A Good Read – Thorne Moors, Catherine Caufield with photos by Fay Godwin.

Thorne Moors Catherine Caufield

This little book published by The Sumach Press captures the sad story of Thorne Moors, a peat bog classified as a SSSI which supports 4000 species of plants and animals and is one of our rarest habitats in this country.

For many years man’s impact was minimal. Digging peat by hand created a variety of mini habitats which actually increased the diversity of the moors but then, through a series of, possibly illegal, manoeuvres by wealthy individuals, the moors stopped being common property and became owned by one company, which since 1963 was Fisons, a company which made Levington compost.

In the years prior to selling the moor to another horticulture company Fisons destroyed much of the areas wildlife value by draining, surface milling and putting roads through the moorland and all so people could grow larger tomatoes in its peat rich compost.  This book tells a familiar tale of big business raping the countryside but also a great story of how one eccentric amateur expert William Bunting fought to have the wildlife value of the moor recognised and the area protected.

I’m not sure they make William Buntings any more. Born in 1916 this was the original eco warrior. He set up his own group of direct action protestors, Buntings Beavers, who set out each weekend to damn the drains that Fisons were cutting. Bunting also stalked the moors with an old revolver tearing down barriers placed across footpaths. He was by all accounts crotchety and didn’t suffer fools. I hope I have half his courage to fight for what is right.

William Bunting taught himself Latin and Middle English in order to fight Fisons through the courts. He managed to get footpaths re-instated and forced the company to allow some of his dams to remain in place. Fisons were forced to give a passing nod to conservation interests after bad publicity and eventually gave 8000 acres of peatland to Natural England. Thorne Moors is the story of how one man with enough determination can make a difference.

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