Walking and our Environment – 2017/2018 Newsletters

May 2018
Ireland’s Deep Atlantic – Ken O’Sullivan, underwater cameraman, takes us on an amazing discovery journey through our Irish waters, sharks, dolphins, whales……..


Some reading……………… Jo Kerrigan, ‘Follow the old road: Discover the Ireland of Yesteryear’ with photographs by Richard Mills. River roads, railways, canals, sea roads, pathways to the past in our landscape, history and folklore.

Mountain Meitheal West Meeting Notes April 2018

The Mountain Meitheal West Committee was elected: Seán O’Donovan, Chairperson, Caoilfionn Moorhead, Secretary, John Smyth, Treasurer.

Rosaleen Ní Shuilleabháin (Rural Recreation Officer Galway), Eoin Hogan (Rural Recreation Officer Clare) attended this meeting with eight Galway Walking Club members.

A Mountain Meitheal group can be an administrative collective which is recommended for Mountain Meitheal West, taking in Galway, Mayo and Clare. Both Black Head and Máiméan are in Special Areas of Conservation.

Eoin Hogan: A feasibility study has already been carried out on Black Head Co. Clare, a screening out of anything which may have a negative impact on the environment (consultation with ecologist, wildlife, heritage, planning dept, etc). It is ready to go as a Meitheal West project. In time it can be managed by a core group from Clare.

Rosaleen is doing a feasibility study on Máiméan. As a Meitheal West project. It can be managed by a core group from Galway. European funding can be applied for Meitheal under Galway 2020 (deadline March 2019).

Cuan Beo Meeting Notes, Maree Community Centre, April 2018

Re-connecting the land and the sea, supporting the water, environment, economic and social fabric of communities from Renville to Black Head. http://www.cuanbeo.com email: info@cuanbeo.com Diarmuid Kelly, Chairperson, Cuan Beo; presentations by Colm O’Dowd, Secretary of Cuan Beo; Catherine Seale, Local Area Waters & Communities Officer, ‘How is your local water body doing?’ Check it out on http://www.catchments.ie Support Clean Coasts (An Taisce)www.cleancoasts.org , Coast Watch, Irish Wildlife Trust https://iwt.ie ; Stephen Hynes, Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit, NUIG: Inherent values and sustainability, marine tourism, http://www.nuigalway.ie/semru

What are the future priorities of Cuan Beo?
1. Protect the economic and social fabric of Galway Bay, water quality of the sea, rivers and streams.
2. Work towards local sustainable shellfish production and fisheries.
3. Broaden the Cuan Beo community base.
4. Catchment wide biodiversity assessment and collation of existing environmental information.
5. Active communication and education programmes.
6. Support local social, cultural and heritage events.

The AGM will take place on 24th May 2018 in the Burren Enterprise Centre, Kinvara.

Seashore clean-up, Saturday 12th May, meeting at 1.50 pm at Páidricín’s Bar Furbo and again on Saturday 26th May, same time, same place. Everybody welcome! From 2.00-4.00 pm. Wear appropriate gear, rough terrain in places. Black bags will be provided. Contact Mary at 087 7972217 or John at 087 2945379


