One of the things that really make me happy is time spent with my family and particularly when this involves exploring nature, somewhere new. We had been to Ballycroy National Park before but this boardwalk trail we had only driven passed before.
The wooden boardwalk rises you slightly above the bog , so you can look down and admire the heathers and beautiful grasses in their winter browns and reds. Here and there bog pools are dotted and interpretation boards hint at what you may see on a summers day.
All around you can admire views of mountains, such as Claggan Moutain, (even if covered in low-lying mist) and the bay. In fact it is hard to imagine it as the sea as it seemed so calm. And you can also see why it would have been a favourite pirate hiding place in years gone by.
The boardwalk leads you to the sea shore where yet another surprise awaits. There in the water, and jutting out from the deep peat banks are ancient trees. Known as bog oak (though they may be oak, yew or pine) these tree fossils could be 5 or 6 thousand years old. They have basically been preserved in the acidic peat soil. Some, are slowly been colonised by seaweeds.
This is a special place. It is not just the spectacular scenery that make me happy but seeing these ancient trees is a powerful link to the past.
County Mayo has much to offer walkers and cyclists and yet it is very under utilized. When we were in North Wales a couple of weeks ago there were walkers and ramblers everywhere. Many of the small villages within the Snowdonian National Park seem to rely on these visitors in order to make a living. It is estimated that 360,000 walkers climb the summit of Snowdon every year and that’s just one moutain. I can find no figures for County Mayo. Croagh Patrick, which is a pilgrim mountain has up to 20,000 walkers on Reek Sunday (the traditional day in July for climbing the mountain) but for the rest of the summer would have much fewer. The other mountain and hill walks in the county are relatively little explored.
Last week we completed a walk near Mulranny (Mallaranny) on the west coast of County Mayo. We were surrounded by amazing scenery, Clew Bay with all it’s islands and Croagh Patrick across the water and yet we saw no one (other than sheep and a few cows) till we got back to the start of our journey, where the path joins the now popular Great Western Greenway.
Initially, we followed the path that is part of the Rocky Mountain Way, then turned left onto a bog road (a road built to aid getting turf from bogs), and climbed gently uphill. We could see Croagh Patrick across the bay and looking NW, Achill Island.
Once at the top (and following a number of false summits) you get another view right over Ballycroy National Park – though by this time the cloud had come over and it wasn’t as clear as earlier in the day.
As well as sheep, hare droppings were evident and quite abundant. Heather (Erica tetralix) was in flower, and on some of the lower slopes was being visited by camera-shy bumblebees! Bog cotton and many amazing mosses also abounded. We found a few grouse feathers and hoped this now rare bird had not fallen victim to a predator.
The walk was a definite tick for my 16 for 2016 list – 2: Find two new places in Mayo to explore
And is certainly a place I would like to explore some more.