It is immediately apparent to anyone passing through that the locality is imbued with a deep sense of rural traditionalism. Panoramic views of forest and meadow are easy on the eye and conjure warm feelings of country-life. Yet these images of forest and meadow serve to disguise an older country practice. Long before these trees were planted the district had a small but important patchwork of turf bogs.
Though less romantic than lush forests and rolling hills the turf bogs captured the true essence of country-life in the last centuries. Patience and hard work were the central tenets of turf production. Though never a commercial industry the turf bogs were vitally important to the families of the district, providing warmth and fuel within the home.
Turf was cut from the end of May to the close of July, allowing time for the turf to dry before the winter. Each family had a few acres of bogland with which to meet the needs of their family. Generally harvesters worked in two man teams, one man cutting the turf with a breasting spade and the other stacking the turf for drying. The turf would remain there until dried by the wind and the sun, a process known as 'footing'. The dry turf would then be moved using a creel or turf-barrow to the side of the house where it was stacked ready for use. Only completely dry turf could be burned on the household fire.
Turf cutting was largely familial in nature and the small holdings were never viable for commercial enterprise. It retained its importance throughout the Second World War as a result of coal shortage but thereafter declined in importance due in part to the exhaustion of the bogland and also because of the greater availability of other fuels.
Since then the Forestry Commission has reforested much of the disused bogland and other areas in the locality have been reclaimed for use as pasture or arable land.
Janice Nicholl (nee Hawthorne), former pupil of Markethill High School