OUTDOORSY kids are happy kids, in my opinion, so I’ve been fascinated to recently learn about the Ballyhoura Outdoor Classroom, which is set to host tours of a Co Limerick raised bog during July 2016.
The project, which is run by the non-profit body Ballyhoura Heritage and Environment Ltd, is basically designed to get youngsters outside, discovering and learning about the world around them.
Ballyhoura Outdoor Classroom
In total, there are three sites that make up the Ballyhoura outdoor classrooms. Doneraile Park, consists of around 500 acres of woodland, wetlands and deer parks beside the River Awbeg in the north Cork village of Doneraile. It’s a lovely spot and our kids and their cousins love it! Secondly, there’s Lough Gur, near Bruff in Co Limerick, which is an archaeological and folkloric treasure trove.
Finally, Griston Bog, which lies close to the village of Ballylanders, is a raised bog that is being used to provide visitors with an insight into why Ireland’s bogs matter in terms of flora and fauna, archaeology and the evolution of the Irish landscape.
Tours will take place throughout July from 10.30am until noon, with the organisers saying: “During the tour, visitors can enjoy the history and geography of how the bog has evolved from Ice Age to present day. In addition, there is an invaluable insight into how ways of life have changed over thousands of years.”
More information is available here and for events in August check out here.
All about the bogs
Bogs, which comes from the Irish word ‘Bogach, which means soft, come in two types – raised and blanket. They were slowly formed after the Ice Age in water-logged sites by partially-decayed plants, like sphagnum moss. Interestingly, an untouched bog is made up of up to 98% water!
It wasn’t until the 1700s that bogs were first widely exploited as a source of cheap fuel, ie turf. Extensive areas of bogland were also drained to provide farmland.
The impact of human activities in bogs over the past 200 years mains that over 90% of raised bogland and over 80% of blanket bogs in the Republic (figures for Northern Ireland stand at 90% and over 85% respectively) have been lost.
Why we should love our Bogs
However, efforts are underway to restore bogs – and why is this work important?
Despite being nutritionally poor because of their high rainwater content, bogs are home to a wide variety of mosses and other plants like bog cotton and sundew, as well as insects, including dragonflies and spiders.
They also provide a home for protected animals like the Irish hare, otter and hen harrier, and birds that include the endangered curlew.
Children tend to love all things ghoulish, so of course the whole idea of bog bodies – mummified human remains – found in a number of Ireland’s bogs, and probably the victims of ritualistic sacrifice, would be both horrifying and fascinating!! I’m very squeamish so I struggle to even look at the pictures (however I’ve just gotten Ava (10) to proof-read for me and her response to the last two paragraphs was “Cool!” – she loved the torso pic!).
The National Museum has also just recently become home to a 10kg slab of bog butter, thought to be around 2,000 years old and probably left in Emlagh Bog in Co Meath as a gift to pagan gods.
Global warming alarm
Meanwhile, there’s one very good reason why we should all care about the future of our bogs – they act as vast containers that store an estimated 1.2 BILLION tonnes of carbon (the equivalent of 4.4 BILLION tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is a root cause of global warming.
The extraction and burning of peat releases stored CO2 back into the atmosphere adding to the planet’s spiralling climate change crisis.
Calling for an end to peat extraction, An Taisce, Ireland’s national trust, says: “Bogs are a vital store of carbon and burning turf releases far more climate-altering gases than coal. Of all fuels, turf is the worst in terms of negatively affecting the climate.”
I think that’s a pretty good argument for why children need to be encouraged to learn about bogs and to appreciate the role they play in all our lives and why they need to be cherished.
To read all about Ballyhoura and what it offers visitors check out http://visitballyhoura.com/. And also please visit my blog if you want to subscribe for free updates or follow me on Facebook/Twitter.