Bog Conservation Project
COCO: Conservation of Clonbeale Offaly:
Tullamore and Birr Lions Clubs are collaborating with the Grennan family on a project to conserve approximately 11 hectares of Clonbeale More bog owned by the Grennan family. One of our key objectives is to create an awareness of the significant climate challenges that exist today and to take positive and tangible steps within our local environment to address them. The project will also play a part in helping Ireland achieve its challenging Climate targets under the Climate Action Plan 2021. A wider objective of the project is to encourage other Lions Clubs around Ireland and other landowners of private bogs, with a template to carry out similar projects. We see ourselves as facilitators of the project, helping with project governance and management, funding applications, communications etc.
Clonbeale More Bog, near Rath Co. Offaly is the northern lobe of a larger area of raised bog, the majority of which has been harvested industrially for many years. The south-eastern end of the bog is known as Killaun Bog, and it is used as an educational and recreation area under the stewardship of St Brendan’s Community School Birr. Other parts of the larger bog are in multiple ownership, including Bord na Móna, Coillte, Oxmantown Settlement Trust, and private owners.
The initial aims of phase one of the project can be summarised as:
- Conservation of the Clonbeale segment of the Greater Killaun peatland complex.
- Improvement of the hydrological status of the damaged centre of the segment by blocking drains under the control of the owners.
In a second phase of the project it is planned to provide public access to Clonbeale via a ‘Wild Walkway’ through the semi-natural perimeter pinewoods where this is consistent with the overriding aims of biodiversity preservation and maintenance of its carbon sequestration function. A key objective is the linkage of this proposed Wild Walkway with the adjoining segments of the perimeter route currently in development in collaboration with St Brendan’s Community School Birr, Coillte, the Oxmantown Settlement Trust, Bord na Móna and private owners.
While the Clonbeale project is entirely independent of the initiatives in each of these other sectors, the linkage between them for conservation of the whole complex is essential. Infrastructural intrusion will be minimal, essentially what is required for reasons of health and safety; with boardwalk and plank bridges where this is necessary to cross particularly wet ground. Signage will be limited to QR coded signs as an extension of the system being developed by St Brendan’s in the Killaun – Clongohil – Ballywilliam areas across the bog area.
A feasibility study will commence shortly and will produce the plan for conserving Clonbeale More bog. Clonbeale More is a habitat of significant conservation value. The planned conservation project will provide carbon sequestration and biodiversity benefits. It will help conserve the specialist raised bog flora and fauna that are already present on the site, and encourage their expansion into areas that are currently dry and degraded. It will also increase the abundance and diversity of specialist raised bog plant species, such as Sphagnum mosses, other mosses and liverworts, sundews (Drosera spp.), bog cotton (Eriophorum spp.), and others. These will in turn benefit invertebrate diversity and the ability of the bog to support specialist bird species, including Skylark, Meadow Pipit, and waders such as Snipe.
If hydrological conditions permit (and this will be assessed as part of the feasibility study), there is the potential for creating areas of the EU Habitats Directive priority habitat ‘active raised bog (7110)’. This is a habitat that has experienced major declines in Europe and in Ireland and for which Ireland has a special responsibility as a Member State with significant restoration potential.
- Aerial view of Clonbeale More Bog
- Members of the Grennan family, Tullamore Lions Club, Birr Lions Club, Offaly County Council and St. Brendan’s Community School on a tour of the site with John Feehan in April 2023.