Tide turns for clean water in miracle bay

GREAT news for Courtmacsherry Bay.

The waste water from the villages that grace its gorgeous shores will, in the near future, be of “bathing quality” following the installation of a tertiary-level waste water treatment plant.

In fact, with the many millions of gallons of salt water that pour into the bay, and the massive volume of fresh water that flows into it from the River Argideen, it is perfectly salubrious for bathing anyway — witness the annual regatta, famous in west Cork, where swimming races are held.

But, there is no doubt that it is time the local act was cleaned up. It is a credit to the development committees of the resort village of Courtmacsherry and the historic village of Timoleague that they have, at last, extracted firm commitments from this Government to put the installation in place before the end of 2009.

A site has been identified, costing done, plans drawn up and the piping mapped out. Now, we, who live on the shores, await the new era.

The Environment Protection Agency will, henceforth, regularly monitor the water quality.

The vast estuary of the Argideen is of immense recreational and commercial importance to west Cork. It is beautiful, indeed picturesque. Ancient Timoleague Abbey stands at the head of the bay with Timoleague House on the Argideen banks just above. On the northern shore are the expanses of Garafeen beach (Harbour View) and Coolmaine Strand, with Disney-owned Coolmaine Castle behind.

The pretty village of Kilbrittain and wooded Kilbrittain Creek are nearby.

Along the southern shore runs a walking path that once carried the Timoleague-Courtmacsherry Light railway. This is now part of the Seven Heads Walk extending nine miles along the coast, over cliffs and coves and bays. It passes the ruined Cistercian Monastery at Abbeymahon, established in the 12th century and older than Timoleague Abbey. It leads to the holiday village of Courtmacsherry, with the sea, the pier and gaily painted boats in front, and the old woods of the Earl of Shannon estate behind. Beyond, a woodland path follows the shore, with huge beeches, old oaks and understorey of holly and hazel, and small sandy coves. After the woods, one reaches Wood Point. There, the open ocean is laid out before one, with the Old Head of Kinsale to the east and, a little further on, Galley Head to the west.

But the bay is not only the resort of holidaymakers, anglers and walkers; in the winter it holds up to 20,000 wild birds. For all that use it, including the wildlife — the otters, the seals, the dolphins that, annually, cavort in the channel, the countless fish that swim in its waters and the birds that pick over the mudflats — the good health of the bay is essential. The quality of the water is the key. Excessive intakes of effluents, nitrates and phosphates threaten water quality. If the water is polluted, the bay and all that use it as a life-sustaining resource are put at risk.

The water washes the shores, the shingle and the sandy beaches, the dunes at Garafeen, the saltmarshes where samphire and sea asters grow, the mudflats, the sand bars and rocky shores. When the tide comes in, a billion humble creatures emerge from burrows in the mud or from their shells to feed and on these, the fish and the birds feed.

There may be up to 5,000 golden plover in a flock on the bay, there will also be lapwing, godwits, dunlin, plover, and redshank. There are teal, widgeon, mallard, merganser, divers, herons and egrets; and the bay sediments and creatures that live in the sediment, feed them all.

What a miracle is the bay! !More houses are built on its salubrious shores every day, although, happily, they are no more than small clusters on the vast landscape. But we celebrate the fact that, in the future, these houses, at least, will have no negative effect on that amenity held sacred by locals. The quality of the water dictates the quality of the bay, and the health of the bay dictates the quality of their lives.

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