Walks & Trails2019-05-18T19:41:30+03:00

POLLAGH TRAIL

Enjoy a carefree walk and observe the wide variety of flora and fauna in this peaceful retreat

The Pollaghs

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The Pollaghs (pronounced locally as Polloughs or Pollox) is an area of low-lying meadowland consisting of over 200 acres. The name comes from the Irish ‘pollacha’ meaning full of holes. The land was part of the estates of the local landed families, Waller, Henry and Twiss, the greater part belonging to the latter. On the demise of these families, the land was divided by the Irish Land Commission in the early 1900’s and granted to local farmers who had been existing tenants. There are presently 45 farmers who have plots ranging from 1 to 10 acres in the Pollagh.
The Vikings (Danes) are believed to have inhabited the Pollagh in the 9th & 10th centuries, probably arriving here having navigated up the Shannon in their longships. Evidence of their settlement was uncovered during the course of the Shannon Scheme in the mid 1920’s.
Access to the Pollagh was originally via a roadway from the village alongside the present Matt The Threshers premises. The construction of the railway line and the branch line to Killaloe in the mid 1800’s led to the relocation of the entrance to the current spot on the O’Briensbridge road.
The Pollagh was at the centre of controversy in 1881 when the boycott system, first used against Capt Boycott of Lough Mask House, Mayo, was implemented by the Tenants Rights League against local landlord, Hastings Twiss. Farmers and workers refused to assist in harvesting the hay in the Pollagh. Twiss hired in a workforce, known as ‘Emergency Men’ to do the work. 70 labourers with 3 gentlemen in charge arrived by train in Birdhill on August 8th. To avoid the possibility of a confrontation, a large contingent of police and military patrolled the area day and night during the 4 weeks it took to get the work done.
The Pollagh is still a useful source of meadowing, although hay saving can be difficult in unfavourable weather as the land is prone to flooding. Hay is made by mowing the grass which has been allowed to grow to a height of up to 2 feet, leaving it to dry, before gathering it to be used as a valuable source of winter fodder for cattle. Hay saving is usually carried out in June-July, although it is often later in the Pollagh, depending on the prevailing weather. The terrain provides a wonderful habitat for numerous species of Flora & Fauna and offers a haven of retreat to us from the hustle and bustle of life.

The Pollagh Trail

The trail follows the Yellow Walking Loop over a distance of 3 km

The 200 acres of land in the Pollagh served as meadowland to 45 local farmers since the Land Commission divided the estates of the Twiss, Henry and Waller families in the early 1900s. Much of the land has been planted in recent years, with fast-growing conifers more productive in the prevailing soil.

1. The Ash (An Fhuinseog), Elder (An Trom) and Ivy (Eidhneáin) all feature at the first marker. Recognisable through its long straight trunk, distinctive black buds in winter and bunches of fruit (keys) in autumn, the ash is strong and durable and is the traditional wood for making hurleys.
The elder’s fragrant flowers attract birds and insects and its autumn berries are used in wine-making. Its soft stem can be hollowed out to make whistles.
The ivy is a common creeping evergreen vine with poisonous leaves and berries.

2. The Beech (An Fheá) is an impressive tree with a spreading crown. It keeps its withered leaves over the winter and is a popular hedging tree in modern gardens. Its smooth, fine-grained wood is used in furniture-making while beech mast (nuts) has a high fat content attractive to birds and animals.

3. The Holly (An Cuileann)
The Holly with its clusters of red autumn berries is a familiar Christmas decoration. Being shallow-rooted and shade-tolerant, it thrives here under a large oak. Traditionally, the holly was considered one of the most sacred trees by the druids of Ireland. The evergreen holly was the ruler of the dark winter months, while the oak ruled the summer. The male holly bears berries.

4. The Sycamore (An Seiceamair)
Sycamores, with their distinctive maple-like leaves, are easy to grow and thrive in lowlands. Their helicopter-winged seeds ensure they find favourable conditions for proliferation. Favoured by birds, their summer canopy also provides a valuable shelter for livestock from rain and sun.

5. The Willow (An Saileach)
The willow thrives in damp soils and grows in profusion in the Pollaghs. The Sallow Willow or ‘Sally’ abounds here but Goat Willow and Pussy Willow are also plentiful, producing an abundance of catkins in April and May. The young branches of the willow were once woven into baskets and wicker chairs and were used in thatching by local craftsmen.

6. The Birch (An Bheith)
Rows of Birch trees have been planted in the field adjoining the pathway which leads the walker from the roadway on through the Red Loop. The Downy Birch is common in poor soils and is tolerant of wet sites. The springtime flowers are catkins which stay on the tree and contain the mature seed by autumn. Birch is commonly used in making plywood.

Continue the Nature Trail by returning to cross the linking path to the other leg of the Pollagh Road.

7. The Oak (An Dair)
Oak woods once covered large areas of the Irish countryside, producing many placenames. Slow-growing but long-living, the great oak can span several human generations and reach heights of up to 45 metres. The oak produces acorns in autumn, supports a diverse and abundant wildlife and is used in the making of furniture.

