The weather is so wonderful these past few days that it just begs for the picnic basket to be taken out for an airing and what better place to head than the Glengarriff Woods.
|Picnic in the woods.|There are several walks within the Glengarriff Nature reserve and all are clearly marked out along well maintained paths. The River side walk is the most popular as it is an easy and gentle one kilometer loop stroll and is accessed right from the main car park – making it wonderful with toddlers and young walkers!
The Glengarriff woods are one of the finest Sessile Oak woods in Ireland and is a firm favourite with both my children and with our house-guests. Oak has more animal species associated with it than with any other species of tree. Over two hundred species of insect live Oak trees. It is a credit to know that the mature oaks in Glengarriff host Ireland’s only arboreal ant species. These arboreal ant colonies are known to live in association with an individual tree for up to a century and by their very existence, demonstrate the ancient origins of the Glengarriff woods.
|Spot the tree sprite!|
There are numerous other walks available in the woods and a full colour leaflet is available from either the Tourist Offices in Glengarriff or from the leaflet box in the Nature Reserve car park. The walk up to Lady Bantry’s Lookout is steeper and tougher but well worth the view. Although it is quite a climb, the walk is possible with small children if you allow them to set their pace at the start. I always find that the coming back down is harder as they seem to gain an alarming amount of momentum and want to run!
The Big Meadow walk is lovely and easy with no strenuous climbing but at three and a half kilometers can be a bit long for shortest legs in the group. When we first did this walk it was in winter and we encountered cattle grazing in the meadow we were to cross and were terrified we were putting ourselves in the path of a dangerous bull. I have subsequently found out that the meadow is an area of very old grassland that has not been fertilized or ploughed in living memory. In summer it is a profusion of wildflowers and in winter, a small herd of indigenous Kerry cattle graze the land to protect the grassland from invading scrub. Another very interesting fact about the meadow is that because of the lack of fertilizer and of ploughing, numerous ant colonies and ant hills thrive undisturbed in the grassland.
|Children exploring the riverbank.|
For a quick walk to a beautiful picnic spot, The Waterfall Walk is a must. This walk is very impressive after rain when the little tributary, the Canrooska River is bulging down to meet the Glengarriff River. In the guide, the walk is labelled as easy and only half a kilometer in distance. We saw our first even Pine Martin (or “Tree Cat”) on this walk and have wanted to see another one ever since. Glengarriff woods have a wonderful range of fauna. The woods are the only place aside from Kerry, where one can be lucky enough to see the famous, Kerry Slug. This slug as been described as the aristocrat of slugs because of its unusual markings. You will know the slug by its distinctive black colour with white spots. The rare kingfisher bird with its vibrant colours can also be spotted here if you are very lucky.
|The Troll under the bridge at the main carpark!|
We have often had impromptu swims in the Glengarriff River; it happens as a gradual progression from skimming stones, getting splashed, getting wetter, paddling, swimming, stripping down then hoping for that spare change of clothes in the car has almost become a ritual now. The rivers in the reserve should be mentioned at this point as they support Ireland longest living animal; the freshwater pearl mussel which lives to be a staggering one hundred and thirty years old. The larvae of the mussels attach themselves to the gills of salmonid species of fish. After several months, they drop off and settle within the gravel beds there the mussels develop to maturity.
Other mammals present in the Reserve include fox, badger, Sika deer, feral goats, hare, hedgehog, wood mouse and bank vole.
[This is an extract from the book West Cork and Kerry with Kids]
For more information visit http://www.glengarriffnaturereserve.ie/