Hard to resist the call of the wild: Cloheen Marsh

CLOHEEN MARSH WALK, WEST CORK

OUR route is straight inland, walking away from the bay, keeping the marsh on our left. Before starting, the stream that issues from the marsh under a small stone bridge is worth a look. Fingerling brown trout swim in the shallows. In summer, swallows and martins hawk the clouds of midges over the surface, and a pair of grey wagtails is almost always resident, possibly nesting under the bridge.

As we set off, groups of mallard, widgeon and teal may be seen on the lagoons in the marsh. Now, on these Spring evenings, our quiet road is brimful with bird song — thrushes carolling, blackbirds fluting, robins singing. Wayside ditches are splashed with celandine, primroses and dog violets. We ignore an uphill road to the right and, going slightly downhill, come to Carhoo Cross Road, signposted Dooneen, Red Strand, etc. We turn left.

Soon, a small bridge crosses a stream flowing under the road. On the marsh side, there is now a thicket of sally bushes, an osier-bed perhaps once harvested for basket making. The ground, hereabouts, is watery; various varieties of spike-tipped rushes, hard rush, bog rush and bulrush grow along the roadside. The marsh, with its cover of tussocky grasses, reeds, sally and gorse is ideal habitat for snipe, pheasant, meadow pipit and larks — ground nesting birds — while linnets and stonechats nest in the bushes. Pigeons’ nests, frail rafts of twigs, and magpie nests, domed and spiky, may be seen in the roadside blackthorns and alders.

From here until the causeway and the sea, we stay on the ‘main’ road, ignoring turnings to the right. We have broad views over the bog on the left.

In springtime, wildflowers abound along the verges and ditches. Horses roam the marsh. Long legged, chestnut brown and blonde-maned, they look wonderful in the early spring sunlight.

As we come in sight of the sea and the causeway, there is a large lagoon to the left.

This southern lagoon is a wonderful spot to watch birds. One may catch the brilliant flash of a kingfisher over the water. Snipe and water rails skulk on the edge of the reeds; little grebes duck and dive on the still surface.

This lagoon has held many of Clon’s rare species over the year. But, rarities or not, here we can experience “the peaceful kingdom” as the sun sinks behind the marsh on a winter night.

Back at our trailhead, we might continue to the northern lagoon, with teal, widgeon and mallard roosting on the water. The marsh surface will be deep brown with carpets of roosting godwit, curlew and redshank. At the edge of the pool, tiny dunlin may still be skittering about.

It is wonderful that Cloheen has survived. It almost did not. The birds might be gone and the marsh, one of the richest 130 acres of biodiversity in West Cork, gentrified, sanitised and fairwayed-over.

In 1995, a group of local golf course developers successfully lobbied Cork county councillors to overturn the County Development Plan intended to protect the bay and this part of it. Opposition by local people, the IWC, the OPW, An Taisce and articles in the local press resulted in a High Court judgement which scuttled the developers’ plans.

Man can make a golf course; only God and the Irish weather can make a marsh.

Start point: We can take either of the two routes marked “Inchydoney” out of Clonakilty town. Both the inland route, and the route following the western shore of Clonakilty Harbour converge at our trailhead, the crossroads at the lagoon’s eastern end.

Distance/time: 5km/1hr. Can be completed in one hour but no need to hurry.

Difficulty:

Easy - level backroads

Map: OS Map 89.

* For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie

Club News:

SLIGO WALKING CLUB

( sligowalkingclub.ie)

Mar 25: Gortarowey/ Barnaribbon, moderate, 9km, 3hrs, meet car park of Carraroe Retail Park (Curry’s end), 10am.

Mar 29: Coney Island Walk, easy, 10km, 3hrs, meet car park of Institute of Technology, Sligo, 10am.

Mar 29: Challenging Slieve League, very hard, some steep climbs, 20km, 7hrs, meet car park of Institute of Technology, Sligo, 10am.

DUNMANWAY HILLWALKING CLUB Mar 29: Strickeen/ Drishana walk, grade A easy, 13km, 5hrs meet Supervalu car park, Dunmanway, 8.30am.

KENMARE WALKING CLUB ( kenmarewalking.ie)

Mar 30: Mullaghanattin walk, grade A, meet the square Kenmare, 9am.

SLIEVE BLOOM WALKING CLUB ( slievebloom.ie)

Mar 30: Crumlin River Valley, grade A, 8km, 4hrs, meet Kinnity Community Centre, 12am.

HILLWALKERS CLUB DUBLIN ( hillwalkersclub.com)

Mar 30: Wicklow Way Walk via Laragh, Kanturk and Lough Dan, 21km, meet corner of Burgh Quay and Hawkins St., 10am, or bus stop before roundabout at Loughlinstown, 10.15am.

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