April 2018 Bulletin
Report from the Mountaineering Ireland Spring Gathering, Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary, Friday 23rd – Sunday 25th March 2018
The Spring Gathering was hosted by Limerick Climbing Club which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The location was Aherlow Hotel & Lodges in Co. Tipperary.
Friday 23rd March
2.00 pm: Dave McDonnell, Chairperson of LCC, led 30 walkers on a 12 km walk on Slievenamuck. We combined parts of the Ballynacourty and Dolmen loops, taking in the Shrough Dolmen on the summit. Great views, great way to start the weekend.
8.00 pm Welcomes from Dave McDonnell, LCC, Paul Kellagher, Mountaineering Ireland.
Keynote speakers:
Jimmy Barry, member of LCC, Mountain Rescue, and author of ‘Under Galtee Skies’ presented a visual Galtees in all their beauty. Jimmy highlighted the need for hillwalkers to become close observers, and recorders, of all that we see: stone shelters, walls, cairns, tracks, lazy beds, etc. Record and share. The landscape is our heritage and it is changing in many ways.
Jimmy Barry and Maureen O’Brien, SEMRA, presented the work of the South East Mountain Rescue team, SEMRA. In Ireland there are 300 MR volunteers, 10 teams, one dog team. It costs €3500 per month to support a team. State funding is limited. Fundraising is vital. Save lives, donate! http://www.semra.ie
Saturday 24th March
Mountain Meitheal Workshop- Caoilfhionn Moorehead reports on this workshop:
‘Six members of GWC travelled to Kilbehenny, Co. Limerick, to spend the day with the local Mountain Meitheal group. Members of Meitheal SE were also present, with approximately 20 people in attendance. GWC members and others from Co. Clare, were taken to see a piece of completed work, while others undertook work on a current work in progress. The completed project was on a track at Glengarra Woods, that had become inaccessible (mucky underfoot, track was gradually being widened as a result). Meitheal volunteers explained how the work is undertaken, laying a rock path, digging and clearing drains to allow for water to drain naturally. Local and natural materials are always used, and in consultation with Coillte. The time allowed the group to talk about how the Meitheal group is organised, and what works best. The group then joined the main cohort of volunteers who were working hard at a riverside trail near King’s Yard. After a brief break for lunch, we joined the group in various tasks; clearing drains, cutting back branches, laying paths, etc. A thoroughly enjoyable and informative day.’
Environmental Walk, Exploring the Galtees. Anne Brindley reports on this walk:
Matt Joy, environmentalist, educator, researcher with Mountain Research Ireland, led a first-impact and close observation walk up the Black Road, across the coll between Galtymore and Galtybeg, up and over Galtybeg, looking down on Lough Borheen, arriving down at Galtymore Stile and along the forest trail back to the bus.
Points to remember when out hillwalking:
1. Do you know the Leave no Trace Code? http://www.leavenotraceireland.org/seven-principles
2. Stay on track, wear gaiters.
3. Be observant. Take photos of changes, positive and negative.
4. What happens when we walk? Uphill – a toe-off movement drags and shears the surface vegetation. Use the ball of your boot. Downhill, the heel-strike movement is a compressing, decelerating movement, places all the weight on the heel , compacts the vegetation, rainwater is no longer absorbed, creates run-off erosion.
5. Don’t jump off peat hags.
6. What is a ‘desire line’? Taking a short cut to avoid a longer bend in the trail, creating a parallel track to avoid a muddy track.
7. How can we add another dimension to our walks? Check the destination of your next walk. Check out ONE feature, geological/archaeological/flora/fauna/literary. Share it with others on the walk.
Ascent to Lakes below Galtymore from Cush carpark, Lough Dineen-Lough Curra- Ice Road- Cush carpark. Hanora Gilligan, with Mary Lenihan, reports on this walk:
Departure from Cush and along the forest track, out onto open ground. Height gain 550 metres, distance 10 km. The leaders were very informative which gave a fuller experience. Beautiful views of the countryside and the Galtees. A lovely hike.
6.00pm: Mountaineering Ireland AGM
In addition to usual business, the 4th motion passed by the MI members, was the creation of a Hillwalking Committee in recognition of the strategic importance of developing hillwalking. There will be a period of several months during which the terms of reference are agreed.
8.15 pm Dinner
Sunday 25th March.
9.30 am Members’ Forum
Issues raised: 1. Challenges and events in great numbers on the hills. 2. Gender balance in clubs 3. Age profile in clubs. Suggestions: 1.Connect with Tour Operators who promote high activity holidays. Hillwalking is the perfect training activity. 2. A Marketing Officer in each Club. 3. Target young people in third-level institutions through their Clubs & Societies Officer.
10.30 am Workshops:
Club Development Workshop: Hanora and Mary report that the main focus was on GDPR compliance. The information from MI will be pursued at GWC Committee level and changes will be made to safeguard GWC members’ privacy.
Hill Skills Workshop: Anne reports on Julie Reeves’ informative workshop on skills which are applicable to both lowlands and uplands leaders: 1. Planning 2. Clothes & Equipment 3. Walker skills 4. Hazards & Emergency procedures 5. Environmental knowledge 6. Navigation 7. Weather. Introduction to map-reading followed.
Recommended reading: If Maps could speak, Richard Kirwan
Seashore clean-up, Saturday 31st March. Meeting at 1.50 pm at Páidricín’s Bar Furbo and again on Saturday 14th April, Saturday 28th April, same time, same place. Everybody welcome!
From 2.00-4.00 pm. Wear appropriate gear, rough terrain in places. Black bags and gloves will be provided. Contact Mary at 087 7972217 or John at 087 2945379

March 2018

Seashore clean-up, Saturday 31st March, meeting at 1.50 pm at Páidricín’s Bar Furbo and again on Saturday 14th April, same time, same place.  Everybody welcome!

From 2.00-4.00 pm. Wear appropriate gear, rough terrain in places. Black bags and gloves will be provided. Contact Mary at 087 7972217 or John at 087 2945379.

Learning Landscape Symposium 9-11 March 2018, Burrenbeo Trust, in Kinvara and the Burren

How best to use our local places as a learning resource through principles and practice in place-based learning. Keynote speakers, workshops and fieldtrips.

Mountaineering Ireland Spring Gathering, 23rd -25th March, Aherlow House Hotel & Lodge, Aherlow, Co. Tipperary.

Limerick Climbing Club will host the MI Spring Gathering with great talks, activities, workshops, and the MI AGM. For more info http://www.mountaineering.ie/events/2013/default.aspx?iid=1116

Natural & Human Heritages Spring Lunchtime Series – The School of Geography & Archaeology, NUI Galway continues its successful run of public lectures exploring the relationship between archaeology, geography and the natural world.

