On the bus we met a man in a silver button blazer who told us tales of Whixhall Moss. He’d been a firefighter in the 60s and 70s and the moss was always going up – they used to blame it on the steam trains but flames still rip whistled through when the line shut down. They’d fight them long hours with just a cup of tea, catching fleeing grass snakes to hide in the boss’s hat. Some days they’d rehydrate in the Waggoners, with a pint or two or three.

lakesThe Moss is requenching now, flooding again, and bog life is returning. A vast smoke blue expanse of wildness, with grasses and sedge and alder carr edges and leaky squidge paths among peat cutting scars. It is waterland now, but The Waggoners is a burned out shell. I passed it before the moss cottages on the flat road into the Fenns. ‘Insurance’ said an old man on the tow path.

The tow path leads to the meres, past waterfields of geese, swarms of long tailed tits, and rising stubble fields murderous in crows. A swan takes to the air with a boldness of beats. Over the meres the air is silver, raindrops brighten the twigs, mist dissolves the distant trees and mutes the honks of geese.

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