Dublin Mountains Visitor Centre – Mountaineering Ireland response

The proposed development at Massy’s Wood and the Hellfire Forest has been researched thoroughly by MI. In consultation with all interested parties, MI has given a constructive response to the proposal. Even if you have not previously looked at this proposal, It’s well reading MI’s response, as all aspects of the proposal have been studied and addressed. You can see the details here – http://www.mountaineering.ie/_files/2017926115345_4d4d251c.pdf.

Sunshine and Butterflies at Shay Elliot

What a day for a hillwalk.  It was warm and windless in beautiful surroundings.  The smiling walkers I met along the way agreed.  Starting at Shay Elliot means a variety of landscape is assured and lots to admire along the way.  Most hill tops have cairns in this area (towered heaps of rock).  Please resist the urge to add to them. Remember our saying:  “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”.  The first gorgeous creature I met was a Peacock Butterfly alongside the track up towards Cullentragh:

As I saw another close by, I realised, as the day progressed, this was going to be a butterfly day.  All kinds were to be seen: Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown.  Here’s the lovely Small Copper Butterfly:


Mr Raven was making himself heard as I came down Mullacor and I spotted a Sparrow Hawk hunting by the slopes of Derrybawn.  The deer were out in force but sheltering from the hot sun under trees and tall bracken.

Homeward bound on the old track below Derrybawn’s slopes, I came across a Fox Moth Caterpillar, sunning himself on a stone.  His colours were a lot sharper than this fellow, because his habitat is the cooler region of the uplands:

So….what did you see on your hike?

Looking Back at Clifden

The Clifden weekend was everything we hoped for, and more than some of us dreamed! The Station House Hotel outdid themselves with the standard of their accommodation, and food. The staff are so kind and helpful.  Our stalwart leaders:   Jimmy, Hugon, Duncan, Brendan, Conor, Karina, Fiona and Philip outshone themselves in designing walks for every level, making it a weekend to remember. Lots of Maamturks, Glencoaghan Horseshoe, and 12 Bens virgins (“first-timers” to the uninitiated). The weather co-operated, giving us some of the most beautiful views across the mountains and sea, wherever we walked. And the après hikes craic was mega, as you would expect from Glenwalk. There was Jack the Scot who went up the hill……and there were sheep who wandered in for lunch. Oh, and let’s not forget the mermaid seen by some, and pondered by many.

A special word of appreciation to Philip who, as weekend walks co-ordinator, gave up his much of his beauty sleep to haunt and cajole so that all the walks were planned well in advance, so well planned in fact, that we all had the details before we’d even checked in to our accommodations! And then, to facilitate those of us whose brains are swiss cheese, announced the days events each morning, foregoing his chance for a lie-in over the holiday weekend.

The icing on the cake for this organiser was the EUR185 collected on behalf of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council. They had sent us a bunch of tickets to sell at only EUR3 per ticket. When the tickets ran out, the generous Glenwalkers in Clifden  continued to contribute. Thank you for your generosity, Clifden Revellers!   The IPCC appreciates your contribution to their important work. Delivery of the cash was completed by Madeleine, today, Thursday.

Flights of Imagination (From the Environment Desk)

A recent hike up Knocknacloghogue in the good company of Glenwalkers, was enhanced by some great views. The weather obliged with only a few light showers until our return journey, which only encouraged us to find a last spurt of energy to get us back up to Pier Gates. Along the way we saw some interesting flora and fauna.

The hairy mollies I enthusiastically pointed out so they wouldn’t get stomped on were Northern Egger caterpillars. The Northern Egger is a big moth with a spot on each wing, and the female has a lighter colouring.

Another creature we saw, this time displaying amazing flight control, was a Kestrel. This raptor is most easily recognised by its typical hunting behaviour which is to hover at a height above the ground over open country. It then swoops down on its prey, usually small mammals or insects. The kestrel we saw was making optimum use of the air stream coming up from Lough Dan to hover over an area near us, allowing us plenty of time to watch its air display. Later, as we basked in the sun at the shores of Lough Dan, we could hear the kestrel’s loud “kee kee kee” calls, which it does when agitated. I’m guessing other walkers had strayed close to its nest.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy (from the environment desk)

All walking club members know, when you see a sign, as you access  an upland area, that says “No dogs allowed” and/or “Animals Grazing”, you are now entering privately owned land.  The area may be your favourite mountain, forest or heathland.  I never met a dog I couldn’t love!  But bringing a dog, no matter how well behaved, can frighten animals, and shows disrespect for the landowner.  It only takes one instance of sheep worrying to have “permission to access” withdrawn.  So please pass this on to any dog-loving friends who think it’s ok to bring their woofers on the hills.

