It's a long pull up to G's peat bog. We weren't carrying much equipment this time as we were just going to sink half a dozen pipe wells. G is funding this Ph.D. himself, so it's just as well that he's doing research into climate patterns and hydrology rather than nuclear physics, because it's amazing what you can do in the way of serious data collection with some plastic tubes, circles of polythene, sticky tape and a tape measure. I said yesterday, as G was drilling holes in the lengths of plastic sink waste pipe and I was cutting out polythene circles to tape over one end, that this was the Blue Peter school of science experiment. Not quite made out of empty washing up liquid bottles and sticky-backed plastic, but not far off.
I should also mention that small cheap electronic gadgets come into this as well. The rain gauges are constantly monitored by little electronic data loggers and G can visit them just once a fortnight to download the data into another little electronic gadget, which then transfers it all the computer, which draws the graphs.
Walking towards the peat bog in intermittent sunshine, it was hot enough to be comfortable in short-sleeved T-shirt, but breezy enough so we didn't overheat. I felt that if I have any concept of heaven, this was not far from it: joy in being outdoors with congenial company, surrounded by green hills and varied vegetation and soothed by the rushing water of the nearby stream. The place teems with wild life, not anything dramatic, but it's just been given the highest classification of SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) as an outstanding example of an upland wetland.
Further into the bog, it all became rather less heavenly as once we'd positioned several of the pipe wells (carefully taking a GPS reading and photographs of each location so we could find the thing again in acres of bog vegetation). F and S (two of the M.Sc. students G is helping to supervise this summer went even further out over the bog to sink the remaining pipe wells while G and I cut straight across the middle to take the readings at the bigger pipe well and rain gauge that have been recording data for some weeks.
The going here was much harder. I began to think of Richard Hannay being chased across Scottish moorland (especially when a helicopter flew over, heading (probably) towards Bangor). I thought of Frodo and Sam heading slowly towards Mordor. There were hidden holes to put your foot in, and G and I both did, several times. Fortunately, the heather and moss were soft to fall on and no hurts were sustained.
I then made the mistake of saying that, for a bog, it didn't seem very wet. Not like the Great Grimpen Mire of the Hound of the Baskervilles, for example. Not something that one could fall into and get sucked down and drowned. G pointed out that it had been very dry recently; he then pointed out a wet bit. "Ah!" I said.
We had come now to the middle of the bog, where the peat was eroded into strange undercut shapes and between them were flat, bright green areas. Areas that were more liquid than solid. I tried imagining the place on a dark November afternoon, in the rain and mist, just as it was going dark. It would be scary and very treacherous. We had to start picking our route carefully to avoid the flat bright green bits while still watching out for -- and falling into -- the holes that dotted the dry heathery parts.
It was very tiring walking over such terrain. You need to do a kind of Tai Chi walking, in which you don't fully commit your weight to your front foot until you see whether the ground will bear you, and being prepared at any moment to shift your weight back onto the back foot if it appears it won't. Even a mile or so of this makes for aching legs.
Once we reached the pipe well and rain gauge the going improved a little and, after taking the readings, we headed not in the direction I thought looked best (which G assured me lead to even more difficult areas) but south, and so across the river at a place it was shallow enough to paddle and back -- with great relief onto the track, where we waited for F and S who had successfully accomplished their goal and had disposed of all the pipes.
The peat bog has become one of our favourite places, yet yesterday was the first time we've ever met anyone else up there. The hiker seemed startled to see us and he said he'd crossed that way four or five time and never met anyone before.
Once back down at the vehicles, we changed out of our muddy boots and drove the two students back to Blaenau Ffestiniog for their train back to Bangor, then (as is rapidly becoming a tradition), we called in the Chinese takeaway (run by one of G's ex-students) to buy dinner. Then home and to eat and slump briefly in front of the TV before retiring to bed.