a reserve of 42 acres in size. Its principal feature is a small raised
mire with a typical dome-shaped profile. Such relatively intact mires
are scarce in Fife. Vegetation cover on the centre of the dome is
characteristic of acidic heath with Sphagnum growing in wet areas.
woodland grows on the margins
of the dome.
Rough pasture and mixed woodland are present to the south of the Moss.
The plantation to the south of the Moss is thought to have been planted
between 1893 and 1912. The planting in the east strip was presumably
undertaken in order to provide a shelterbelt.
to the Reserve
Bankhead Moss lies 8km south west of St. Andrews, just to the west of
the village of Peat Inn. It is two miles south east of Pitscottie on
the B940 road from Cupar to Crail.
main access point is from the
opposite to Greigston farm (Grid ref: NO 447106). There is a small car
park at this point. Then follow the signposted walk across the field to
the Reserve. There is now a new boardwalk over the lagg fen. At the end
of the boardwalk turn right and follow the ditch round until a log
bridge is reached. Access to the moss may be gained by crossing the
can also be gained from the
the track from the Peat Inn Hotel to Larennie Farm. Please park to the
north of Larennie Lodge (Grid ref: NO 448098)
care must be taken at
near any ditches. They may not look very deep, or may appear to be easy
to cross due to vegetation growing in them. This is not the case. The
ditches are extremely deep and dangerous and should only be crossed
where there is a sturdy log dam or a bridge. On the surface of the moss
the lint holes are also extremely deep; open water must not be stepped
in. Areas of brightly coloured sphagnum moss should not be walked on;
this is a very thin skin over a very deep hole and can easily be fallen
OUT a copy of this Web page
and take it
with you when you visit the reserve.
There is a small
area of marginal lagg fen on the north
reserve, while the Deschampsia cespitosa dominated area to the west has
a high water table for much of the year and contains come interesting
sedge communities. The water in the lagg fen is relatively
nutrient-rich and plants growing here reflect base-rich conditions and
include meadow sweet, tall grasses, sedges, and flowering herbs such as
ragged robin, marsh marigold, buttercups, and wild angelica.
The top of the peat
dome lies about 2.5m above the
ditch. Trees (mainly birch and pine) grow around the better-drained
margin, but the bog centre is largely open, although tree seedlings,
especially birch, are colonising it, probably a sign of natural drying
out. Control of these young trees by cutting and careful use of
herbicides is carried out.
Look out for
different types of Sphagnum, especially in
depressions or lint-holes, which are artificial, and were used for
retting flax in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also visible in the drier
lint holes are sundews, and dragonflies breed in some of the more open
Elsewhere on the
moss surface are heather, cross leafed
crowberry, bog asphodel, cotton grass, sedges, and lichens such as
Cladonia. All these plants reflect the acidic nature of the peat in
which they grow. This is a species-poor vegetation typical of peat
bogs, and should be contrasted with the lagg vegetation.
On the bog surface,
all plant nutrients are derived from
above, since ground water does not enter the peat from the surrounding
area. This probably also explains why carnivorous plants eg. sundew,
grow in such habitats: they have evolved as insect eaters because their
environment is nutrient poor, and supplementary feeding is beneficial.
The reserve was
established to protect a locally
example of a vulnerable habitat. Its interest is primarily botanical,
and little attention has been paid to the fauna.
In 1975 17 species
of water beetle were recorded,
none were considered to be 'very special'. With this single exception,
no group appears to have received much attention, and there are only
isolated and infrequent notes on file which refer to particular taxa.
Since 1982, sporadic attempts have been made to maintain the population
of the dragonfly Aeshnea juncea by clearing out lint holes and
providing more areas of open water on the reserve. Unfortunately, the
number of individuals recorded appears to have declined markedly in
recent years and there are fears that the population is dying out.
Since 1984, there
have been at least three bird
Records exist only for the first, the results of the others never
having been communicated to the management committee. The scope of the
1984 survey was restricted to the original reserve, ie, the moss and
its immediate surroundings, and 46 species were recorded. The list
includes records of other species noted at various times by other
people. It is probable that relatively few of the birds nest on the
reserve, but little is known about the birds of the reserve or their
Frogs and toads are
present, especially on the marsh.
year, spawn is laid at several points on the reserve, but most of it
fails to survive. The water on and immediately around the moss is
possibly too acidic, and much is laid elsewhere in water bodies that
dry out in late spring, before the tadpoles metamorphose.
No rare or unusual
species of mammal have been noted,
it must be stressed that there are no records relating to the presence
or distribution of small mammals. However, 45 bat boxes were made and
positioned at various points in and around the reserve (around the
circumference of the raised moss) in May, 1993. It is hoped that this
will encourage them to roost, since there are bats nearby, although
they had not been recorded in Peat Inn.
A badger sett on
the reserve was apparently abandoned
(a female was also run over on the road to the west of the Greigston
entrance in April of that year), but some activity was again observed
in April, 1992. Rather surprisingly, squirrels have not been noted.
Some shooting takes
place on adjoining farmland, foxes
considered to be pests, while roe deer are apparently shot for sport on
forestry land to the south.
The fact that the
moss survives at all is probably due
very poor drainage of the area which made intensive agricultural
exploitation difficult. Nevertheless, the moss was known to be
important from the 17th to mid 19th centuries as part of the flax
industry. Flax was cultivated in the surrounding areas, harvested, and
retted in 'lint' holes which were dug in the peat.
The process of
retting separates the fibrous core of the
from the outer sheath, and this is facilitated by the acid condition of
the peaty water (unfortunately, it also discoloured it). Retting on the
moss apparently ceased by 1854, but the lint holes are still very much
in evidence on the moss. The retting activities, in conjunction with
some limited peat cutting, probably caused considerable disturbance to
the moss surface and vegetation.
evidence has been found for the cutting
management of the lint holes. The digging of the holes, and the
regulation of the use of them, must have been either a communal effort,
or a speculative venture by the landowner, the Hopes of Craighall, or
It is not
surprising that the reserve shows much
human use given its location in an intensively farmed area. Both the
Marsh and Larennie field have been cultivated in the past. Indeed, the
Marsh, despite its extreme wet nature, was cultivated by its former
owners during the 1960s, when wheat was grown. Both fields have been
drained and any excavation almost always reveals clay drains. It is
likely that both fields have predominantly been used for rough grazing
by both cattle and sheep and this has certainly been the case in the
Larennie field is
grazed by sheep between the months of
and November. The let for the Marsh extends from early June until
November. This area is grazed by approximately 10 cattle during the
period of the let. There are no other land uses beyond nature
In order to try to
preserve the moss, encroaching birch
being removed from the centre of the reserve.
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