Ireland’s Midland Bogland regions

Penny W-TStarred Page By Penny W-T, 25th Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3laf9fke/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>Ireland>Westmeath, Longford, Offaly & Laois

During my time living in the Midlands of Ireland, I was fortunate to be taken on several excursions to explore the boglands for which the area is famous, and at the time one of these areas, Blackwater, was experimenting with what was a unique tourism concept – The Blackwater Bog Train. . . .

Blackwater Boglands

At Blackwater, the bleak wide open landscape draws the eye into the distance, trying to define an horizon against the skyline. The flat slightly undulating peatlands offer a unique perspective. This is Ireland’s Midlands bog scenery; low grassland, vegetation, stumpy bushes and very few trees. The unfenced appearance generated the thought that this is not normal farmland. But farmed it is. Long endless lines of bogland stretching into the distance; drainage gutters at equal distances; a strip farming illusion reminiscent of earlier centuries. The seemingly solid surface belies the buoyancy of the underlying peat - its 80% moisture content making it very spongy to the tread. It has no roadways, no solid infrastructures, and has mysterious tracks through it, known only to the locals and the leprechauns, which are solid enough to allow travel across the boglands

Blackwater's Bog Train

Come with me, and explore this alien landscape from the comfort of the miniature railway, that has been devised as an experimental means of allowing ‘tourists’ behind the scenes of a very dedicated workplace, like no other I have encountered. This railway crosses the boglands with its narrow gauge track and light-weight engine and carriage. Marvel at the long, straight, peat strips, stretching into the distance, acres and acres, or hectares, of land. The peat is removed in orderly sequence generating a fuel that is environmentally kind. Stand out on the edge of the bog, feel the wind in your face, the damp atmosphere generated by all this moisture causing an involuntary shiver. Watch the occasional cloud skim the sky, feel the autumnal chill in the air. But more than that, feel the very stillness of the place invade your soul.

West Offaly Power Station

Blackwater Bog is a hive of activity - its wetlands sites being home to masses of bird life who live undisturbed by the regular collections of peat occurring on the nearby sections.
Tons of milled peat fire the electricity power stations here, in tribute to environmental awareness. The landscape is open and empty of humanity. But wild life and birds abound in its natural environment. Large, disproportionate, lunar type machines are dotted around, turning the top surface of peat to dry in the sun or wind depending on the time of year. These boglands must be one of the world’s last natural environments that support man, beast and bird. They have an air of mystery - the peat is a natural preservative - stone age and bronze age settlements periodically regenerate through the opening up of the bog, perfectly preserved as if from yesterday. Speculate on the identity of the enigmatic peat cutter - immortalised in bronze at the entrance to the information centre - what were his thoughts on his working environment? Even he might be surprised at the development of the peatland today. The thought crosses my mind here, if peat is such a good preservative - why haven’t the cosmetic companies realised its potential to slow down the ageing process?? Perhaps they already have???

Lough Boora Parklands

Further along from Blackwater Bog you can discover Lough Boora. This is part of this peatland region as well, that is being reclaimed as natural parklands, wetlands, bird sanctuaries and environmental protection areas. The peat from these bogs have been harvested by Bord na Mona, a state run organisation, as a source of fuel to generate electrical energy since the 1940s, and the cutaway sections (where all the peat has been removed) are now being restored to the perceived initial condition they were in at the time of the last Ice Age. It is conjectured that in another 10,000 years similar boglands will have re-generated.

Recreational activities

80,000 acres of Bord na Mona’s bog lands stretch across Country Offaly; 5,500 acres of this land lies at Lough Boora and is being regenerated into lakes and parklands. The concept is to provide social amenities within the area, with recreational objectives – lakes for boating and fishing, cycle routes, walkways and bird sanctuaries with observational ‘hides’ also in place. There are also areas set aside for ecological studies of the flora and fauna which occur naturally and have a protected status. This development would fulfil the vision towards creating a network of Irish National Parks, and subsequently encourage a growth in tourism. This was the first place, some years ago now, where I encountered provisions for disabled visitors to be able to enjoy a fishing excusion at the lakesides here, with special ramps leading out over the edge of the lake to anchor wheelchairs.

Areas of the parkland at Lough Boora

These will provide a focal point to develop tourism opportunities, as well as educational and recreational amenities, all centred on the environmental facilities. The nature reserves provide walkways, cycle routes, parking areas, bird hides etc. that will allow access to specific research areas, and give opportunities to study relevant environmental projects. There is also particular attention being paid to ensuring that these areas can be equally accessed by people with disabilities, and car parking areas are particularly focused so that people using wheel chair facilities can park with reasonable proximity to the area they wish to explore.

Part of the Ancient Offaly Way

The garden lake area will also provide an education and recreation site as part of these developments. The parklands generally will encompass the route of the “Offaly Way” or at least the part of it that crosses this section of the bog.
This is identified as the route from the Grand Canal at Turraun and along the Silver river to Cadamstown where it links with the Slieve Bloom Way. Part of this route will ultimately link to the Mesolithic site that has been uncovered in this area of the bog, remnants of which have been carbon dated to 8,500 years ago. (6,500BC)

As you can see, there is a lot to explore in County Offaly's bogland region. We have only scratched the surface with today's little tour. If you are lucky enough to get there, please go and explore.

Tags

Blackwater Bog, Boglands, County Oifaly, Ireland, Lough Boora, Peat Farming, Tourism

Meet the author

author avatar Penny W-T
Published articles on education themes, travel, history and writing techniques. Written a book on WW1 - Gallipoli, and travel books. Run a marketing network for small businesses.

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Comments

author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
25th Jun 2013 (#)

Very good write up about a place out of the ordinary, thank you, Penny - siva

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author avatar Penny W-T
25th Jun 2013 (#)

Thant you for taking the time to read my page. I am fortunate to have been to some very unusual places in Ireland.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
25th Jun 2013 (#)

I have never been to Ireland, so I appreciate this terrific guide to the Midland Bogland areas of Irenland, perhaps some day I shall see them for myself.

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author avatar Penny W-T
25th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you. I appreciate your moderation of this page, and I am pleased you found it interesting. Ireland is an amazing country of differences.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
25th Jun 2013 (#)

yes this a really great travelogue about a little known area...many thanks Penny for another fabulous share...

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author avatar Penny W-T
25th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you. I try very hard to give people a 'virtual' tour of places they may never have the opportunity to see, the same as I enjoy reading pieces about places I may never now visit.

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author avatar Mike Robbers
25th Jun 2013 (#)

Great overview of such an unusual place, Penny. The presentation and visuals of your article are magnificent too!

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author avatar Penny W-T
25th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Mike. It's nice to know that you enjoyed the little tour

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author avatar Delicia Powers
28th Jun 2013 (#)

Very well done- you brought the beauty- and even the mystery to life- as you always do Penny...thanks I enjoyed reading and learning...thank you-:0)

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author avatar Penny W-T
28th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Delicia, hope you are well. I am lucky to have been to some very enigmatic places, and I am trying to share these locations with friends who may never have the opportunity to visit for themselves.

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