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History of West Calder
Chapter XX. Cobinshaw Reservoir, interesting improvements made on the Lands of Cross Wood Hill, with names commonly given to Plants found on flat Bogs and wet Moors


This chapter should properly have followed chapter X and would have done so had I been possessed of the information in good time. Better late than never, however, and right glad do I feel to enrich my History ‘with the spoils of time' such as follows here —hoping the lesson it conveys will be laid to heart—viz., ‘How to be good to the land and the land will be good to you' or to any other good husbandman, in contra distinction to the quack nostrum of the Jack Cade’s of to-day, who from the pulpit and platform, in Parliament and press would demolish the Decalogue of Moses, proving it to be antiquated and unsuited to the times, and moving to omit certain words before or after ‘certain', other words, &c., &c., with the following result:—‘Thou shalt covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt covet thy neighbour’s wife, his man servant, his maid servant, his ox, his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s,’ so that thereby you may now-ardays share equal with the man that is richer than you, and turn your back upon your poorer neighbour!

Cobinshaw Reservoir.

But first, we will pay a visit to Cobinshaw Reservoir e’er we cross to Crosswoodhill. This beautiful sheet of water, situated on the confines of West Calder and Carnwath parishes but principally in the former, has a melancholy aspect from its elevated position and barren moorland surroundings. Its history is somewhat interesting, being the water-shed of two seas, the site of an ancient forest or shaw called Colinshaw, which, when overthrown, grew into a marshy bog by which name or designation it is still locally known, viz., Cobinshaw Bog. By anglers and others it is elevated to the dignity of loch or lake and hence called Cobinshaw Loch or Cobinshaw Lake according to provincial predilections. This reservoir, for it is a reservoir, where water is kept in store by the art of man for the use of man was surveyed in 1820 for the purpose of securing a regular supply of water for the Union Canal and the first retaining wall finished in 1822. It was afterwards greatly enlarged as the following from the Memorial Stone proves:—“The alterations and additions were executed in the years 1842 and 1849. William McDonald, chairman; Robert Ellis, clerk and manager; James Jardine, engineer; William Gaff, inspector.” The present extent of this Loch, the largest in Mid-Lothian, is 500 acres, and its circuit, from its peculiar shape, about 7 miles. It is now the property of the North British Railway Company, who purchased it by act of Parliament along with the Canal. Besides supplying the Canal, it was recently let (but is now in the market) for angling purposes at a rental of 50, when it was also proposed to beautify it by planting trees around it. This plan seems to have fallen through for want of patronage although it is only 18 miles from Edinburgh by the Caledonian Railway with a Station called Cobbinshaw within 100 yards of the water, on which boats can be had for hire. Perch, pike, and trout used to be the only fish here, but it was lately stocked with trout and salmon ova from the Tay and Tweed, and from Ireland. It also holds Loch Leven Trout—the pride of anglers. In autumn when the heather is in full bloom it is a glorious sight to see, and would make a grand health resort were there sufficient accommodation, but perhaps it’s 'ower near hame’ to be appreciated save for curling upon, and that happens but seldom, though the sight of a good match on a fine winter day is very exhilarating even to the shivering passenger in the passing railway train who only gets a keek of the animated scene, unless he happens to be ‘snowed up’ on the spot, which sometimes occurs.

Crosswoodhill, &c.

An excellent treatise on ‘Peat-Moss or Turf-Bog was written by Andrew Steele, Esq., W.S., laird of Crosswoodhill, and published by W. D. Lang, and Adam Black, Edinburgh, in 1826. By the kindness of his grandson, Andrew T. Steel Scott, Esq. of Crosswoodhill, I am enabled to.give a full copy of what is termed the Sequel to that Treatise “Sequel of the Natural and Agricultural History of Peat-Moss. By Andrew Steel, Esq. Being an account of his own improvements on soil of that kind. Written in 1826.”

