Category Archives: Natural heritage

Scrubbing the Sheugh

Monaghan Town meanwhile got €57,600 to clean a section of the Ulster canal, and carry out appropriate planting and turn this section of Ulster Canal Greenway into a haven for wildlife […].

From The Anglo-Celt 31 October 2019

Pondweed photosynthesising

You’ve always wondered what it sounds like, haven’t you?

You can hear it, and many other canal sounds, on Rob St John’s “ambient sound portrait” from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal here.

Take five minutes off from work and listen to the canal.

h/t our Yorkshire correspondent

Header photo?

I’ve been asked what it is. Its principal claim to fame is that it is not Holyhead.

Which is just as well. You can’t drive there, unless you’re a resident: you have to walk, which will give you an appetite for a pint or two in Ty Coch.

But the inability to drive there would have made it difficult to operate car ferries.

Is Brendan Smith a disguised Theresa May?

Theresa May, who is Prime Minister of Unicornia, is renowned for her inability to take “No”, or indeed “Definitely not”, or “What part of NO do you not understand?”, or “FOAD”, for an answer.

The same may be said of Brendan Smith, a Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan (in a region where mental health is a big issue). For many years, Mr Smith has been asking when a navigation (first proposed as one of W T Mulvany’s insane drainage-cum-navigation projects in the 1840s) is to be constructed between Belturbet and Lough Oughter. And, year after year, he is told, in the politest possible terms, that it’s a non-runner.

Here’s the latest example, where the unfortunate Minister for Fairytales devotes a lot of effort to telling him to FOAD. Waterways Ireland has the right idea:

There is already extensive existing underused navigation for example at Belturbet and Waterways Ireland has reiterated the potential in the waters of the Lough Oughter area being promoted as a distinct Blueway. The national context is that Blueways Ireland (National Trails Office, Canoeing Ireland and other state bodies) is currently considering the establishment of Blueways beyond the Waterways Ireland network of inland waterways.

To this end, Waterways Ireland has met with the Chief Executive of Cavan County Council, other council officials and elected representatives concerning Blueways developed successfully on the Waterways Ireland network to advise on possible ways forward. Waterways Ireland is happy to support Cavan County Council should it decide to develop a Blueway on the River Erne from Belturbet to Killykeen and Killeshandra but as the area is officially outside of their remit, this offer extends to advice and support only.

It would be nice if Mr Smith would stop wasting parliamentary time on the pursuit of unicorns. If he doesn’t, I’ll be forced to conclude that he and Mrs May are somehow related.

WI Heritage Plan open day …

… and a chance to meet WI CEO Dawn Livingstone.

NB the link is to a mailchimp site, not the WI site.

Tyres

There are other areas where tyres are used, namely, boat yards. I know this because I have a house on the Shannon. Are boat yard proprietors to be required to register as the proprietors of 30 or 40 tyres, which are often used to turn over boats safely? They are also used on informal jetties as protections for boats and so on. Is this area to be covered by the regulations?

Michael McDowell at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment discussion of the Waste Management (Tyres and Waste Tyres) Regulations on Tuesday 17 October 2017.

Eels from Killaloe

Great quantities of salmon have been recently exported from Limerick to England, and the abundant supply of eels in the Shannon is furnishing a new and productive traffic in the English market. There are ten tons of this prolific fish now in tanks at Killaloe, awaiting a conveyance to London, and a vessel adapted for the trade will take on board from Limerick in the ensuing week forty tons of eels for the London market.

The Dublin Monitor 23 October 1844

Leave no trace? It’s rubbish

More folk believe that the Shannon is the great dividing line in Ireland: civilisation and a modern economy to the east, primitive tribalism to the west. Of course that isn’t true — except in one respect: rubbish bins on the lower Shannon.

There, counties Offaly and Tipperary, on the east side, provide rubbish bins for boaters at harbours; on the west side, counties Clare and Galway do not, save for a dog-poo bin at Portumna Castle Harbour.

Waterways Ireland has signs in some places saying that it has a “Leave no trace” policy: that is, I presume, intended to excuse it from providing bins, and paying for rubbish collection, at its own harbours. I guess — I am open to correction on this — that the local authorities on the civilised side of the Shannon are happy to bear the cost of providing for boaters, while those on the wilder side are not. It’s not just boaters, though: the new camper-van park at Portumna Castle Harbour, admirable in so many ways, has no bin service.

Now, having to take your rubbish home after a one-day picnic is not a particularly great problem. Doing so after a full week on a boat or in a camper is rather more difficult, especially if your rubbish includes the dog-poo that you have nobly and civil-spiritedly picked up. [Incidentally, I felt like an idiot in Ballinasloe, picking up a small dog-poo beside a vast pile of steaming horse-shit.]

