Your husband had set out early to begin work.

You bent over the fire, raking the glowing turf ‘coals’, adding dampened turves to keep it going through the day, your eyes weeping a little in the acrid-sweet smoke. Hard weeks would lie ahead; cutting, transporting and drying the ten thousand turves your farm needed for the coming year. 

Your house was near a Bronze Age settlement. The field boundaries and paths you used were the same. Bodmin Moor had been shaped and changed over hundreds of generations, each heedless of how their actions shaped the land. 

The earliest hunter-gatherers burned swathes of the dense oak and hazel woodland to make hunting easier. Bronze Age farmers cleared trees, creating more than two hundred settlements. 

Those who came next felled more and more trees until, in the fourteenth century, you had nothing but the turf to use as fuel. All the moor industries relied on it: stream- working, quarrying and clay-working. In 1305, smelting stream-tin consumed two hundred and fifty tonnes of turf charcoal alone. Did no one think it might run out? 

All that remains today is an acid grassland able to support a few sheep and ponies. People revere it for its loneliness, thinking its windswept, barren hills one of the last untouched places in Britain. 

Bodmin Moor

Alex Harvie

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