Venue: Town Hall Theatre Galway Time: 1.10 – 1.50 pm

March 5th

Speaker: Dr. Gordon Bromley Title: Antarctica’s ancient ice and the spectre of rising sea level.
How will the Antarctic Ice Sheet respond to global warming? Seven seasons of geologic fieldwork, and adventure, in the Transantarctic Mountains provide exciting new insight into Antarctica’s past and future.

March 12th

Speaker: Joe Fenwick Title: The ‘Royal Site’ of Rathcroghan; an enduring paradigm of enclosed sacred space. Archaeological research has demonstrated that Rathcroghan, ancient Cruachu, shares much in common with its correlate ‘royal sites’ of Tara, Navan Fort and Knockaulin, indicating a general accord in terms of ritual, ceremony and ritual beliefs across much of the island of Ireland during late prehistory and this architectural template may have had some influence on the form and layout of Christian sites during the Early Historic period.

March 20th

Speaker: Aoife M. Ní Fhlatharta
Title: Feminizing the Rural or Reinforcing Inequality? Exploring the role of the LEADER programme in female entrepreneurship. This talk will explore the role LEADER plays in assisting rural female entrepreneurs.

February 2018

Mountain Meitheal Meeting – 8.00 pm, Thurs 15 Feb, Menlo Park Hotel, Galway

Mountain Meitheal Ireland, the voluntary path building and maintenance group, is interested in supporting the formation of a branch in the Galway/Mayo area. Walkers and climbers who are interested in giving something back to look after the upland environment are invited to attend a public meeting in the Menlo Park Hotel, Galway on Thursday 15th February where experienced Mountain Meitheal members will be on hand to answer questions.

If interested in attending, please email contact.meitheal@gmail.com<mailto:contact.meitheal@gmail.com>.

Natural & Human Heritages Spring Lunchtime Series – The School of Geography & Archaeology, NUI Galway continues its successful run of public lectures exploring the relationship between archaeology, geography and the natural world.

Venue: Town Hall Theatre Galway Time: 1.10 – 1.50 pm

February 5th Speaker: Prof. Ulf Strohmayer Title: Sustainable Transport for Galway.

February 12th Speaker: Dr. Noel McCarthy Title: The natural in the cultural, identifying the significance of natural features in prehistoric western Ireland.
In prehistoric Ireland the role played by natural elements is occasionally conspicuous, but what of the less obvious instances. Can certain ostensibly natural, unaltered features be identified as culturally relevant?

And some reading………………..

A Life in the Trees, Declan Murphy – the quirky lifestyle of a family of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in Co. Wicklow

Walking the Americas, Levison Wood. Walking the Americas chronicles Levison Wood’s 1,800 mile trek through eight counties in Central America, from Mexico to Colombia, experiencing some of the world’s most diverse, beautiful and unpredictable places.

January 2018

Enjoying the mountains with care

Updated version of Mountaineering Ireland’s good practice video for walkers and climbers.


Natural & Human Heritages Spring Lunchtime Lectures Series – The School of Geography & Archaeology, NUI Galway continues its successful run of public lectures exploring the relationship between archaeology, geography and the natural world.

Venue: Town Hall Theatre Galway Time: 1.10 – 1.50 pm

January 15th
Speaker: Dr. Richard Scriven

Title: Exploring Irish Pilgrimage, past and present.

Pilgrimage has witnessed a considerable revival across Europe in recent years. This talk looks at how pilgrimage in Ireland has evolved historically and considers its contemporary role.

January 22nd
Speaker: Dr. Kieran O’Conor

Title: Roscommon Abbey.

This lecture examines the history and architecture of the Dominican Priory in Roscommon, which was founded in 1253 by Felim O’Conor, king of Connacht.

January 29th
Speaker: Dr. Michelle Comber

Title: Square Ringforts: a square peg in a round hole.

Ringforts – circular enclosed farmsteads, usually dating 600 – 900AD.
Detailed research is identifying several sub-types that do not adhere strictly to this standard, including straight-walled square or rectangular enclosures.

And some reading…………….
The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd (published 1977) with a foreword by Robert
MacFarlane. Written during the Second World War, the Cairngorms were her heartland.
Poetry in prose, describing the mountain landscape in its mass, water, snow and ice, air and light, plant and animal life, man, the senses and in being: ‘most of all, after steady walking with the long rhythm of motion sustained until motion is felt ….as the ‘still centre’ of being.’

The Man who planted trees, Jean Giono. First published in 1954. Elézard Bouffier, a shepherd in Provence, plants acorns as he minds his flock. Over time, he plants a forest, ‘instead of the rough and arid gusts….there was a soft and scented breeze’.


December 2017

Christmas gifts for yourself and for others

Blooming Marvellous, A Wildflower Hunter’s Year, Zoë Devlin. 12 chapters connecting the
flowering time of each species to its own story, from January to December, with botanical references and stories, birds, butterflies, insects, mammals and recipes. Zoë Devlin received the National Biodiversity Data Centre Distinguished Recorder Award in 2016.

