Mayo Adventure 2010

I’m in the middle of planning a new event for 2010. By taking advantage of the new cycleway / walkway between Newport and Mulranny (referred to in a recent posting below) and the bicycles available from my accommodation partner, Hannah at Léim Siar in Blacksod, I’m creating a 5 to 7-day walking and cycling tour of Mayo, which will almost entirely be off-road.

Indeed, even the roads which must be taken will only be minor roads, with extremely little traffic anyway.

Mayo is just a great place for walking and cycling. The northern half of the county is traversed by both The Bangor Trail and The Western Way, with large tracts of both off-road. Then we have the little travelled routes of the western part of the county, around Ballycroy, which have almost no traffic and offer great views of the Atlantic to the west and the Nephin Begs to the east.

Then we have The Mullet peninsula. There’s not much traffic there either and it can boast truly wonderful beaches and views in all directions, including south over the high cliffs of Achill’s Slievemore mountain.

More on this tour later. It will combine cycling and walking, as always at a leisurely pace. We’re not in the racing business.

Email me or post a comment if you’d like to be kept up to date with this new tour for 2010 – The Mayo Adventure.

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Major Victory in Poland

Tremendous news from Poland this week, where the government has bowed to pressure to re-route the planned new ‘Via Baltica’ trans-European motorway away from the most important and sensitive wildlife areas of the Augustow Forest, Biebrza Marshes (National Park) and Knyszyn Forest.

The Via Baltica motorway will not now cut through Biebrza Marshes.

The Via Baltica motorway will not now cut through Biebrza Marshes.

These are all Natura 2000 sites, protected under EU law and the Birds and Habitats Directives. Important species, which are under pressure but still have good populations in these areas include the Wolf, Lynx, Beaver and the Greater Spotted Eagle. Amazingly, the motorway was to cut right through these extraordinary landscapes and habitats.

Maybe two years ago, I signed a petition to stop this development. I don’t know how many signed, but every signature helped, no doubt. I’ll tell you one thing : if there’s an environment you want to protect, do something about it, however little.

Read Via Baltica Info here.

New Cycle and Walkway in Mayo

When I came home to Ireland in 1996 and installed myself in Westport at the time, I was amazed to find the old railway spur from Westport to Achill Sound lying disused.

Well, 14 years later, at last, the section from Newport to Mulranny is to be opened in early 2010 as a superb cycle and walking route.

Named the “Great Western Way”, this off-road track will be a 17.5 km peaceful, safe and truly beautiful route for walking and cycling. The track will, of course, retain old railway bridges and retention walls, which are really attractive features. At certain points along the way, there are wonderful views out over Clew Bay, to the West, as well as into the Nephin Beg mountain range, to the East. I know this, because I’ve walked it on more than one occasion.

The potential is clearly there to extend this route in the future, in both directions, on to Achill and Westport. What a pity it is that this wasn’t undertaken long ago – because several sections of the railway were lost to building in the 1990s, most particularly coming out of Westport and at the northern end of Newport village. Still, it’s better late than never and I, for one, will certainly be leading groups along it in 2010.

Looking forward to that. Great stuff.

Trip to Poland, March 2010

I first visited Poland in 2006 and have been bringing a small group there, in March, ever since.

The trip is a five-day journey into the wonderful National Parks of the Northeastern corner of the country. Biebrza (Beaver) National Park lies along the wide valley of the Biebrza River. It is a birder’s paradise, with many species to be observed. It is forest country and in March the river is swollen by the melting snow. It is picture postcard stuff.

Bialowieza National Park is world-renowned, both for its population of European Bison and its famous Strictly Reserved Area, where man’s intervention is nil. The park is home to some elusive Lynx, as well as the Wolf.

I bring a small group, limited to 9. You need to book your own flights, with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Warsaw return. I’ll take care of the rest. We stay in a locally owned pension, full board, sharing. We have the services of a brilliant local guide, a National Parks and Wildlife Service equivalent officer. He knows Biebrza so well, he even wrote the guide book on it.

On past trips, we’ve even been demonstrated the Polish method for regenerating their oak forests by a Forest Manager with the Polish Forestry Service.

It’s a great trip for walkers, bird watchers and general lovers of the outdoors.

If you might be interested in joining us in March 2010, for five days great walking and nature discovery, drop me an e-mail on info [at] tourismpure [dot] com.

Coillte and Native Woods – Is It Possible ?

Coillte is the Irish state-owned commercial forestry management entity, controlling around 7% of the national territory. Almost all of the trees planted on the company’s estate are non-native conifers, including Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce, Lodgepole Pine and others. Many of its sites in the West would be considered near ‘dead zones’ in terms of their very poor species diversity, both flora and fauna. We all know of sites where the sun does not penetrate to the monoculture plantation floor and where birdlife and mammal life is low in diversity.

In a remarkable move, however, Coillte became involved in an EU-Life Natura 2000 project back in 2006, with the aim of restoring small bits of its estate as priority native woodland habitats. This week, I attended the two-day conference, which closed this four-year, € 2.6 m project.

On the second day, attendees visited Clonbur Wood, on the Galway – Mayo border. Various Coillte personnel introduced us to the interesting aspects of the wood, which is associated with limestone pavement. Large scale removal of non-native trees has taken place and native species planted in their place. There is real hope that this site, of almost 300 ha, can return to being a wonderful, diverse native wood.

Native trees present include Ash, Hazel, Birch, with some Oak, Juniper and Yew. Animals present include fox, badger, pine marten, red squirrel, lesser horseshoe bat and otter.

As one part of my three- and five-day walking tours in Mayo, I bring small groups on to Coillte managed lands. In 2010, I will be adding this wonderful new amenity at Clonbur, where walkers can see first hand this impressive project to re-establish a native limestone pavement woodland in this part of the West of Ireland.

See here for information on Clonbur Wood.

For the EU website on the LIFE Project, see here.

Western Ocean Weekends in 2010

I’m delighted to announce dates for our three-day walking tours of North West Mayo in 2010.

Western Ocean Weekends will take place on these dates –

May 14 thru 16,

June 18 thru 20,

July 16 thru 18,

August 13 thru 15,

September 10 thru 12,

October 1 thru 3.

Come along and join our small groups on easy to moderate level walks in forests, bogs, low lying hills, cliff-tops and off-shore islands of Co. Mayo.

National Trails Day 2009

This Sunday, October 4, is Ireland’s National Trails Day. So get out and take a walk on one of the country’s many waymarked ways, or indeed go to one of the events that isn’t actually on a trail.

The Bangor Trail

The Bangor Trail

For my part, I’ll be walking part of the Bangor Trail and Western Trail near Newport with South Mayo Leader.

Check out the website for the day here.

See the event I’ll be partaking in here.

Other events in Mayo are being held in Clonbur Wood, Ballycroy National Park, Belleek Wood, Clogher Bog, River Moy, Lough Cullin and Lough Callow.

Wherever you are, try to get along to an event or walk in your county.