8. The Elm (An Leamhán)
The Wych or Irish Elm is flourishing here. Recognisable by its large, short-stemmed leaves, it produces clusters of red bell-shaped flowers in March. Many insects are attracted to the elm – one particular beetle is responsible for spreading the Dutch Elm disease which has wiped out elms in recent years.

9. The Hawthorn (An Sceach Geal)
The young whitethorn turns the hedgerows white with its scented flowers in late spring followed by red berries (haws) in the autumn. The hawthorn is traditionally associated with the fairies, so people are reluctant to interfere with it.
A Blackthorn (An Droighneán Dubh) stands on the opposite side of the road, with a similar flowering pattern to the hawthorn but with purple sloes in autumn. The traditional Irish ‘shillelagh’ (stick) is made from blackthorn.

10. The Alder (An Fhearnóg)
The alder, typical of wet land, has distinctive long yellow and purple catkins in springtime. Small cones contain seeds. It has been used for making clogs and also in the furniture trade where it was known as ‘Irish mahogany.’

11. The Brambles (Na Driseacha)
The common bramble or briar is an intrusive plant covered with sharp thorns. They frequently root along the ground when they touch it. Abundant blackberries are produced in autumn, a free raw material for jams, jellies, cordials and pies, and an important food source for wild birds.

12. The Dog Rose (An Rós Fiáin)
The wild rose, growing on the opposite side of the trench, with ash-like leaves and long arching stems bearing curved thorns, is a scrambling hedgerow shrub. It produces rose-scented flowers in summer followed by bright red rose hips in autumn.
Across the field to the east, is a Special Area of Conservation following the course of the Kilmastulla

13. Kilmastulla River (An Uinse)
The Kilmastulla, an important salmon spawning river, is also home to the river lamprey, a protected species under the EU Wildlife Habitats Directive.
To the north-west, the Clare Hills form a backdrop to the Shannon embankment which was built to raise the water level in the river for the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha in the 1920s. The Kilmastulla River originally flowed straight into the Shannon but was rerouted during those pioneering works to turn and run parallel to the Shannon for over 2 km before the rivers meet at the specially-constructed weir which controls the flow and level of water. Since the water level of the Shannon is now higher than the surrounding Pollagh lands, drainage is dependent on a series of pumping stations, so there are now three water courses side by side – the pump drain, the Kilmastulla and the Shannon.

14. Mountains all round us (Na Sléibhte)
The hills to the north-west, across the River Shannon, are Slieve Bernagh (called the ‘Clare Hills’ locally). Tountinna and the Arra Montains lie to the north-east on the Tipperary side of the Shannon. Silvermines Mountains and Keeperhill are visible to the east, while SSE, overhead Birdhill Village is the original ‘bird hill’. Hidden by bushes near the top of the hill is a prominent sandstone outcrop called Carrigeen Rock, which features in the legends of Birdhill’s placename, Oisín having kept the great hunting horn of the Fianna hidden there.

15. Sitka Spruce (An Sprús Sitceach)
Sitka Spruce, a fast-growing conifer, is the predominant species used in Irish forestry. It grows productively in the moist conditions of the Pollaghs. Felling will be carried out after 30 to 40 years, but thinning will be necessary after 15 years. The timber is traded as ‘white deal’. Sitka Spruce has an important role to play in reducing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Rows of deciduous trees (oaks and alders in the adjoining fields here) are planted on the perimeter of the spruce plantations to increase biodiversity and enhance the visual appearance.

HERITAGE TRAIL

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Birdhill Heritage Trail

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  • The Éan Fionn.
    Birdhill derives its name from the Irish Cnocán An Éin Fhinn (the little hill of the white/fair bird). One of the legends from local folklore is engraved on the plinth of John O’Connor’s stainless steel sculpture erected on the Village Green in 2002.

  • Coopers Bar.
    The ancestral craft of the Ryan Cooper family, proprietors of the business since 1985, is depicted in a painting on the gable wall. The building stands on the site once occupied by Carey’s Hotel, a favourite wayside inn of ‘The Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell on his travels from Kerry.

  • Matt The Threshers.
    Taking its name from the famous character in Charles Kickham’s Knocknagow, Matt The Thresher has operated as a licensed premises under a variety of names since 1890. In 1982 Matt The Thresher was bought by Tony Ryan (G.P.A. & Ryanair) and the building was redesigned by the famous architect Sam Stephenson. Ted & Kay Moynihan acquired the premises in 1987 and developed it into a leading restaurant and bar with a distinctive old-world charm.

  • Coffee Roastery.
    The building now occupied by the Coffee Roastery is the oldest in the village. First built about 1720 as a home for retired nurses, it was used in the mid 1800’s by the Twiss family, local landlords, as quarters for their servants. It was a Garda barracks from 1927 to 1961 and was home to various families for a couple of decades, before being acquired by Tony Ryan of GPA and Ryanair fame in 1985 for use as a showcase for Tipperary products, later specialising in Tipperary Crystal. Browsers opened a furniture store in 2003 and the Coffee Academy and Roastery took over in 2015.