3D Relief Map of Connemara and South Mayo from http://www.terraform.ie Mountain ranges in this area  include the Mweelreas, the Twelve Bens, the Maumturks, the Partry Mountains and the Sheefry Hills.

Navigation in the Mountains, The definitive guide for hill walkers, mountaineers and leaders, Carlo  Forte. Highly recommended by Russell Mills, mountaintrails.ie@gmail.com

Tapestry of Light, Tina Claffey. Gorgeous photos of our bogs and wetlands with poetry by John  Sheahan.

Connemara and Aran, beautiful photographs by Walter Pfeiffer, with poetry by Irish poets and foreword by archaeologist Michael Gibbons.


https://burrenbeo.com Burrenbeo Trust is a landscape charity dedicated to connecting all of us to our places and our role in caring for them.

https://www.facebook.com/ConservationVolunteersGalway Galway city branch of Conservation  Volunteers Ireland, working in public parks and woodlands. Contact cvgalway@gmail.com for notice before each activity. @ConservationVolunteersGalway

Bird Watch Ireland http://www.birdwatchireland.ie @BirdWatchIE

Irish Whales and Dolphin Group http://www.iwdg.ie

Bat Conservation Ireland http://www.batconservationireland.org

National Parks and Wildlife Service Ireland – https://www.npws.ie/national-parks National Parks, Protected sites, Nature reserves, Maps and data, Planning

http://voiceireland.org VOICE is a member-based Irish environmental charity, empowering individuals and communities to take positive action to conserve our natural resources.

November 2017

Talking about Walking, 19th October 2017, Menlo Park Hotel, a GWC event

Our three speakers were Trish Walsh, Orla Prendergast and Kevin O’Callaghan with a guest appearance from Helen Lawless of Mountaineering Ireland.

Trish is Director of Petersburg Outdoor Education & Training Centre, a Mountain Leader who has trekked and climbed all over the world.  She has a Masters in Historical Landscape Study, has played a key role in the Pilot Access Scheme on Binn Shléibhe, working closely with Mountaineering Ireland and is involved in the Women with Altitude Programme.

Orla is a lecturer in Outdoor Education in GMIT Castlebar. She has climbed and hillwalked all over the world, is an approved BOS  and Mountaineering Ireland mountain trainer.

Kevin is a geologist and lecturer in GMIT Castlebar on the Outdoor Education Programme.  He is involved in multiple outdoor activities, hillwalking, climbing, caving, kayaking, sailing, orienteering.

Our fourth speaker was Helen Lawless, Hillwalking, Access & Conservation Officer for Mountaineering Ireland. She is a Mountain Leader Award holder.  Helen’s work is focused on two strategic objectives:  to secure continued access to mountain areas and crags; to promote conservation and responsible use of the mountain environment.

A good turnout of 74 in the audience, very well supported by our fellow walkers in GWC!

Great presentations supported by super pics.

Arising from the presentations and discussion are suggestions for future development:

  • Taking the conversation further within our walking club, and similar presentations and discussions in other regions.
  • Awareness of flora, fauna, traces of human habitation and worship.
  • Helping the Hills, http://www.helpingthehills.ie, a network of people and organisations sharing experience and knowledge in the use, management, funding and repair of upland paths. See Principles to guide management of path erosion.
  • Mountain Meitheal, http://mountainmeitheal.ie Get out, Get dirty  and Give back!  Well established in the east and south of Ireland, Mountain Meitheal would support greater engagement from walking clubs in the protection and care of our mountain tracks.   Perhaps a GWC Meitheal in Connemara?
  • A levy on Walking Clubs members toward the maintenance and care of our mountain paths and trails, a Ben levy! Our annual €50 sub is amazing value.  How would Club members respond to an additional environment levy?  MI has an Environmental Defence Fund (1990).  It has been used to challenge access issues and developers. The Policy was recently reviewed.
  • Maintenance of the mountains cannot be considered without taking into account landowners, and all stakeholders.
  • Pilot Mountain Access Programme (one in MacGillicuddy’s Reeks and one for Binn Shléibhe) was launched in 2009 under Eamonn O Cuiv, TD.
  • Geoparks: (a UNESCO-designated area containing one or more sites of particular geological importance, intended to conserve the geological heritage and promote public awareness of it, typically through tourism). Co Cavan/Co Fermanagh;  the Burren Co. Clare; the Copper Coast in the SE;  the Mournes/ Cooley/Gullion; The Joyce Country (Binn Shléibhe)
  • Making environmentally sensitive choices as to where we walk to reduce the impact of our foot-fall.
  • Identification of abuse and erosion: honeypots/ mountain destination hotspots;  path erosion, and further erosion caused by walking off the path; cairn building; works of art in inappropriate places; unnecessary signage – paint splashes, poles, etc; challenges and competitions; overzealous / misguided interventions and repairs (see Cuilcagh Mountain in Co Cavan/Fermanagh  http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-39734809 ).

