Bog Snorkelling - The Lowdown
What is Bog Snorkelling?
Bog snorkelling is a sporting event that consists of competitors completing two consecutive lengths of a 60-yard (55m) water filled drain cut through a peat bog, in the shortest time possible wearing a snorkel, mask and flippers without using any conventional swimming strokes. Wet suits are not compulsory, but are usually worn.
The sport of bog snorkelling started in 1985 near Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys, mid Wales.
Why Bog Snorkelling?
After seeing this crazy sport on TV, Colin Gates, Assistant Warden and event organiser at Peatlands Park thought it would be a fun way to raise awareness about our bog lands and their unique beauty and biodiversity, and to highlight the threatened plight of peat bogs – 96% of which have been destroyed since 1945 – and what people can do to preserve them.
So in 2005 the first Northern Ireland Bog Snorkelling Championships took place at Peatlands Park. It tied in nicely with the already popular International Bog Day, an annual event held on the last Sunday in July, designed to celebrate the beauty of bogs and to help make people more aware of peatlands and the threats they face.
A peatland is simply an area where peat is found. It will consist of a layer of peat at the surface which has accumulated naturally over thousands of years.
Peat, or turf, as it is often referred to in Ireland, is a type of soil that contains a high amount of dead organic matter, mainly plants that have accumulated over thousands of years. It takes approximately a staggering 10 years for 1cm of peat to form! Through analysis of the soil, the types of plants that grew, died and accumulated to form a piece of peat can be discovered.
Even within somewhere as small as Northern Ireland different types of peatlands have developed due to varying conditions of climate, soil type and plant species. The variations in our peatlands can include the plants that grow there, the colour and composition of the peat, the water content and the amount of nutrients the peat contains.
The wet conditions characteristic of peatlands are unfavourable for certain animal groups, but provide ideal conditions for others, especially those with an aquatic phase in their life cycle, such as dragonflies. The limited range of bog plants limits the diversity of plant-eating animals (herbivores), while the lack of nutrients such as calcium can limit the amount of vertebrates and shelled molluscs. Invertebrates such as beetles, moths and dragonflies are better adapted to the conditions and many are resident throughout the year. Few mammal species, apart from the Irish hare and the red deer, are permanent residents of peatland. The lack of predators and human disturbance makes some peatlands ideal for birds to nest and bring up their chicks. The abundance of insects, spiders and frogs, plus the amount of nutritious vegetation and berries provides food for several species.
To learn more about peatlands - including their types and distribution, wildlife and plants, conservation, education opportunities, and sites you can visit - see here.
Below are just a few ideas of peatland areas you can visit in Northern Ireland.
Places To Visit
Peatlands Park, close to the southern shores of Lough Neagh, was the first of its type in the British Isles and was specifically established to promote and facilitate peatland awareness and issues.
Situated at the foothills of the Sperrins, An Creagán is distinctively designed to mirror the archaeological sites of the area and give you the opportunity to step back in time. It also offers archaeological, environmental and cultural tours.
Cuilcagh is a well established location for hillwalkers with an established network of trails that lead you in and around the Mountain Park. If reaching the summit is not for you, venturing someway into the park using one of the walking routes will give you a taste of the beauty that can be found there.
The Cuilcagh Way is a waymarked 20 miles/33km route. The more popular Legnabrocky section, which will bring you to the summit and back and offers stunning views of the area is linear walk 9miles/15km which takes around 5 hours