An audiovisual exploration of the past, present and futures of three peatlands: Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor.



n. piles of things arranged one on top of another
v. to arrange things in an ordered pile

An audiovisual exploration of the past, present and futures of three peatlands: Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor. Produced by Rose Ferraby, Tommy Perman and Rob St John between 2021 and 2023. Commissioned by the South West Peatland Partnership.


A collage of voices from peatland landscapes across the South West of England delve into the rich histories and complex natures of peatlands. These voices are drawn from environmental managers, peatland restorationists, landscape archaeologists, poets to form an experimental ‘radio play’ tuning into the peat. Archive recordings of local people from The Dartmoor Trust Archive trace the extraction and use of peat through the 20th Century.

A transcript is available here.


An archive of films exploring peatlands across different scales can be reshaped and curated by visitors to the STACKS website. Many of these were shot across Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor to capture abstracted peatland tones and textures. Other films were created using photographic film, where photographs of peatland landscapes were taken, and their negative film buried in peat and bogs for months on end. Upon excavation, new patterns of decay and decomposition were traced on their surface. These films were then sliced into hundreds of tiny frames and animated. Another set of films projected archive images of peatlands across the South West of England through the water column of moorland streams in the middle of the night. 

You can read a blog about the films here.


The soundscape weaving through the voices is composed from environmental recordings made in peatland landscapes. Ambient microphones pick up bird calls, insects and the sound of water and wind. Hydrophones lowered beneath the surface of the earth record the squelch and crackle of sphagnum bogs and humming stridulations of bog pool insects. Contact microphones record the whirring vibrations of fencelines strung taut in the wind and slowly shifting geologies. These sounds have been produced using a number of environmentally-resonant processes to create a soundscape which ebbs and flows between peatland scales, speeds and environments.

You can read a blog about the soundscape here.


Peatlands are waterlogged landscapes where dead and decaying plant material accumulates over thousands of years to form peat. Peatlands are found all over the world, covering around 3% of the Earth’s surface. They are remarkable ecosystems which often support unique biodiversity. They also support human lives in vital ways: locking away carbon from the atmosphere; acting as a sponge to flood waters; and naturally filtering safe drinking water.

Peatlands are crucial in tackling climate change: they are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store, locking away more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. However, peatlands have been drained, burned, damaged and mined across the world for decades, causing significant CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. As a result, peatland restoration is a vital step in tackling the climate emergency.

In the UK, it’s easy to think that peatlands have always been the way we see them now. That they are broadly similar to one another. It’s easy to overlook them, to see across their surface and miss the rich, organic, shifting worlds that lie beneath. At this key moment in a climate emergency, things need to change. The South West Peatland Partnership (SWPP) is working across Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, Exmoor and West Penwith in South West England to undertake ambitious peatland restoration projects. These actions will help keep water on the moors, and keep these unique and special peatlands functioning for people and nature.

Archaeology allows us to understand these changes within the perspective of long time periods. Analysis of the peat allows archaeologists to understand changes in vegetation and land use over thousands of years. In this way, the SWPP can work sensitively, using an understanding of the past to guide landscape change for the future.

STACKS explores the way people and nature interact in peatland landscapes; constantly archiving, altering and adapting across scales both tiny and vast.


Rose, Rob and Tommy have produced a 50 minute podcast discussing peatland landscapes, their work in the project, and the role of art in addressing big environmental issues.

Listen via Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Podbean | Amazon Music | I Heart | Player FM | BoomPlay


Rose Ferraby, Tommy Perman and Rob St John are award-winning artists whose creative practice is informed by their transdisciplinary experience in archaeology, ecology, music and design. Their collaboration draws on shared skills in sound, visual art, sculpture and digital media, resulting in innovative and attentive responses to site and museum based commissions.

Rose Ferraby is an archaeologist and artist based in North Yorkshire. Her transdisciplinary work often explores our relationship with landscape, drawing together past and future narratives. She has worked as an archaeologist on peatland restoration projects on Exmoor, and more recently with the National Trust researching the use of archaeology in nature recovery projects. Her creative practice includes printmaking, painting and collage, as well as working in sound and film to create narratives of people and place. Her work has been commissioned and exhibited in the British Museum, University of Cambridge and the Weston Park Museum. She writes and presents for Radio 3 (Cornerstones and EarthWorks) and Radio 4 (Open Country). (

Tommy Perman is a Scottish artist, designer, and musician who seeks to blur the boundaries of these three disciplines through collaboration. Based in rural Perthshire, much of Tommy’s work is themed around the built environment, documenting the growth and decay of cities and urban nature. Since his debut record came out in 2002 he has released over 50 records (albums, EPs and singles). Tommy won a BAFTA for co-creating an ‘emotional robot band’ called Cybraphon which is now part of the permanent collection in the National Museum of Scotland. His visual design work has been seen across numerous high profile books, websites, record sleeves, and even projected on the Sydney Opera House. (

Rob St John is an environmental artist and writer based in Bowland, Lancashire. His award-winning creative practice explores overlaps between art and ecology in British landscapes. His work, which spans sound, moving image, text and installation, experiments with the potential of key concepts in contemporary ecology and conservation as catalysts for site-specific art, and has been seen/heard at Tate Modern, The Barbican and V&A London, amongst others, and profiled on BBC Radio 3, 4 and 6 Music. (


The voices you can hear are: Rose Ferraby, Morag Angus (SWPP Manager), George Kohler (SWPP Project Officer), Dr Martin Gillard (SWPP Historic Environment Officer) and Dr Luke Thompson, poet and publisher.

Oral history recordings from the Dartmoor National Park ‘Moor Memories’ project (2008), made available by kind permission of The Dartmoor Trust.

Bird call field recordings used with thanks under a Creative Commons licence via xeno-canto: Alexander Henderson (XC468552, XC477342, XC477343, XC518961, XC468546, XC754155, XC468562), Krzysztof Deoniziak (XC330143, XC330147), Tony Whitehead (XC358537, XC98834, XC100977, XC90118, XC99449, XC356956, XC356029, XC100956, XC356981), Paul Kelly (XC754734), Alexander Lees (XC102142), Tom Jordan (XC556865), Mark Pearse (XC356014).

Website designed by Tommy Perman and built by Rick Curran.