“In 1798 (which, at the date of writing this Sequel, is twenty-eight years ago) I purchased, with the view of improving it, the farm of Crosswoodhill, situated in the parish of West Calder, and county of MidLothian, about seventeen miles south-west from the city of Edinburgh, on the road to Lanark, by Carnwath. It was almost wholly of a wet, mossy soil. The springs of water in it were very many and copious. It was considered the wettest farm within a circuit of fifty miles. No person could walk a furlong on it dry footed, at any season of the year. The situation of this farm is very high and late, the lowest part of it being about 1000 feet above the level of the sea. It consists of upwards of 1200 statute acres, of which about 400 were deep peat bog, very level; and the greater part of the remainder, rising gradually to a mountain, was covered m general with moss-soil of the depth of from four inches to two, three, or four feet, upon a subsoil of silicious sand, or of sand with a small mixture of clay, three feet deep, having a freestone bottom. But some portions of the subsoil were of decomposed basalt, on a base of whinstone. Sheep a$d a few black cattle were pastured on the coarse herbage of this farm, which was let on a lease of twenty-one years to a very poor resident farmer, who had a few detached acres in grain-crops, that seldom reached complete ripeness. The sheep were subject to the rot from the excessive wetness of the grounds, and consequent unwholesome nature of the pasture.

I did not obtain possession of the lands, so as to commence generally and effectually my improvements, till I had purchased the lease for about 300, in 1803. The rent was then 69, and the price of the lands, lease, <fcc. amounted to nearly 2000,

By my improvements, these lands, which are at present let in grass inclosures, some of which produce the generally acknowledged best pasture in the parish, now yield of yearly profit above 300, besides a considerable part being appropriated for wood, of which the farm was formerly destitute. I have also a pleasant enough summer retreat there for myself and family. My whole expense of improving this farm, including draining, manuring, planting trees, inclosing, building, &c. does not exceed 3500; so I have upwards of five per cent, of profit on my outlay ; and the value of the farm is yearly increasing.

I now proceed to give an account of my improvements, mostly connected with the history of moss-soil.

My first business was to drain the whole grounds. I dug to the bottom of every spring and quacking bog. My drains, great and small, have been estimated, if drawn out in a line, to extend much more than a hundred miles in length. The deep flow mosses were intersected with large drains, some of them eight feet wide at the top, two at the bottom, and four feet deep, which were carried through them in suitable places, according to the nature of the ground. Many other drains, of all sizes, were made in them in every direction.

That part of the farm, extending to upwards of 500 acres, that rises to a mountain, is mostly, as has been said, covered with a thin moss-soil. A great proportion of the high grounds in Scotland is of this sort. It is called Bent-moss land, and this moss is produced by the wetness of the climate, and want of drains. The predominant plants that grow on such grounds are called in Scotland Bents, being most generally the Juneus square of the Linnean system. These are mixed every where with the cryptogamic class of plants, and partially with heath. Surface-drains, some of them large, but most of them of the dimensions of eighteen inches wide, and ten or twelve inches deep, were drawn through this ground every where. Some of those drains were placed so near each other, where requisite, as from 50 to 100 feet. They were generally made in a slanting direction across the declivities and fell into some rivulet or large drain. Here I may take leave to remark, that the principal improvement that my experience now suggests to be made on these drains is, that all open drains to be dug in pasture fields, should be much wider in proportion to their depth.

The farm was next wholly inclosed, mostly with stone-walls, without mortar, 4 feet high. It was also subdivided into pasture fields of different sizes, and into inclosures that are planted with trees. I made some good fences on deep moss grounds, by planting hedges of spruce firs on the banks of the ditches: such hedges are both a shelter and an ornament.

