On Abbeyleix BogWe have lots of favourite family walks but it’s always good to discover a new one, especially a walkway that only exists because of the efforts of a group of community volunteers.  It’s good to walk in familiar locations and see the changes that occur throughout the seasons.  The wonderful thing about being outdoors is that there is always something new to discover even in the most familiar places but when you find a new place to walk, there’s the added bonus of not knowing exactly what you’re going to find around the next bend.

In late October we paid our first visit to Abbeyleix Bog and followed it up with a second visit on the 3rd January.  The first day was dry and not too cold, if a bit grey and cloudy.  The second day started off very wet but my husband had arranged to meet Chris Uys from the Abbeyleix Bog Project (ABP) so after persuading our child to come out in the rain with the promise of muddy puddles, we packed our boots and rain gear in the car and set off. Luckily by the time we got there the rain had stopped completely so we had a very pleasant bog walk.

Where is it?

Abbeyleix Bog, almost known as Killinamuck Bog is located just south of Abbeyleix town in Co. Laois. There is plenty of parking at the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel and the entrance to the bog is right beside the hotel, through a gap in the hedge. An informatioin board at the entrance has a map of the bog. There are almost 500 acres of mixed habitat including raised bog, wet woodland and meadow.

Abbeyleix Oak

What is special about it?

In the year 2000, Abbeyleix Bog was threatened with harvesting for Peat Moss until a group of local residents united to stop the machines from entering the site.  After negotiations with Bord na Mona, the bog was handed over to the local community who were given a 50 year lease to manage the site and the Abbeyleix Bog Project was born.  A management committee looks after the bog with the advice of a technical group and a board of trustees.  Their primary aim is conservation but everyone is welcome to come and explore the paths, take photographs and study the rich diversity of plants and animals. Bog Road Abbeyleix

Most of the bog was classed as degraded raised bog with a small area of active raised bog.  Under the management of the Abbeyleix Bog Project, the degraded bog has started to recover. Conservation work has included the blocking of drains to aid water retention and the removal of Scots Pine from the raised bog area. Some of this work was featured on Eco Eye on Tuesday 13th January. One of the most positive things about the Abbeyleix Bog Project is the huge community involvement.  The boardwalk was built in three months with mostly voluntary labour, 45 children turned up for a Heritage Week event to build a bug hotel and members of local Men’s Shed groups in conjunction with the local branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust have erected bat boxes on the trees along the disused railway track. These groups have also participated in conservation work along with local ABP volunteers, members of Birdwatch Ireland and Conservation Volunteers Ireland.

Bugingham Palace Abbeyleix

Our expedition in January was a scouting mission to look at Rhododendron infestation beside the disused railways track. As volunteers with Groundwork, we spent many years clearing Rhododendron in Killarney National Park, so we will be lending our expertise and our muscles on the 31st January for the first Rhododendron Conservation Work Group on 31st January.

Rhododendron Abbeyleix

What are the paths like?

The site is bisected by the path of the old Portlaoise to Kilkenny railway line.  The tracks no longer remain but it provides a good wide dry walking route as it is raised above the level of the bog on either side. On either side of this path are a variety of tree species representative of both dry and wet woodland.  The first phase of a new boardwalk was completed in 2014 on the High Bog and officially opened in August.  The boardwalk allows visitors to walk onto the bog and view it from above while avoiding the drains,deep bog pools and uneven ground which are a feature of raised bogs.  The boardwalk also helps to protect the bog itself.

Examining the boardwalk

There are also some smaller bog paths for which a good pair of boots would be highly recommended. Two looped walks also cross the area and form part of a national network of Failte Ireland looped walks.  These make use of the disused railway line and other bog paths. The Abbeyleix Bog project has plans to improve and resurface footpaths and to extend the boardwalk making the site even more accessible.  One of the long term aims is to make the site completely wheelchair accessible.

Down the bog road

What can you do here?

With the great diversity of wildlife and habitats there is plenty for the nature lover to see.  We enjoyed walking on the boardwalk, and even dancing on the wider platform at the end which greatly resembles a stage.  This area was used in November for a bog yoga session which sounded like great fun to me.  The heavy rainfall preceding our January visit produced a great supply of muddy puddles all along the route which made a very satisfying squelch when jumped in and kept our little man entertained throughout.

Bog Road Abbeyleix

If you want to volunteer, you can come out on the 31st of January and help remove some rhododendrons.  Details can be found on the Abbeyleix Bog website and also on their Facebook page.