Autumn Gathering Mountaineering Ireland Letterkenny Donegal October 2017

Saturday 14th October

Destination Muckish Mountain (666 m), a mountain with a past and many stories to tell, expertly re-told by Séamus Doohan, our guide from Falcarragh. http://www.walkingdonegal.net/  and info@walkingdonegal.net

Sunday 15th October

Dunlewey Community Centre, presentation on The Errigal Path by Garten Outdoor Education & Training Centre.  In 2011, with increased numbers of walkers up Errigal, the community perceived a need for an action plan at the trail head, serious bog erosion, and along the ridge track.  With EU funding under Ascent, www.ascent-project.eu , Donegal Co. Co. and partners, have brought in consultants from the Highlands in Scotland to analyse impact and propose future management of the Errigal trail and ascent.  5 routes have been proposed.


October 2017

‘Talking about Walking’ on Thursday 19th October, 7.45 pm in Menlo Park Hotel.  The pleasures of walking and the impact on our fragile environment. A Galway Walking club event.

Colin Stafford-Johnson in the Town Hall Theatre, Monday 6th November, 8.00 pm.  Award-winning cameraman and presenter Colin Stafford-Johnson talks about his wildlife encounters at home and abroad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=Cbas7j7HdEg   – Leave No Trace Ireland


Preparation …

  • Be properly equipped and fit for the activity concerned
  • Have the skills to cope with the chosen route
  • Have an up-to-date weather forecast and know the time of dusk
  • Be aware of the potential hazards and know what to do if something goes wrong
  • Accept the risk that is inherent in hillwalking and climbing, and take responsibility for your own safety

‘Pack it in, pack it out’

  • Leave no litter behind; even biodegradable items like banana skins and teabags take years to disappear
  • Pick up litter when you see it (be cautious when handling waste)
  • Take care not to cause any pollution. Human waste should be buried, at least 30m away from watercourses; take home, or carefully burn, used toilet paper and hygiene products

Environmental considerations for walkers

  • For environmental and safety reasons keep group numbers small. Ideally group size should be less than 10 people, and should not exceed 15.
  • Avoid taking dogs on the hills at any time
  • Walk on rock, stones or the most durable surface available, rather than on vegetation or soft ground
  • Where there is a visible path line, walk along the centre of the path to avoid widening the damage.
  • Wearing gaiters will make it easier to follow a muddy path
  • Avoid taking short cuts on zig-zag paths as this creates new lines for run-off of water and increases erosion
  • Leave cairns as they are; new cairns can mislead some walkers and old cairns could have archaeological value
  • Have respect for all natural things and take care not to disturb plants, birds and animals.


September 2017

Protect Ireland’s Mountains –  a short video by Mountaineering Ireland, about why Ireland’s mountains are important


Some reading ………..

Whittled Away, Ireland’s Vanishing Nature,  Pádraic Fogarty,  Nature in Ireland is disappearing at an alarming rate.  Overfishing, industrial-scale farming and pollution have decimated wildlife habitats and populations. ……..the foundations of our tourism and agricultural sectors are being undermined.  

648 Billion Sunrises, A Geological Miscellany of Ireland, Patrick Roycroft. ‘..…it can be problematic to emotionally bond or behaviourally relate to rocks:  under normal circumstances, rocks don’t move, they are not alive, they don’t do cute and cuddly things……..Rocks should be thought of as our ‘Tribal Elders’ who know the stories of how we came to be.’

And in the cinema.  An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Al Gore highlights progress since An Inconvenient Truth, (2006), but calls for immediate action for environmental responsibility.  The stakes have never been higher.

August 2017

Walking with Wildlife, – leaflet with information on common flora and fauna species found in Ireland’s upland areas – http://www.mountaineering.ie/_files/2014716152223_a2b48d00.pdf

www.habitas.org.uk/dragonflyireland       www.irishlichens.ie

http://moths.ie                                   http://www.irishmoths.net

Some reading…….

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee. In 1934 Laurie Lee left his village home in Gloucestershire to walk to London, and then to Spain, working odd jobs and playing the violin as he went. ‘I walked steadily, effortlessly, hour after hour, in a kind of swinging, weightless dream.’

The Old Ways, A Journey on foot, Robert MacFarlane.  ‘It tells the story of walking a thousand miles or more along old ways in search of a route to the past……an exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt ancient paths.’

An App  for another dimension,  Star Walk 2  (€2.99) – Star Walk 2 brings the night sky to life, with 3D models of celestial bodies, 88 constellations, dwarf planets, comets, planetary nebulae, and man-made satellites.  You can adjust the star map as you hold your mobile up to the sky.