As to trees ; I have found that, notwithstanding the great height of Crosswoodhill above the level of the sea, in about the 56th degree of north latitude, all the common trees and shrubs that are natives of Britain, thrive very well in the improved soils near the house; but for the more exposed and mossy grounds, spruce-fir (Pinus abies), larch (Pinus larix), and silver-fir (Pinus picea), seem best adapted, and promise to attain the greatest size, as some of these, even on mos3 grounds (six feet deep of peat), have already acquired the height of twenty or thirty feet. I consider spruce and silver firs, which thrive in such a soil and climate> when allowed sufficent space, to be the most elegant trees in nature. Along with these trees I interspersed other alpine trees, such as the birch, alder, and a few mountain-ash, which, with oaks, and some species of willows, seem to have been the original inhabitants of the soil, as their remains are found in the peatmosses. I have also planted many Scotch firs. I must, however, remark, that the Scotch fir (Firms sylvestris) appears to me not to have been at any time growing there, and it is a tree that I think is not a native of so high a climate, unless under some particular shelter. The Norway spruce is perhaps the very best tree for a drained moss soil in such a climate; for, if the surface on which it is planted is dry, it seems to delight in having very deep moist ground beneath. There is a variety of this tree, called the White Spruce, from North America,, that grows very fast here. I am informed that it is a tree which itses to a great height, and is long lived. The Norway or European spruce never thrives long on hard dry ground, but in favourable situations it is long lived, and sometimes is seen more than a hundred feet high.

Although I have been successful in planting Home of my moss grounds with trees, I cannot say I have been successful in so planting my great flow moss, extending to near 300 acres, which I drained (I fear not sufficently), and intended, after having let it in pasture for a few years, to have once more covered with trees. I propose to have this moss more completely drained, and partly planted with trees, and partly perhaps earthed on the surface, for procuring better pasture. These I consider the most suitable crops in so high a climate. Deep peat mosses require to be more drained, and with deeper ditches, for trees, than for grass. The deeper roots of trees should never be involved in stagnant water. I am quite satisfied that trees of every sort will thrive in moss soil, if it be only well drained, and if its surface be relieved of the tough and unsolid roots of moss plants, particularly of Sphagna, Polytricha, Eriophora, Nardi, &c. Here I crave leave to regret, that these and other botanical terms relative to plants growing on uncultivated grounds, have no genet ally known names in English.

The flow moss now noticed is a part of that great tract of bog called Cobinshaw Bog (that is, the Bog of the Herd’s Wood), consisting of several thousand acres, situate in the counties of Mid-Lothian and Lanark. It must have been all once a wood, as is evident from the number of trees, principally birch, found in the moss. In its original state this bog was not worth one penny per acre, and what I have of it, in my farm, was, in the purchase I made, considered as worth nothing. It has, in many places, now, merely by its drainage, acquired a surface of pasture grass.

This bog is situate in a plain, surrounded with higher grounds, and appears to be somewhat raised in the middle, in most places with a small declivity to every side. One part of its drainage-water runs to the German Occan, and another part to the Atlantic, which shews that this moss lies in one of the highest tracts in Great Britain. In some flat places in the middle, there were pools of water on the surface, which I drained, and there is now grass where these pools were situate. Probably the peat of a part of this bog rests on a lake ; for there are openings into which the surface-water descend to a great depth. From the circumstance of a small rivulet, called still the Birch or Birk Burn, running through part of the moss, deep chasms have been made in some places, by which it appears that the peat of this part of the bog is generally about twelve feet deep, becoming somewhat shallower towards the edges. The bottom is a clayey soil.

About this is a layer of four feet of decayed branches and trunks of birch, with some alder and oak trees, mixed with mud and soft moss-soil. The remainder of the peat-turf is a mass composed of the roots and stems of Eriophora, Carices, Ericae, and Musci.

The whole surface of the bog is uneven, cut into channels by floods in some places, and raised in others into hillocks. These hillocks, in the wettest places, are composed almost entirely of the Trichostomum lannginosum, which, in summer, appear, at a short distance, like cushions of white wool.

But the more general production of this bog, like that of most others, was heath plants, mixed with Eriophora, Carex limom, Seirpus caespitosus, Poly trichum commune, Sphagnum palustre, Lichen rangiferinus, and Hypna. The subsoil is blackish peat, somewhat firm.

