As I crested the summit of Tarmangie Hill in the Ochils a magical panorama of shade-cloaked hill spurs, dancing sunbeams and darkling, rain threatening clouds unfolded before me.

It might have been mid-winter, but the air was mild and benign, which in many ways was a cloak of deception, for the threat of swirling snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures is never far away at this time of year in the Ochils.

I lingered on the top for a short while, before setting off towards Innerdownie Hill. Soon, a profusion of striking mosses and lichens by a drystone dyke caught my eye, including a dazzling clump of reindeer moss lichen. It was an incredibly beautiful creation, comprising delicate white fronds that could easily have been mistaken for a small patch of snow. Nearby were intricate Cladonia lichens, set upon grey stalks with distinctive red club-shaped tops.

Lichens are bizarre lifeforms, comprising a symbiotic association between fungi and algae, or sometimes with cyanobacteria, which is a type of blue-green algae. These composite organisms work in a mutually beneficial partnership where the fungus gleans nourishment from the photosynthetic properties of the alga (or cyanobacterium), while the fungus provides protective shelter for the alga, ensuring optimal living conditions. In effect, lichens are mini ecosystems.

After examining the lichens, I continued towards Innerdownie Hill, with my feet squelching under a thick carpet of sphagnum mosses in the profusion of boggy margins. These areas of bog are an incredibly important habitat, storing huge amounts of carbon for a very long time in the form of dead plant matter, which instead of rotting, stays preserved for thousands of years as peat. This locks up and removes huge quantities of carbon from the atmosphere. When our bogs are drained, this carbon is released back into the environment and further spurs climate change.

Many upland bogs, such as those in the Ochils, occur at the head of river catchments, and the carpets of green, yellow and red sphagnum mosses enables clean water run-off into drinking water reservoirs. The peat in bogs slows the flow of rainfall, helping to prevent flooding further downstream.

Once the initial misleading impression of dourness is quelled, it soon becomes apparent that our upland bogs are compelling places to linger and to reflect, drawing one into their irresistible wildness and epitomising an ancient landscape that spirals back to the very roots of humanity.