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26/10/2021

Exploring in the great Slieve Felim Hills

Exploring in the great Slieve Felim Hills

We finally completed our long loop in the Slieve Felim Hills. This has been done in stages over the lockdown as time, energy and restrictions allow. The entire walk will take a full summer’s day to complete and we have got plenty of practice over the last few months.

The final stage took us to the Cappamore side of Collaun. A misty rain hung over the conifer plantation and the hills as we stepped out of the car. This side always seems to be wetter but this is part of the fun and acceptance of being outdoors.
While the walk itself is beautiful the amount of litter is shocking.

We have become more aware of this disgusting habit the more time we spend in the forests. There are signs up but these don’t seem to make one bit of difference.

The litter is very varied from cans, bottles, nappies, clothes, house clearances, bathrooms (yes a whole bathroom) metal and timber.

The maddening thing about this is that a lot of this material can be recycled through domestic blue bins or at local council’s civic amenity sites. A case in point is a TV and DVD player we found lately dumped on a woodland track. Other more toxic finds include old paint tins, household chemicals and sealer for windows.

As all of this rubbish starts to break down it releases toxins and these are washed into the roadside ditches. As a lot of our forestry is located on hilly ground, this polluted water eventually ends up in our streams and rivers harming fish, aquatic life and contaminating our drinking water.

Leaving behind the litter we resumed our walk. It was a steady climb and this allowed us plenty of time to take in nature. A loud peeping call caught my attention. I saw a pair of birds land in a high tree above our heads. I switched to birdwatcher mode and noticed their plump bodies and long square tails.

Harry who has keen eyesight pointed out their black head and pinkish breast. They moved again and landed on a lower willow and our birds were a pair of bullfinches. They continued to ignore us and moved towards each other displaying with their tails.

This was an intricate movement and nature never ceases to amaze. Bullfinches are buds eaters and there are plenty of birch, willow and mountain ash along the edges of the forest for them to eat.

Another first of the spring were the emerging yellow flowers of coltsfoot. This plant likes well drained soils and I have often found them growing in old quarries. The well drained gravel paths of the forestry make an ideal habitat for coltsfoot. While we could see our landmark in the distance, a long abandoned house it took several steep dead ends before we got on the right track.

Some of these had signs up warning the public that the area had been sprayed. This must be done before new planting but when the trees are harvested there is a flush of wildflowers like foxglove that help pollinators. Also we found lots of frog spawn and I wonder what is the long term impact of these chemicals on the pollution sensitive skins of frogs?

Eventually we reached the farm house and this is the point we had reached from the opposite side. Unlike most abandoned upland houses this one is in fairly good condition and the roof and windows are intact. The cows were dry and well fed in their shed and these are tough and remote conditions to be farming.

Trees like ash and sycamore have grown up on the boundary bank where the deer could, not eat them. Ivy has been carried in by birds and occasionally we find a red squirrel here.

Windflowers also grow on the bank providing pollen and nectar for butterflies and bees. On the way back we found lots of frog spawn in the pools of water by the edge of the path. We were thrilled to find a pair of mating frogs.

The male was on her back and he was about half the size of the female. Back at the car we gratefully changed into dry clothes before taking a new road to the village of Cappamore.

He picked up some essential supplies before finishing up in the Town Park. I had never noticed this before but we had pulled in to look at the old creamery and spotted the park.

A young family was just leaving and they come here every day to enjoy nature. The river was brown and fast following after all the rain.

There are plenty of seats to sit down, relax and take in nature and there is a lovely view of the river. Upstream the old stone bridge is visible and the craftsmanship is still evident decades later. On the opposite bank there is plenty of willow and the catkins full of pollen and nectar for bees were just opening.

A large information panel was erected during the time of the Mulcair life project and this gives details of the creamery, biodiversity and history of flood relief in Cappamore. Our last stop was at the pollinator patch and this is bordered by alder trees with a few nest boxes.

Comments/Questions to albert.nolan@rocketmail.com or 089 4230502. Albert is also available to give walks/talks to schools, tidy towns, youth and community groups.

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