Those boaters and camper-vanners who have cracked the code — worked out the distribution of bins — can of course hold on to their rubbish until they reach civilisation, but I met several folk (natives and visitors) who hadn’t worked it out. I didn’t meet anyone who thought the absence of bins was a good idea. And most people don’t have space on board their boats or vans for a week’s or two weeks’ worth of rubbish, never mind airtight storage to keep smells in and flies and rodents out.

The western local authorities are free-riding on the ratepayers of the eastern counties, and at some point the easterners may get fed up. A bank holiday weekend produced overflowing bins at Banagher: they were emptied very promptly on the Tuesday morning, so well done Offaly County Council. But I suspect that some of the rubbish should have been disposed of west of the Shannon. At what point will the eastern local authorities cry “enough!”?

Rational economic man, faced with the absence of bins at harbours in Clare and Galway, would adopt a simple solution: if on a boat, put everything into a bag with a large stone and throw it overboard in the middle of the river; if in a camper, sling it into a ditch somewhere. The policy of the western local authorities is designed to encourage littering.

And there’s no point in telling me about Leave No Trace Ireland, which strikes me as yet another Irish solution to an Irish problem:

Leave No Trace is an outdoor ethics programme designed to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships.

Who thinks up this rubbish? There are many responsible boat- and camper-users who want to be able to dispose of their rubbish properly during their holidays. We need bins, not propaganda.

 

The Lough Neagh sand trade

A few months ago I mentioned Paul Whittle’s history of the UK marine aggregate dredging industry, which includes a chapter on the Lough Neagh sand dredging industry.

Sand barge William James at Scotts sand quay

I did not realise at the time that the industry was the subject of legal action by Friends of the Earth. Their objections are outlined here; there are several news reports of the progress of their case, eg here and here; this is an account, from June 2017, of the appeal court case; here is the BBC report of the decision and this is FOE’s reaction, which includes this:

Yesterday the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal ruled that the Northern Ireland government acted unlawfully by not stopping dredging for sand at one of Europe’s most important wetlands.

The only legal option now open to the government is to stop the sand dredging.

Dredging has been taking place on a huge scale at Lough Neagh without planning permission and other authorisations.

Friends of the Earth brought the legal challenge over the Northern Ireland government’s failure to stop the extraction.

Up to 2 million tons of sand is suction dredged from the bed of the lough every year. This is the biggest unauthorised development in the history of Northern Ireland. Yet this vitally important wildlife site is supposed to be protected under local and international law. In fact there is no bigger unlawful mine anywhere in Europe in a Special Protection Area.

Lough Neagh is Europe’s biggest wild eel fishery […].

I suspect that the decision will increase the DUP’s enthusiasm for Brexit.

 

Fish from inland waterways

On 19 August 1862 the Irish Times markets report included this:

Athlone Market, August 16th. The following are the rates: oats 14s to 14s 6d per barrel; hay per ton 26s to 33s; straw 1s 7d to 1s 9d per cwt; potatoes 4d to 5d per stone; beef 7d to 8d per lb; mutton 6d to 8d; veal 5d to 7d do; lamb 6s 0d to 8s per qr; geese each 1s 6d to 2s 0d per pair [no, I don’t understand it either]; ducks 1s 2d to 1s 6d; fowls 1s 0d to 1s 6d; butter 8d to 9d per lb; eggs 6d to 7d per dozen; bacon (Irish) 7d to 9d per lb; American 5d to 6d.

Fish rather scarce: trout 6d per lb; pike 2d per lb; bream 1s per dozen; perch 1s per doz; eels 2s to 4s per dozen.

The weather during the past week has been, on the whole, favourable to the growing crops which look very well in this neighbourhood. Potatoes, especially, are an excellent and abundant crop.

From a Correspondent

Being anxious to increase the economic benefits of inland waterways, I determined to make a fish stew, using only freshwater fish. Accordingly, I emailed Inland Fisheries Ireland [IFI] to ask where I could buy a selection of freshwater fish. Answer came there none, which made me wonder why the state paid IFI almost €28.5 million in 2014 (the latest year for which accounts are available). If fishing isn’t producing food, then the maggots are being drowned for entertainment, as foxes are hunted for sport, and I don’t see why the state should subsidise it (or, of course, other recreational activities like football, small farming or Irish Rail).

Anyway, thanks to the virtues of private enterprise and the wonders of free trade, I was able to produce a stew using trout, pike, carp, zander, smoked eel and crayfish. But what a pity that it would have been so much easier a hundred and fifty years ago.

By the way, if you’re wondering why American bacon was on sale in Athlone, and cheaper than Irish bacon, Andy Bielenberg explains in Ireland and the Industrial Revolution: the impact of the industrial revolution on Irish industry 1801–1922 Routledge, London 2009 that

While most Irish bacon was exported to Great Britain, to sustain this trade Ireland increasingly consumed cheaper American bacon in the second half of the nineteenth century.

From the BNA