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.
A couple of weeks ago we visited Union Wood in County Sligo. The bluebells were amazing.
Union wood, blubells
Bluebells, Union Wood
Bluebells, Union Wood
Union Wood is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to the presence of old sessile oak woodland. Today, the woodland is mixed and includes commercial forestry and is part owned by Coillte and the NPWS.
Water Avens, Union Wood
Lords & Ladies and Bluebells
The wood was once part of the Cooper Estate, The Cooper family had acquired the land in the mid-17th century under the Cromwellian settlement. Prior to which it was owned by an old Irish family, the McDonaghs.
Ballysadare River at Bluebells, Union Wood
There are two looped walking trails to enjoy, one 4km and the other 5.5km long.
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.