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Slow Travel with Diarmaid Griffin

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Tóg go bog é

Diarmaid Griffin

The premise of slow travel is one that is gaining popularity across the world and it can be summarised by that old Irish phrase ‘tóg go bog é’ which translates to ‘take it easy’ or ‘take it softly’.

‘Bog’ is also a place and a Scots Gaelic/Irish Gaelic word that started to be used in the English language circa 1500. It means soft; which for those that have spent any time in the bog, makes perfect sense!

The majority of boglands in the Killarney area are Atlantic blanket bogs as like a blanket, they stretch over vast areas but are not particularly deep (2-7metres). These Atlantic boglands were formed in part by the regular, high rainfall that we get here on the west coast of Ireland. Mountain blanket bogs are found in our uplands (+200 metres above sea level) and are very similar in formation.

Boglands started to form here around 7,000 years ago and most formed around 4,000 years ago when our climate became wetter. This heavy rain, which we are all too familiar with, leached minerals from the soil over time. Amongst these minerals was iron, that washed down through the soil to form an iron pan. This pan became impermeable, so no water could escape from the surface. Waterlogging resulted and this prevented decomposition. Layers of organic material builds up, year on year, slowly accumulating over hundreds and thousands of years. This is partial decomposed vegetation that is now a carbon store and can give us an insight into the plants that grew here, thousands of years ago. Only a small amount of blanket bog exists in the world, with Ireland being the most important country in Europe for this habitat.

Boglands or peatlands are not only wet and soft but are low in nutrients, which poses a challenge to the plants that make this habitat their home. This environment has led to dramatic adaptations that are demonstrated by bog myrtle, sundew, and butterwort. Sundew and butterwort are two native plants of our boglands that survive by attracting and capturing insects. Consuming these protein rich insects provides these deadly plants with the nitrogen they need to live healthy and happy lives!

Bog myrtle, or sweet gale as it is otherwise known as, has a different strategy, one of cooperation and collaboration. It has nodules in its root system, that accommodate special bacteria that can take nitrogen from the air and ‘fix it’ to become nitrogen useful to the plant. The bacteria get a home and food, while the bog myrtle gets the nitrates that it so badly needs.

The most prolific grass of the uplands is called purple moor grass and it is this that causes the marked change of colour on our mountains and hills, from the green of summer to the brown of winter. Despite it being so successful, it too has its limits and decides to shut up shop for the winter. It dies back in winter, retreats into the ground and casts off its leaves just like our deciduous trees.

No article on boglands would be complete without mentioning sphagnum. This species of moss, like all mosses is a primitive plant, without a root system that relies on heavy rainfall in waterlogged habitats. It is so absorbent of liquid that it was used during World War 1 for absorbing blood. This important plant also has an antibacterial quality that make it a valuable resource for wounds. It is very important in the absorption of rain after heavy rainfall events, by acting like a sponge, thus preventing flooding further downstream. In fact, dried sphagnum can absorb 20 times its weight in liquid.

As spring slowly unfurls, why not take a walk in a bogland near you. If you don’t feel like an uphill trek, there are other options. The well signed Bog Walk that was established by Kilcummin Rural Development is open to the public and more details can be found on their Facebook page. Boglands are truly great places to ‘tóg go bog é’.

For more insights, or to join me on one of my tours, follow me on Instagram @slowtravelkerry or email me diarmaid@slowtravelkerry.ie.

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Seven An Post staff retire

Seven well-known staff members at An Post Killarney celebrated retirement this week. The staff, Mary O’Sullivan, Joe Clifford, Paudie Cronin, Joe Coffey, Tom Ashe, Jerry McCarthy and Dan Murphy were […]

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Seven well-known staff members at An Post Killarney celebrated retirement this week.

The staff, Mary O’Sullivan, Joe Clifford, Paudie Cronin, Joe Coffey, Tom Ashe, Jerry McCarthy and Dan Murphy were treated to an night of celebration and reminiscing by the South Kerry branch of the Communication Workers Union of Ireland.

The retirees, their families and colleagues enjoyed an evening at ‘The Panoramic’ the newly named restaurant upstairs at Killarney Racecourse.

Ollie Favier, of the Shire fame has taken over responsibility for operating the coffee shop / restaurant at the racecourse.

“A beautiful venue and apt that Ollie’s father Dan RIP from Glenflesk, was also a long serving postman in the community,” said John O’Shea, the Union Secretary An Post Killarney.

“The night included music with Derry Healy and Rosie Healy and was attended by up to 80 people, under the attentive guidance of Sales and Marketing Manager Emma O’Connor and Ollie’s right hand man, Colin Daly

“The event the food and the atmosphere was a great success and credit to all Ollie’s staff for being great hosts. “

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Watch Video: Primary School Students share knowledge from Coffee Cup Project

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Killarney primary schools have joined the crusade against single use coffee cups this week by joining the Killarney Coffee Cup Project and declaring themselves single use coffee cup free. The Killarney Coffee Project is a community grassroots project aimed at eliminating single use coffee cups from Killarney town centre to protect Killarney National Park and the towns surroundings all in the name of conservation.

Alan Oliver, a local coffee shop owner, Lir Café, who is one of the participants of the project has said that he is “thrilled to see the project extend into the local schools. Teaching young people about why we should be moving away from a throw away culture is imperative to the continuous success of projects like this. Today’s young people are the future custodians of this town and so educating them on the importance of sustainability will ensure that Killarney and its National Park will be in safe hands for future generations.”

The schools involved in declaring themselves single use coffee cup free include Holycross Mercy, Gaelscoil Faithleann, Presentation Monastery, Glenflesk, Knocknanes, Coolick, Loreto, Lissivigeen and Tiernaboul. This follows on from the Killarney Coffee Cup Primary Schools Initiative which took place last November supported by Killarney Credit Union, the Kerry Biosphere, and the IKC3 project in MTU.

In November the 5th classes in the Killarney area were brought to Muckross School House and Killarney House for a 2-hour immersive environmental education experience around our connection to the Kerry Biosphere and citizen climate action. Here the students learned about our biosphere and how we as citizens and sustainable initiatives like the Killarney Coffee Cup Project can protect this Special Area of Conservation. Finally, they went outside to work with a park ranger, collecting acorns in leftover disposable compostable cups that the project had gathered from various businesses. They took these acorns back to their classrooms where they have planted and are caring for their oak tree. In 2024, these young oak tree seedlings will be planted back into the National Park.

The Killarney Coffee Cup Project is the 1st of its kind in the world, and it is something that belongs to all the citizens of the town. We all own this!

Want to hear from the future voices of our environment?

This week the Killarney Advertiser caught up with primary schoolers who have been busy learning all about protecting our amazing natural environment

Watch our video where the future eco-warriors share what they’ve learned about keeping our Killarney healthy and thriving! Here is to the next generation of environmental stewards!

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