Something we can all do, every walk, to help the hills

Something we can all do, every walk, to help the hills                                          By Duncan Aitken


At the recent Glenwalk Leaders’ Forum, we were treated to an interesting and informative talk from Helen Lawless, the Hillwalking, Access & Conservation Officer of Mountaineering Ireland (MI). One of Helen’s topics was how to minimise the adverse effect of our own footprints on our hills and mountains. This is also the subject of one of the Leave No Trace principles, “Travel and Camp on Durable Ground”.


It seems to me that this is an area where each one of us can make a contribution every time we go hillwalking. We’ve all seen wide paths on the hillsides, visible for miles around, and large muddy patches. These didn’t appear of their own accord, of course – they were caused, at least in part, by hillwalkers like us. But the good news is that it’s easy for each of us, individually, to minimise the risk of our own walking contributing to eyesores such as these – simply by where we choose to tread.


And this is, indeed, about choices. One memorable thing Helen said was that in a 12km hillwalk, a typical walker will take around 15,000 steps – so, as she pointed out, that’s 15,000 decisions about where to tread. For most of those 15,000 steps, we will have a genuine choice. So how can we choose wisely?


The first thing to be aware of is that “best practice” in this area depends on whether there’s a track or not.


Most of the time on our hillwalks, we tend to be on a track of some sort – anything from a tarmac road (or even a concrete one!) to a narrow line through the vegetation. That narrow line is, of course, usually the result of human (or animal) impact. So do we avoid walking on it, to avoid making the impact worse?


No – on the contrary. A track tends to be less fragile than the land around it, because broad-leaved vegetation (most fragile) wears away to leave grasses and more resilient vegetation, which in turn may wear away to reveal soil (less fragile) and, ultimately, rock (least fragile). So if we stick to an existing track wherever possible, we are minimising the additional impact of our passing.





Are the people in the picture sticking to the track? No, they’re not. “Stick to the track” means “right ON the track itself”, ideally as close to the centre of the track as possible. And, in particular, avoiding walking on the grass right next to it, because this will widen the damaged area – and that’s what causes those eyesores I mentioned earlier.


Of course, this means we will often find ourselves walking on rock or mud – even if it means getting our nice new boots muddy! But rock and mud are usually safe and practical to walk on (although, of course, we must always use our own judgement in those respects).


In addition, there are a few simple things we can do to make it easier for ourselves to stick to the track:


– In her talk, Helen mentioned the use of gaiters to protect against mud.


– Using poles can minimise the impact on our joints when going downhill on rocky ground. And when we’re not walking downhill, is it really any more uncomfortable to walk on a rocky surface? Especially if it’s over only a short distance.


– When there’s water lying across the track, it may be possible simply to step over it, or safe to walk right through it – avoiding lengthy diversions (which also, again, widen the damaged area).


So much for when there’s a track.


But if there isn’t a track, each walker in a group is usually faced with a choice – do I follow directly behind the person in front, or not? Normally it will make little or no difference to us. But from the point of view of the hills themselves, it does make a difference.


In trackless areas, we’ll usually be walking on vegetation such as grass. And vegetation is much more likely to recover from one footprint than from many.


So the guidance from Mountaineering Ireland and Leave No Trace is to adopt a different approach where there’s no track. Instead of following directly behind one other, as we might when following a track, it’s best to spread out sideways in this case, to avoid damaging vegetation irreversibly or creating new tracks. But again, safety is important, so we must make sure we don’t spread out so much that we lose contact with the group, either visually or audibly – especially in adverse conditions such as fog, strong wind or heavy rain.


Of course the hills are infinitely varied, so we will sometimes come across unusual or borderline situations where these simple principles don’t give a nice clear answer and we will need to use our judgement. But most of the time, the basics will be enough to guide us. None of us is going to get it right 100% of the time but, regardless of whether a judgement call is needed or not, an awareness of those basics will mean more of those 15,000 decisions are good ones.


I’d like to thank both Helen Lawless and the Glenwalk Committee for reviewing this blog entry before publication and suggesting improvements. And thanks also to Helen for permission to use the pictures, which were taken from her presentation.