July 2017

Hill sheep farmers and Walkers in the West of Ireland, sharing the space


On the hills keep an eye out for

St Patrick’s Cabbage







Fir clubmoss

Mountaineering Ireland would appreciate reports of St Patrick’s Cabbage and Fir Clubmoss, email irishmountains@gmail.com

And butterflies……

http://www.butterflyireland.com    www.irishbutterflies.com

Jesmond Harding Butterfly Conservation Ireland https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgYwh07e5oL8_QqQ3waLrbg

Twitter https://twitter.com/Butterfly_IE

And some reading ………

The Rule of the Land, Walking Ireland’s Border, Garrett Carr. Garrett Carr travelled Ireland’s border on foot and by canoe, the borderland as a realm of its own.  A great read!

A Time of Gifts. Patrick Leigh Fermor.  In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor, set out on foot across Europe, a Europe that ceased to exist 10 years later.  He travelled down the Rhine, along the Danube, to Hungary.  His journey to Constantinople is continued in Between the Woods and the Water. 

June 2017

Notes from ‘A Celebration of Ireland’s mountain environment’, Cappanalea Outdoor Education & Training Centre, Killorglin, 26th – 28th May

To coincide with National Biodiversity Week, and delivered in conjunction with Cappanalea OETC, Killarney National Park Education Centre and the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks Mountain Access Forum, Mountaineering Ireland hosted a weekend celebration of Ireland’s mountain environment in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.  Each activity added a piece to the interlocking mosaic of Ireland’s uplands: geology, flora, fauna, ornithology…..and the community of people who live and work there.

Cappanalea OEC, Kerry ETB.  Situated 11 km south of Killorglin, overlooking Cappanalea Lake, the Centre employs 30 people, teachers, specialists, support staff.  Programmes in the Centre include adventure sports and field study activities, focusing on personal development for all ages.  Activities include canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, raft building, camping, hill walking, rock climbing, orienteering, bouldering, team initiatives.  The Centre also welcomes walking groups, plenty of space in the 4-bedded dorms, as does the hostel in Killarney National Park.  http://www.cappanalea.ie

Friday evening:  Greeted by Colette and given a tour of the Centre, a group of 15 from various parts of Ireland was happily immersed in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks for the next two days.

Welcome from Mike Maunsell , Chair of MI’s Access & Conservation Committee, and from Helen Lawless, Hillwalking, Access & Conservation Officer.

Valerie O’Sullivan, photographer, author of ‘Ireland’s Atlantic Shore’ , ‘I am of Kerry’, and of the newly  published ‘The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks’.  A talk by Valerie, whose  stunning  photos reflect the multi-dimensions of the landscape, the land, the daily life of the people in the community, customs and traditions, animals, the weather, natural and built structures, the adventures,  and enlivened by  Valerie’s personal anecdotes.  www.valerieosullivan.com

Saturday am.  An introduction to the geology of Ireland, Kerry and the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks by     Gosia Horajska, geologist.  Gosia is developing  geotourism in Kerry.   Starting with one half of Ireland closer to Antarctica and the other half in the northern hemisphere, through  Avalonia’s collision with Laurentia, Gosia looked at geological heritage sites, and specifically the northern side of the Reeks.   Her blog is https://gochahor.wixsite.com/kerrygeo .  She highly recommended the following books:

648 Billion Sunrises, A Geological Miscellany of Ireland, Patrick Roycroft

Rock around Ireland, A guide to Irish geology,  Peadar McArdle

The Making of Ireland, Landscapes in Geology,  Michael Williams and David Harper

And check out the Du Noyer GSI Photo Competition for your best pic of a rock


Sat am: With the intention of putting our new-found knowledge into practice under Gosia’s guidance, and inspired by Valerie’s photographs, we headed off in a mini-bus to the Breanlee carpark and up the hydro path to Lough Eagher and Coomloughra Lough.   Skylarks, wagtails, wheatears, a Kerry slug which was eclipsed and surpassed in stardom  by a mink slinking among the rocks, greater butterwort, orchids, St Patrick’s cabbage, club moss, lichen, saxifrage, mosses, tormentil, frochan, and plenty of vividly branded sheep, a multi-layered world engrossed us  for the afternoon.

Sat evening:  Tony Nagle, BirdWatch Ireland Atlas Volunteer , introduced us to Ireland’s Upland birds,  from passage migrants such as the snow-bunting and ptarmigan, to our own golden plover, dunlin, dottrel, red grouse, ring ouzel and choughs, and to our endangered curlew, to the raptors; merlin, hen harrier, peregrine falcon, short-eared owl, buzzard and golden eagle.   http://www.birdwatchireland.ie

Helen Lawless reminded us of the uniqueness  of Ireland’s upland areas.  Only 6% of Ireland lies above 300 metres, and only 0.35% above 600 metres, 82% of our drinking water comes from our upland areas.  What we have is very precious.  MI’s vision:

Mountaineering Ireland exists to represent and support the walkers and climbers of Ireland and to be a voice for the sustainable use of Ireland’s mountains and all the places (coastline, crags, forests) we use.

Prizes awarded for the best pics of the day.

