Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Unexpected wonders of nature

It was a beautiful day here, so G enticed me out for a walk up to the peat bog to read the various scientific recording instruments he has up there. I was pleased to note that my lunchtime walk seems to have kept me fit as I managed to keep up with G on the climb up the start of the track that was the old coach road to Llanuwchllyn and hence to Bala. Where the coach road fords the river and swings right, we carred straight on to the river depth meter (data safely downloaded) and thence to the borehole sunk into the peat bog where there is another water depth gauge measuring the rise and fall of the water in the peat, also a rain gauge.

It was stunning just standing there, looking at the blue sky with just a few streaks of white cloud, surrounded by acres of some of the most truly natural vegetation in the UK. The British countryside is mostly far from natural, even the wild bits because they're grazed by sheep, but the sheep don't venture into the bog as it's too wet. As soon as we'd stopped swishing through the heather and moss and lichen, I was aware of the utter silence. There are very few birds up there and though the place is teeming with life, it's tiny life like frogs by the river and electric blue dragon flies flying over the bog and large, pale, prettily marked spiders lurking in the heather.

G's still got a couple of years to go on his Ph.D., but he's already finding some interesting things that are rather different to what you intuitively expect. For instance, the rainfall at the farm at the bottom of the track leading up to the bog is higher than the rainfall right at the top up by the bog itself. Mostly you're taught that rainfall is highest on hills and lower on the low ground, but it's much more complicated than that. Also, one tends to think of bogs as being like huge sponges, saturated with water. One would expect that rain falling on them would be held in the "sponge" to be released slowly after the rain stops. But this doesn't seem to be the case with this bog. If I understand correctly what G is saying, the bog's structure is a lower layer which is impervious to water, while on the top is the growing layer, which acts more like a lake, with the water rising and falling exactly as it does in the rivers; there's no time lag and the water isn't retained in the "sponge" at all. When we discussed this previously, G described the lower layer as a colloid and, as he was groping for an analogy, I suggested it was like a thick layer of cold custard or blancmange, with, on the top, a layer of sponge cake -- and lo! we had the Sherry Trifle model of peat bogs.

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