In digging a drain through this moss, my servants found, at the depth of about four feet from the surface, a number of ancient Roman silver medals, in great preservation. There is in this vicinity a small square Roman camp (Castle Graig), meant for accommodating a single legion; and the way from this camp to the next more extensive Roman station at Castra-corda, now called Castledykes, near Carstairs, most probably passed through Cobinshaw Bog ; and a little farther in the same track, lay Colania, a Roman fort, noticed by Ptolemy, and supposed to be the Castlehill of Lanark, on the bank of the river Clyde, It is probable, therefore, that these coins had belonged to some one of the Roman officers stationed in this quarter, perhaps in the time of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, as some of the medals bear his name ; and others have the names of the Empress Faustina, his wife, and of his predecessors Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian, and Pius. There are two different figures of Faustina: One of them is said to be fine. From the circumstances in which these coins were found, it is probable they were dropped on the surface of the ground upwrards of 1600 years ago, and that the ground was then covered with a growing wood, as appears from the branches of birch trees (that have still their form and bark entire), in which the coins were enveloped. Indeed almost the whole parish of Calder (Coildor, the oak-wood), has been a wood even within memory, as appears from the following verse, still rehearsed amongst the people there;

Calder Wood was fair to see
When it went to Cameltree,
Calder Wood was fairer still
When it went to Crosswoodhill.

My general plan of improving my other grounds, after drainage, and in which 1 have succeeded far beyond my expectation, has been by spreading on their surface compost of earth and lime, on the peat or moss soils; and of peat and lime on earthy and comparatively dry soils.

My first operation in improvement was on an arable field of twenty acres of generally light loam land, near the farm-house of Crosswoodhill, which I inclosed, and proposed to lay down in grass for permanent pasture, considering any ground whatever, so high situated, as unfit for corn-crops, This inclosure, now called the Sheep-Park, was mostly fallowed during the two successive summers of 1807 and 1808; and, being all well limed, was, the second autumn, manured partly with dung and partly with peat, and sown with rye-grass and white clover-seed, (and also unsuccessfully with a mixture of seed of lucern and sainfoin), having no other crop. The hay produced was good.

This field, having about seven acres of deep moss-ground inclosed with it, is now for the most part, excellent pasture, being let at from 40 to 50 per annum. It has been composted twice on the surface with lime and peat-earth, and is covered with a variety of good pasture-grasses, but the principal plants seem to be white clover (Trifolium repens), soft grasses (hold), dogs-tail (Cynosurus cristatus), &c.

My next improvement was executed on a very small field, the one-half of which was peat-moss soil, from six to eight feet deep, covered with heath the other half being bent moss-ground. The subsoil was poor and sandy. The whole being well drained, with underdrains filled with stones, was ploughed, and part of the deep peat-soil carried to the sandy ground, where it was partly incinerated, and part of the sandy soil served to manure the peat-moss. The whole was then top-dressed very thinly with lime-compost, and sown with different grass-seeds. This improvement answered very well, and the surface of the whole is now bearing very good pasture; but I found the plan too expensive.

The next field was improved as follows: It had for the most part a soil of peat, covered partly with heath and partly with coarse grasses (carices) and stool or wire bent, sometimes called the Moss-rush (Juncus squarrosus). Being relieved from its superabundant moisture by drains, and inclosed with a stone wall, it was once ploughed, and the reversed furrow-slices laid quite flat. Then it was thinly top-dressed with lime, mixed with earth obtained from different

ground. Next it was harrowed, and sown with (Holcus lematus) white soft grass or Yorkshire fog, (Trifolium repens) white clover, and other grasses and seeds. This improvement turned out to be cheap, and the field has now good grass. I have found it expedient to follow this method of ploughing, in proportions of heathy grounds of other fields, though my general practice is now to accomplish a permanent improvement of the pasture where it had been formerly coarse grasses, merely by employing top-dressings of composts. I consider it expedient to plough soil in the above mentioned manner, where the ground is covered with heath, unless where I find it convenient rather to top-dress such ground with earth, at the rate of about seventy tons per statute acre, and sometimes also afterwards with lime compost. But it is obviously advantageous likewise to burn the surface-heath, and surface-herbage of every kind, before applying these top-dres-sings, when that can be done with ease and safety.

