Mahon Falls – a littered treasure

Mahon Falls
It’s impossible to capture the beauty of Mahon Falls in a photograph but here’s the best I could do

MAHON FALLS is an awesome (I mean that in the original sense of the word) 80-metre waterfall that lies in the Comeragh Mountains, so I’m totally baffled as to why some visitors would dump rubbish there!

I took our girls Ava (11) and Becca (8) to the Falls this week as one of our planned day-trips over the school holidays, but we were all upset and disgusted to discover that the level of littering seems to have reached unprecedented levels this summer.

Magical (and windy) Mahon Falls

The Mahon Falls are part of the River Mahon in the Comeraghs in Co Waterford, which are home to Lough Coumduala and Lough Mohra – both popular with anglers and hillwalkers.

One of the funniest and funnest memories for myself and the girls involves a trip to the Falls when Becca was a slightly-built four-year-old. The three of us headed off on a Sunday afternoon with a makeshift picnic (probably biscuits and fizzy drinks) and travelled to our destination via the Clonmel-Dungarvan Road and Kilrossanty, along the Comeragh Drive.

We passed the famous fairy tree and the magic road (known for making cars go backwards up a hill!) and finally arrived – it’s one of those drives where, despite being well-signposted, I have been known to take a wrong turn so it’s always good to see the landmarks.

The Falls tumble over a hillside that is shaped like a horseshoe, so you are surrounded by imposing rocky heights on three sides, and can only marvel at how the sheep manage to stay upright in places high above visitors heads.

This particular day was very windy there, although it had been calm at home. Anyway, our trio set off but quickly discovered that Becs was having problems staying upright as occasional blasts of air threatened to knock her off her feet!

Mahon Falls views
Taking in the views at Mahon Falls

So, not for the first time on a walk, she hopped on my back with her head down (to keep the wind off her face) while Ava, who would have been seven, held onto the back of my jacket. At the Falls, the wind was much calmer and the girls tottered across rocks at the base for quite a while, before we headed back to the car, Ava and I each holding one of Becs’ hands to stop her from getting lifted off her feet by sudden, strong gusts. It was like a grand adventure for the girls. They still talk about it and it has left them with a deep affection for the Falls! (The pic on the right was taken last Monday on a calmer day with a much taller and stronger Becca and Ava but you always have to be prepared for the wind when visiting the Falls).

Litterbugs hit Mahon Falls

Mahon Falls litter
An unwelcome sight

So, can you imagine the girls’ dismay when we got out of the car on our latest visit this week and immediately spotted litter around the grassy verges? We walked across the road to the large wooden signboard containing facts and maps to discover a black plastic bag, ripped open, spilling bottles etc onto the ground.

The girls have been raised not to litter – a very, very easy lesson to teach a child – so as we made our way along the white pebbled path towards the Falls they would continue to point out plastic and glass bottles, cans and wrappers.

Mahon Falls can
A discarded can in water

It got even worse nearer the Falls, where the grassy ground is interrupted by large boulders lying at angles that create crevices at their base. These were exploited by some recent visitors as makeshift dumps for their picnic leftovers, including cans, bottles etc. Becca even found a disposable nappy! 

The place had many other visitors on the same day as us, from families with small children to older people leaning on walking sticks, and all were there to just enjoy the Falls.

We saw no-one littering on Monday, so I’m supposing that the damage had been done over the weekend, or possibly even the Bank Holiday.

Mahon Falls photo
Mahon Falls is a heavenly place that needs to be treasured, not littered

Don’t get the wrong idea, the girls still had a wonderful visit, with Becs finding what she believed were two fairy pools, and Ava paddling barefoot. But now, unfortunately, they will have a second standout memory of the Falls – and this one won’t be of the wind lifting Becca off her feet, but of the habits of slobbish grown-ups.

I’m hoping that other people who visit the Falls in the future will get to see them at their best, without the experience being marred by thoughtless litterbugs.

If you fancy learning more about the Falls you can visit a helpful guide here and it would also be worth watching a 2015 RTÉ programme Tracks and Trails on the Comeragh Mountains.

I found a great clip on YouTube of Tramore kayaker Michael Reynolds making a 55-foot vertical drop of the Falls – to watch click here.

You might also like to read a newspaper article I wrote about appreciating our trees and the damage that can be done by people who mistake littering for spiritualism.

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