An aerial view of a moorland landscape.
View eastwards over Five Barrows Hill, Exmoor National Park, Devon, taken January 2017 by Damian Grady. © Historic England Archive. Image reference 33021_024.
View eastwards over Five Barrows Hill, Exmoor National Park, Devon, taken January 2017 by Damian Grady. © Historic England Archive. Image reference 33021_024.

Peatlands

Peatlands preserve unique archaeological and palaeoecological records, are living historic landscapes, and are part of our biocultural heritage. Peat deposits are important archives of past human activities and environments, often forming over thousands of years. As such, they are a finite, irreplaceable resource. The waterlogged conditions that characterise peatlands result in the exceptional preservation of natural and cultural organic remains.

Managing peatlands for everyone

As well as preserving evidence of peoples’ past livelihoods and the impact of their actions on the environment around them, peatlands are important carbon stores and support a rich biodiversity. The management of peatlands requires both careful consideration of these different values and close collaboration between the natural environment and historic environment sectors.

Understanding and recording peatlands

Although peatlands are rich in heritage and archaeology, much of this is unknown, hidden and/or unrecorded. As peatlands are increasingly at risk of loss or change, from direct and indirect threats, it is important that deposits and heritage assets are recorded and understood before they are lost forever.

Historic England Guidance

Our guidance publication 'Peatlands and the Historic Environment: an Introduction to their Cultural and Heritage Value' offers a brief introduction for those interested in peatlands and the historic environment – whether living, working or visiting these special landscapes. It outlines the archaeological, palaeoenvironmental and cultural significance and value of peatlands. It describes where peat deposits are found and the wealth and diversity of heritage assets associated with them – illustrated with examples from both upland and lowland peat settings.

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