The next improvement was made on a field of fifty acres, which was drained with open ditches of different dimensions, and inclosed by a stone wall. This field contained, besides many portions of it covered with coarse grasses, such as generally grow in wet soils, a large portion of deep flow-moss producing nothing but heath, and another portion that had been long ago ploughed. To part of the ground in the last mentioned situation I applied quicklime in sufficient quantity, without observing much improvement therefrom. .But, after bestowing on it likewise my ordinary top-dressing of lime and earth, the herbage became visibly altered to the better, though not for three or four years. Such ground as is worn out or exhausted by tillage and corn-crops, and allowed, in a cold and wet climate, to be over-run with moss-plants, appears to be more difficult to be brought to a fertile state than any other kind of soil. Finally, the whole of this field has been top-dressed with a compost of earth and lime, and seems in a constant state of improvement. After it was inclosed and drained, it was let at first for about 10 per annum; the rent is now about 30, and gradually advancing. It should have been mentioned that a portion of this inclosure, had, for a trial, a quantity of burnt clay administered to it as a top-dressing, instead of the ordinary lime-compost, and which appeared to produce nearly the same effect in ameliorating the pasture ; but the expense was much greater.

A small field, that consisted of two-thirds of dry loam land, and one-third of deep pcat-bog, was next inclosed. The dry land was laid down to grass in the ordinary way. The mossy part was drained and then top-dressed with a compost of lime, and earth, and now bears more grass than the dry part. The whole is now let for pasture at a rent of 3 per acre.

To some portions of my inclosures or parks that were incumbered with very long moss-plants, mostly of the tribe of Jiyjma, I found no better remedy than cover them well over with lonse or fresh dun from the stable.

This answered the purpose well, and destroyed the tall moss-plant (sometimes called by farmers Fog), while it encouraged the growth of grass.

I likewise improved a large space of ground that contained many, different sorts of soil, mostly wet, by draining and inclosing it, and then partly by irrigation, and partly by applying top-dressings of lime and moss to the dry portions of it, and of lime and earth to the peaty portions of it, some of which were deep moss soils, and were improved, so as in a few years to bear the finest grasses with much white clover, in place of the coarsest herbage of a wet soil.

The irrigation was principally performed, by taking the advantage of a rivulet of pure water that runs through the inclosure. It lias occasioned a vast quantity of herbage for cattle to grow on eight or ten acres, which are annually covered with the water; but it must be confessed, that a number of rushes (Juncus conglomeratus, articulatus and effa-sus) do now also incumber the watered meadow. These rushes are also apt to grow on some of my improved pastures in this high climate; and the only remedy against them seems to be to cut them down with a scythe early in each summer. The watered meadows, of which I have a few more on my farm, were at first laid out by myself, but were afterwards improved by a professional irrigator, Mr Stevens.

The mountainous part of my farm, which is at present pastured with sheep, I have entirely drained and inclosed with a stone wall, and I am gradually improving the pasturage of it, by top-dressing the surface in some parts merely with the earthy subsoil, but more generally with lime-compost, in manner already mentioned, which, in a few years, competely alter the kinds of plants growing on it, and effect a change to the better, in a degree scarcely within the bounds of credibility; so that I am at liberty to say that this is an advantageous speculation to every person possessed of such lands,

