Ten years ago Tullyvarraga Hill was stripped of its woodlands and vegetation as a result of a local authority NeighbourWood Scheme.
Today, in 2018, trees and shrubs are regenerating naturally so that by 2028 Tullyvarraga Hill will once again resemble a mature woodland. That’s according to Nick de Jong, the landscape consultant commissioned by Clare County Council.
Mr de Jong and consultant ecologist Dr Janice Fuller gave a joint presentation at the recent Shannon Municipal District meeting.
He stated that the regeneration process is now well established and the woodland comprises of young trees up to 12 metres high, including a mix of native species.
Mr de Jong said the area now looks “pretty healthy as a woodland” although he acknowledged that it had gone through a stage of devastation when it looked like a moonscape.
On the downside, Mr de Jong said work remains to be done with the trail paths, and the lack of signage. He said the area could be a lot better used than it is at the moment.
In preparing an overall management plan for the woodland, Mr de Jong’s company has a long-term vision of an attractive natural amenity with high biodiversity interest that will be of value to the local community.
He recommended that the woodland is managed to encourage its full potential as it forms an important part of the wider network of green infrastructure in Shannon.
Overall, Mr de Jong said he is happy with the development. Future management of the area should be “low-key”, apart from the paths which could provide better access to the woodland for local residents.
In her contribution, Dr Janice Fuller said that from an ecological perspective the woodland is doing “fantastic”, considering that it is mainly a natural regeneration.
In her view, the best practice is to let nature take care of the thinning and any management should make the area aesthetically pleasing and more accessible so that people are comfortable to walk around the area. Dr Fuller described the development of the woodland as “is in great shape”.
Cllr Gerry Flynn has been a regular critic of the woodland destruction ten years ago. He recalled Shannon councillors being bussed to Lees Road in Ennis where it was explained that Tullyvarraga Hill could offer similar amenities as a result of the Neighbourhood Scheme.
“However what we actually got, bore no resemblance to Lees Road,” said Cllr Flynn. He told the consultants that the people of Shannon now deserve something on a par with a smaller version of Coole Park outside Gort.
Cllr Flynn said he wants the council to provide additional funding so that the wrong done at Tullyvarraga Hill ten years ago could be put right.
He claimed that the forestry regeneration was “done on the cheap” as only saplings were used to replace the mature trees that were cut down.
Cllr Flynn commented, “Put right the walkways, enhance the amenity and provide funding so that it becomes a place the wider community can enjoy. That will leave make it possible for this District committee to say we’ve made good what was done wrong all those years ago”.
Meetings facilitator and Director of Social Protection, Liam Conneally gave a commitment to look for potential funding streams and said the consultant’s final report will be helpful in that regard. He also asked Nick de Jong to include a costing plan as part of this final report.