A couple of weeks ago we visited Balla Town Park. The park, managed by the local community, consists of a series of walks, we choose the fairy village trail.
Fairy Village Trail
The town was left land by a local landlord. In 2015, the community applied for a Neighbourwood scheme. An area of 35 acres of old estate wood was cleared of encroaching laurel and planted with 3000 young deciduous trees. These new trees, along with the existing old trees, now make a wonderful diverse woodland. The old trees include oak, beech and horse chestnut trees.
Old oak trees with newly planted trees in foreground
Mixed tree ages
Well laid paths, benches, picnic table, tree trail and interpretation boards all add to the visitors experience. The fairy village including some lovely sculptured way markers, are a great addition particularly for the younger visitors. They are a great incentive for encouraging young ones to go for walks and explore. It is hoped to install a bird hide in the near future. Birds boxes and bats boxes have been erected and there are plenty brash piles for wildlife too.
The Neighbourwood scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. It aims to encourage communities to woodlands as a local community amenities.
Balla Town Park
Balla Town Park is a wonderful example of what can be done to create a great resource of local people and visitors.
The weather has been kind this Christmas holiday so Tuesday was the perfect day for a winter walk. I have featured this walk before two winters ago (how times flies!). The walk is part of the Foxford Way and the area is called Laughil, near Pontoon here in Co. Mayo. There are lovely views of Lough Conn from the track.
Over the years we have been walking here the birch and willow have been growing fast. It’s nice to see this natural regeneration. There is also quite a bit of holly too. Further along the track there are some stunted old oak trees. The trees are festooned in amazing ferns and lichens.
An oak and ivy natural sculpture
In one place much of the path is covered in fallen oak leaves. Here the low winter sun creates long shadows where there are planted conifers on one side of the path with the more natural woodland (mainly large oak) on the other side.
A lovely, pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
We recently spent a week in North Wales, not far from Snowdonia National Park. The park covers over 2000 square kilometres of mountain, lakes, rivers, valleys, coast and woodland. It is rich in biodiversity and a great place to explore.
Snowdonia itself is the largest mountain in Wales (and England) at 1085m and is very popular with hill walkers. There are over 2000km of public footpaths in the park so plenty to choose from. We particularly enjoyed a walk at Cwm Idwal, Ogwen, which climbed just a little up a glacial valley and then around a lake. The paths are very well maintained and it was a perfect walk for the kids.
You cannot visit Wales without also visiting a castle. This year we visited Beaumaris Castle, on Anglesey. Beaumaris is a World Heritage Site. The castle built by the English King Edward I, was started in 1295 but was never actually completed.
CAstle in Wales
The West Highland Railway runs a steam train through part of the National Park. It is a great way to view some of the amazing scenery, and you almost feel that you have stepped back in time when you board the train. We traveled just a short section of the 40 mile track from Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu.
Just a little sample of our week in Wales.
I had my final walk around the wood near the house for 2015 in the rain. It could be the final walk, as many of the conifers are due to be felled early in the new year. The wood has brought me many hours of creativity over the last year and that I will miss it when it is gone. I will miss my walks too as even in the worst of weathers you can still enjoy a relatively dry and comfortable walk.
It is likely that 2016 will bring us more rain and floods, but as the final leaves of 2015 are blown away let us hope for new growth.
May 2016 bring us lots of laughter. May we find time to indulge our creativity and no matter what life throws at us may we will find the grace to deal with it. And may the sun shine through it all.
Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful New Year.