When lime composts are thinly spread on good pasture, a change is generally apparent in a few weeks after they have been laid on. The grass becomes more verdant, and cattle give it a decided preference to any other part of their pasture. Experienced graziers also remark, that cattle are sooner fattened by eating grass so manured. When such composts are pub on drained grass-pastures bearing coarse herbage, several months elapse before they make much improvement; but, by degrees, the coarse grasses are supplanted by those of a better sort. Lime composts, spread on dry heathy grounds, seem to me to take some years to operate the extinction of the heath. I observed, in some cases, that, after a lime compost had been applied to heathy ground, white clover crept over the heath plants, and flowered above them. It appears therefore to me, that the repent stems of the common Trifolium repens abound in almost all grounds, but it flowers in favourite soils only. In composted heath lands, I have noticed that the heath gives way, at length, to the Nardus stricta, a coarse grass or bent, in some districts called Mat-grass ; and, after some time, this also yields to grasses more adapted to the gradually improving soil. Whence the seeds of fine pasture-grasses are derived, to supply a new verdure to a portion of enriched surface in the midst of a moor, is inexplicable by me; but every one may observe a similar process in garden-grounds. On a plat of mossy ground on my farm, that had been covered with heath plants, and surrounded with moor, but which plat had been rendered bare by a compost heap of quick-lime and soil taken from the adjacent land, that had lain some time on it, but had been removed, there appeared, in the autumn of the next year, the following plants, along with others of the best pasture-grasses, viz. meadow fescue {Festuca pratensis), annual poa (Poa annua), meadow soft grass (Ilolcits lanatus), white clover (Trifolium repens.)

Thus this plat will become, in the subsequent year, well covered with nutritive food for cattle. So it is evident, wherever the surface-soil of the earth is altered in its nature by fertilizing manures, or otherwise, there is provided, by the incomprehensible influence of an Almighty Power, seeds and plants, and perhaps animals, adapted for such soil, climate, and situation. Whence come the seeds of the blue mould which is generated on the cheese, when suited for this production^ This mould is a forest in miniature, harbouring microscopic animals of various sorts, and propagated as other plants, that the earth may he abundantly replenished, as for some wise end that mankind have not the capacity to discern.

I make use of a great deal of peat-moss, made friable, for top-dressing and for enriching grass grounds, especially poor sandy soils. I have also discovered on my farm and make use of mar) : and I often top-dress merely with earths, different from those of the field to which they are applied \ and with dung, and sometimes with a compost of dung and earth. But my general composts have hot lime in them which I obtain at about five miles distance from my farm. These composts are made up as follows : Lay down a bed of earth or peat-moss, near the place where the compost is to be used. If peat, it should bs chosen of the most friable sort; and, if such cannot be got cheaply, the turf should be chopped small, and the unsolid and tough portions of it rejected, and it should be somewhat wet, otherwise it may catch fire by contact with the quicklime. On this bed or layer put unslaked lime, and instantly cover it up with earth or peat. The unslaked lime may be about a tenth part of the bulk of the compost. When the lime is just completely slaked with the moist earth, which may be, in general, in eight or ten days, let the whole materials be well chopped and mixed together, and the compost may be spread in a few days thereafter, as a surfaee-manure. Care should be taken that the mixture should be made as soon as the lime is fully slaked, that the powdered lime may not become clotted, and also that it may not become effete; for it appears to me, that quick-lime possesses all the qualities of its carbonate, and many more, of which advantage may be taken by spreading it on the ground in its caustic state. I suppose, however, that slaken lime continues uneffete, and possesses in some degree its caustic quality for a very long time. Pliny, the Roman naturalist, is confirmed by Vitruvius and the ancient architects, in stating, that building lime-mortar was nob considered by the ancient Romans as at its best till it had lain prepared for three years. Pliny adds, “Intrita quoque quo vetustior eo melior.” Mortar, the older it is, the better it is found to be for building. This is a matter of curiosity as well as of importance, as the practice of our modern masons is so very different. The ancient Romans were jealous of the character of their buildings for durability; and Pliny remarks, that there was a public law, forbidding contractors for edifices to use lime till it had lain well mixed up as mortar for the space of three years at least; because, if used sooner, unslaked portions of the lime were apt, by their vast elastic force in slaking, to displace the largest stones of a wall, and to occasion cracks, blisters, and chinks in the plaster. Thus it appears probable, that lime slaked with water, or hydrate of lime, made into mortar with sand, continues many years somewhat caustic, without imbibing its complement of carbonic acid gas, and before it becomes as hard as a stone.