  • Community Park
    Birdhill’s Community Park, sponsored by the local Credit Union, was opened in 2003. The varied landscaping from formal cultivation to wilderness offers a wide educational resource and provides wonderful habitats for numerous species of wildlife. A flower-fringed water fountain, installed in 2007, stands at the bus stop on the nearby roadside.

  • The Co-op Creamery
    Built in 1914, the Co-Op Creamery was once an important social and economic focal point for the local community, serving over 100 dairy farmers. The original creamery is now gone but the milk churns in front of the building and the murals by local artist Ann Barry recall its past.

  • Railway Station
    Opened in July 1860. A rail link to Killaloe operated up to 1944. The remains of the old turntable and water tower are still visible where the line diverted to the lakeside town. The original cut stone bridge forms an attractive entrance to the station.

  • Carrigeen Rock (private land)
    Overlooking the village from the south-east is a prominent sandstone outcrop known as Carrigeen Rock, which features in the legends of Birdhill’s placename and where Oisín is reputed to have kept the hunting horn of the Fianna.

  • Ormsby Bible School
    The house (now a private residence) at the top of Twiss Hill was opened as a Bible School in 1824 and was the centre of national controversy in 1827 when 20 families were evicted from the Ormsby Estate for refusing to attend the school.

  • Church of Our Lady of the Wayside
    Birdhill Church, a sandstone structure with cut limestone inserts and remarkable architectural design and detail, was opened in 1871 at a cost of £1,200. The site was originally a pond given by local landlord George Twiss. The Stations of the Cross, installed in 1927, are a unique chalk creation and were funded by local families. In 1957 the church was completely refurbished and dedicated to Our Lady of the Wayside.

  • Kyle Graveyard
    The Kyle was the former cemetery for the Birdhill area, given by the Twiss family as a burial ground in the 1820’s and was much used for burial during the famine. It was part of the original Ormsby mansion, known as Courtwood.

  • Twiss House (on private land)
    For most of the 19th and the early years of the 20th century the Twiss family owned much of the land around Birdhill. The house, on the hillside between the Limerick and Newport roads, is now a ruin, having been burned down in 1920 during the War of Independence. Previously, Birdhill Castle (Knockananean), built in the fourteenth century, stood on the same site. The grave of Bob Twiss (1856-1917) can be seen on the lands near the top of Chapel Hill.

  • The Pollaghs
    The Pollaghs (in Irish Pollacha, meaning full of holes) is an area of low-lying meadowland consisting of over 200 acres. Approximately 40 farmers received plots of land here when the Twiss Estate was divided by the Land Commission in the early 1900’s. In recent years much of the land has been planted with fast-growing conifers. The Pollaghs featured in the Land War of 1881 when a large group of ‘Emergency Men’ arrived to break a boycott of hay harvesting. Evidence of Viking settlement was uncovered here during the course of the Shannon Scheme in the 1920’s. The Pollagh is now a wonderful habitat for numerous species of flora and fauna.

  • Standing Stone (on private land)
    Identified on the O.S. maps as a Legaun, this 6 feet high standing stone at Coosane is usually known as a Gallán.

  • Parteen Weir
    The Weir was constructed during the course of the Shannon Scheme in the mid 1920’s to control the flow of the Shannon waters into the Ardnacrusha power station. Adjacent to the weir is the ESB Fish Hatcheries.

  • The Pike
    Cranduff Bridge forms the boundary between Tipperary and Limerick. It is known locally as The Pike, having been the site of one of the toll gates on the Nenagh – O’Briensbridge turnpike road established in 1779.

  • Kingstown
    This nineteenth century village between Ballyhane and Annaholty grew up around a peat factory established by William Malcolmson. A railway siding facilitated the transport of turf until the business collapsed in 1877.

  • Birdhill School
    The present primary school was built in 1964 and an extension was added in 2008. Previously the nearby 1891 building, now serving as a community hall, was the place of education for generations of local children.

  • Cragg Castle
    Cragg was the seat of the O’Mulryan clan, members of which flourished during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Across the road, stood the home of the Going Family, landlords of Cragg up to the early 20th century.

  • Cragg Graveyard
    This old graveyard is still used by families in the Cragg area. Kilcommenty Church, former parish church for Birdhill, built in 1470, stood here. St. Comenath’s Well, associated with an early Christain hermit can be seen at the entrance and in an adjoining field is St. Comenath’s Bed, a large irregular block of sandstone known as a bullaun.

  • Kilmastulla Graveyard
    Site of church used up to the 1950’s and graveyard still occasionally used. It served both Catholics and Protestants at various times. The grave of Rev. D. O’Brien one of the Knights of Malta who served as a chaplain to King Louis XVI of France can be seen here. Bourne’s stables used by Bianconi coaches in the middle of the 20th century stood across the road, while Cnoc na Croíce or Hill of the Gallows (known locally as a Croppy Grave), used by local tyrant Mac I Brien around 1738 was to the rear.

  • Dunally Line
    The R 496 to Ballina is known as the Dunally Line, named after Baron Dunally (Henry Prittie) of Kilboy House, Dolla, who ordered its construction in the early 19th century.

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