Sunday, a fantastic day in the Reeks:   Leaving Lisleibane car park, we headed up Knocknabrinnea in glorious sunshine, no wind.  From the peak at 850 metres we looked across to Carrantuohill, and Binn Chaorach, we walked along the shoulder of Binn Chaorach, overlooking  Cumeengearagh Valley, over the col of Skegmore and down to Coomloughra, skirting the lake and Lough Eagher, back down the hydro path to the minibus, checking out rocks, observing and sighting birds, flowers, mosses, lichen, and more sheep!


May 2017

Birdwatch Ireland http://www.birdwatchireland.ie – established in 1968, they have over 15,000 members and supporters, and a local network of over 30 branches nationwide.


Iphone – All Birds UK – a Sunbird guide, professional nature apps €8.99

Android – Bird ID, British birds, Sunbird €3.99

The Hidden Life of Trees, What they feel, How they Communicate by Peter Wohlleben. You’ll never look at or think about a tree the same way again!

Irish Trees: Myths, legends and folklore by Niall MacCoitir

In ancient Ireland, mythology and folklore were part of the general knowledge about each tree. This book gathers together the myths, legends, folklore, and use, associated with native Irish trees.

http://www.irishwildflowers.ie – Irish wildflowers, with photo and details of over 800 native and introduced wildflowers found in Ireland

www.wildflowersofireland.net – Zoë Devlin’s website includes a chart of in-season flowers, folklore, herbal information, historical and literary associations.

Ireland’s Wild Plants: Myths, legends and folklore by Niall MacCoitir

Plants are described in seasonal order, with a history of herbs and traditional herbal medicine, folklore, the role of plants in magical protection, charms and spells, in place names and cures.

App: Download the Biodiversity Data Capture app where you can record your own nature observations, flora and fauna.

MEETING Thursday 4 th May from 7.30-8.30 pm. Oranmore Lodge Hotel. Waters & Communities Office of Galway. Public meeting to discuss the natural waters of Co Galway, presentation of the latest draft River Basin Management Plan by Catherine Seale, Community Waters Officer for Galway, discussion on water quality, angling, heritage, biodiversity, amenity use and issues.

April   2017

Tóchar, Walking Ireland’s ancient pilgrim paths, Darach MacDonald, ‘a personal odyssey along the paths of our fathers……….In the act of emptying the body, the soul opens for joy.’

Pilgrim Paths across Europe:



Apps:  Wise Pilgrim apps for all the Spanish Caminos:  francés, inglés, aragonés, del Norte, de la plata, portugués, primitivo, del Salvador, de Invierno.

http://www.caminosociety.ie   –  Ireland, pilgrim passports, information, news and events

http://www.csj.org.uk – Confraternity of Saint James, information, resources, advice, historical and cultural contexts, guide books, news, events.

Camino de Santiago St Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago, John Brierley.  Highly recommended.


http://www.chemindecompostelle.com –  guides, practical advice, useful links, all you need to know

https://boutique.ffrandonnee.fr/topoguides   – guide books for all the GRs and Chemins in France

http://www.compostelle-bretagne.fr – guide books, practical information and lists of accommodation along the Breton chemins.   Similar resources for other regions


http://www.viefrancigene.org/en – walking and cycling paths, guide books, accommodation, useful links.


http://www.jakobsweg-pilgern.de/pilgern-deutschland    Piilgrim information, routes, pilgrim Pass, tips, equipment, links.


Cyclists:  http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos/eurovelo-6

EuroVelo 6:   4,400 km of cycle path from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

March 2017

Report from the Mountaineering Ireland Spring Meet, Springhill Court Hotel, Kilkenny, 3-5th March 2017.  The Meet was hosted by Tyndall Mountain Club.

Pat Moran and Anne Brindley represented Galway Walking Club at the Meet.

Mountaineering Ireland’s vision is that Ireland’s mountain landscapes will be valued and protected as environmental, cultural and recreational assets.

Friday 3rd March, 14.00.  Jim Healy, Chairperson of Tyndall Mountain Club, led 18 of us from Bennettsbridge  upriver  to Kilkenny, along the banks of a mud-brown surging Nore, oozing onto its flood plain after the recent rains.  Entertaining us with local history, stories about the owners of the beautiful houses built  high up on the limestone and dolomite embankments, some famous, all of them industrious, involved,  in the past and/or  present,  in sawmills, stone-cutting, lime, leather moccasins, equestrian centres, pub-owners/hoteliers, grain mills.   Jim told us that the river path is managed by trailKilkenny under the Rural Recreation Scheme.  The scheme is state-funded under the Leader programme, in co-operation with local landowners, who may be paid up to €1000 to maintain their section of the path.

Friday evening:  After registration, Kevin Higgins, MI and Tyndall Mountain Club member, gave us a talk on ‘Ireland’s Neglected Heritage – Mountaineering’, the contribution Irish people have made to international mountaineering.

Saturday 4th March   There were 9 walks on offer from the challenging ‘Mount Leinster and Black Rock Mountain’,  to a visit to the Gardens at Woodstock and Inistoige.

