at Amicombe Hill, Walkham Head, and Zeal Tor. However, all of these works were closed by the end of the century. The reasons for the closure of these works are complex, but they include the high cost of transporting peat, the competition from other fuels, and the environmental damage caused by peat extraction.
The end of the peat industry
The last commercial peat works on Dartmoor closed in the 1950s. The reasons for the closure of this works are similar to those that led to the closure of the earlier works. However, the closure of this works also coincided with a growing awareness of the environmental damage caused by peat extraction.
Peat bogs are important ecosystems that play a vital role in storing carbon, filtering water, and providing habitats for wildlife. Peat extraction can damage these ecosystems and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a result, there is now a strong consensus that peat extraction should be avoided wherever possible.
The future of peat on Dartmoor
The peat industry on Dartmoor is now a thing of the past. However, peat bogs still play an important role in the Dartmoor landscape. These ecosystems are now being restored in an effort to mitigate climate change and to protect wildlife.
If you are interested in learning more about peat on Dartmoor, there are several resources available. The Dartmoor National Park Authority has a website with information about peat bogs and their importance. The South West Peatland Partnership is also a good source of information about peat restoration.