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Turf Cutting Old & New

Turf Cutting Old & New

Getting to that time of year when traditionally turf will be cut as the bogs dry out a bit in early summer. The sods are cut, spread to dry in the wind & sun and then carried home.

Here is an aerial photo of a mountain blanket bog with turf cutting old & new, side by side. If you wander the Irish hills at all, you’ll come across old turf banks with a network of grassed over paths and tracks. Great amounts have been harvested over the years by dint of hard sweat and labour. The turf sods were cut with a special spade called a sléan, then spread out to dry, then footed into little piles. Finally barrowed out to a nearby trailer or in older days carts or drays pulled by donkeys or ponies.

This bog has also been harvested by modern methods – a tractor attachment that cuts production lines of turf, followed by machines to gather. Excavators to dig drains etc. You can see the characteristic pattern on the right of this image, all the top layer of grass (the scraw) has been stripped and the machines worked up and down.

There have been concerted efforts by the government to stop this industrial turf cutting, so whilst it is still possible to cut your own turf on a family plot for household use, it cannot be sold commercially anymore. It should be added that the state itself in the form of Bord na Móna has extracted vast amounts of peat over several decades, this activity has since ceased and bog restoration / wind farms are the order of the day.

On our maps, you’ll find turf bogs old & new marked with a brown ‘L’ pattern.

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