9.00 am:  Environmental Officer Workshop:    This was chaired by Helen Lawless.  During the autumn of 2016, Mountaineering Ireland held six regional consultation meetings with representation from 48 affiliated clubs and a number of individual members, on the future vision for the uplands of Ireland.  For the majority of MI members the mountains represent ‘peace and quiet, natural beauty’.

What can we do, as a Walking Club, to celebrate Ireland’s mountains?

  • Respect our environment: leave no trace; stay on the path, wear gaiters, stepping off the path creates further erosion; hire a bus instead of driving to the departure point;  report erosion or damage to the landscape to Mountaineering Ireland, the NPWS, our County Council helpingthehills.ie
  • Respect the landowners (gates, fences, no dogs, etc)
  • Respect for other people who enjoy the same environment (anglers, cyclists, kayakers, etc)

11.00 am:  Departure by mini-bus for the Blackstairs Mountains Special Area of Conservation, with Dr Séamus O Murchú, an archaeologist from Co Carlow, who carried out his PhD research on the archaeological potential of the Irish uplands.  A great opportunity to learn how to ‘read’ and enjoy the landscape. See his  ‘archaeouplands’ blog,  https://archaeouplands.wordpress.com/

We started at Crannach Woods, looking at medieval ring forts, standing stones, Neolithic rock art, over Crannach Hill and the saddle between Stoolyen and Knockroe, down Shannon’s Lane.  Séamus  enthralled and entertained us with tales of princesses and witches, settlements, rituals, ceremonials, burials, and agricultural practices.

18.00:  Mountaineering Ireland Annual General Meeting

18.45:  Mountaineering Ireland’s Members’  Forum

Mountaineering Ireland’s vision (see top of page).  Their role may be seen as:

  • Engaging with policymakers
  • Working in collaboration with other interested parties
  • Celebrating the benefits of our mountains and our environment
  • Encouraging all to have respect for our uplands, and our environment.

A lively discussion followed on the age profile of the members, ideas are sought on how to recruit younger members.  One suggestion was to highlight the sporting and competitive aspect of hillwalking.   A second point of discussion was that 85% of the MI members are hillwalkers but that this was not reflected in the MI web page.

20.00 An excellent dinner in the Springhill Court Hotel restaurant.

February 2017

Our stomping grounds, Connemara and the Burren

Reflections on Another Life by Michael Viney,   A selection of his columns from the past forty years.  Author, inquisitive interpreter and chronicler of change in the environment, in wildlife,  in Co Mayo and beyond.

The Breathing Burren by  Gordon D’Arcy.  Environmental writer, author of natural history books, artist, educator, with a primary focus on the limestone landscape and habitat of the Burren.

Following on from Kev Reynolds’  talk in the Westwood Hotel,  among his 50 guides is ‘A Walk in the Clouds, 50 Years among the Mountains’.  A collection of 75 autobiographical short stories, highlights gathered from 50 years of mountain travel and adventures around the world.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is a national organisation that collates, manages, analyses and disseminates data on Ireland’s biodiversity                  http://www.biodiversityireland.ie/.

App: Download the Biodiversity Data Capture app where you can record your own nature observations, flora and fauna.

Natural & Human Heritages Spring Lunchtime Lecture Series (NUI Galway) in the Town Hall Theatre Studio         1.10 pm -1.50 pm

Friday 3rd February – Back from the Stone Age:  The place of Céide Fields in Irish prehistory.  Speaker:  Dr Andrew Whitefield

Friday 10th Feb – Fishing for consensus on Ireland’s salmon farms.  Speaker Dr Liam Carr

Friday 17 Feb – Climate change, prehistoric farming, soil loss, and the development of a karst landscape in western Ireland.  Speaker:  Dr Carleton Jones

Friday 24 Feb – Irish Winter Climates:  From storms to frost and back again. Speaker:  Dr Audrey Morley

Burren Beo – Burren Life Lecture:   Dr Brendan Dunford,  ‘The Burren – helping conserve a living landscape’,  at 8.00 pm, Thurs 9th Feb, Room T115 Mary Immaculate College Theatre block, Limerick.


January 2017

The Lamentations of Zeno by Ilija Trojanow – a novel with a message about climate change, as it’s happening now.

Our Once and Future Planet by Paddy Woodworth, environmental monitor, columnist for the Irish Times, author of Dirty War, Clean Hands and The Basque CountryOur Once and Future Planet looks at ecological restoration across the planet. Our own Clonbur Woods, Co Galway feature on pages 175-179.

App to Report Environmental Complaint (free, iphone, Android) –    See it? Say it!   This app makes it easy to report environmental pollution with the GPS location, a photo and a summary description.   Or you can phone 1 850 365 121.

Eco Eye RTE 1 Tuesdays at 7.00 pm – investigating Ireland’s major environmental issues and why they are centrally important to public health, the economy and the quality of our lives.   @ecoeye

Mountaineering Ireland would like us to watch out for planning notices in upland areas, and  report on conservation issues.