It seems to be eligible that lime, chalk, and calcareous substances in general, that are designed to be used as manure, should, in most cases, be calcined, and put on the ground in a powdery state. Quick-lime should always be spread on the surface of the ground, for it sinks very deep into the soil.

I lay lime compost very thinly on my grasslands at first, not more than from thirty to forty tons of it being used to a statute acre; but, if I see it necessary, a second, or even a third, top-dressing is given. In general the earth or peat used by me in compost is dug out of a corner of the field, where it is to be spread on the surface. I have found that lime alone does not go so far, nor is so economical or useful for my purpose in improving pastures, as when mixed into compost with peat or earth of this farm.

To conclude this account of the improvement of Crosswoodhill, I may with truth say, that I found it a bleak, wet, and gloomy heath, about seven miles around, without shelter, and without inclosure. It now presents to the eye, in summer, fields of excellent pasture, abounding in cattle of a superior description, and diversified with thriving plantations.

Letter from the Reverend James Headrick, Minister of Dunnicheny Author of several Agricultural and Miner alogical Treatises, to the Author.

13th June, 1826.

I have perused your Manuscript History of Peat-Moss with great satisfaction, both as it respects the principles and the practice.

With regard to your own improvements on your estate of Crosswoodhill, as I have known the property both before and after these improvements, I think you have given a very fair and moderate account of them.

I beg leave to offer one remark, that your improvements are not such as perish with the use, but must every year become more productive; and, were others to follow your example, and those unsightly wastes which now occupy so large a portion of our country’s surface, made to carry nutritive heibage, I leave others, who are better qualified than I am, to estimate the great increase of animal produce which would accrue to the community, as well as of rent to the proprietors. I am, &c.

P. S.—Doubts having been entertained, and frequently alluded to in the course of your work, concerning the operation of lime in converting moss into a soil, I beg leave to observe, that, as stated by you, if lime-water be dropt into moss-water, all the moss is quickly carried to the bottom. Rain-water also that is retained on, or flows from, moss, is commonly saturated with mossy matter, but water that is retained on, or flows from, limed moss-grounds, is perfectly limpid and pure. Although these facts do not prove that lime adds fertility to moss, yet I apprehend they prove that lime reduces moss to an earthy substance, that is no longer capable of solution or suspension in water.

Remark by Mr Steele.

As lime forms with tanin, a compound insoluble in water, may not the action of lime on moss-earth, noticed by Mr Headrick, be accounted for, by the lime attracting the tanning matter in peat-soil, and thus leaving the hitherto inert moss, as a vegetable substance subject to the ordinary process of decay? If so, and as lime neutralizes all free acids found in any peat-soils, then theory, in the present instance, happily combines with the practice, on this general agricultural subject, in recommending quick-lime as of importance, commonly, in improving moss and fen soils; which in Great Britain and Ireland amounts to several millions of acres.

Letter from Mr Alexander Thornton, former Proprietor of Crosswoodhill, to the Author.

23d July, 1826.

Having repeatedly seen your improvements on Crosswoodhill, which I sold to you several years ago, and having indeed twice inspected the grounds with you this year, I am satisfied your account of the improvements on them is correct in all respects. I am, &c.

Letter from John Johnstone, Esq., Landsur veyor in Edinburgh, Author of the Account of ElkingtonHs Mode of Draining Lands, and other Agricultural Works, to the Author.

1st June, 1826.

I last night finished the reading of your Manuscript on the Improvement of Peat-Moss Soils, witk which I have been much gratified. I think it the most full, correct, and intelligible account of the subject that has hitherto been given, and will be highly useful to the landed proprietor and to the practical farmer.

Particularly, I am much pleased with the account of your own improvements at Cross woodhill; for a short statement of practical facts will go further to convince and stimulate to a similar exertion than the most lengthened detail of theoretical speculation. If it had been published fifteen years ago, many thousands a year would have been added to the rental and product of the country.

GLOSSARY of the English and Scotch Provincial Names commonly given to Plants found on Peat Bogs and Wet Moors, to which are applicable the following Botanical Terms of the Linnsean System, in this and other books.


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