Category Archives: Sligo Champion 2013


Blacksmith Brian Halpin is continuing his work to restore the iconic Doorly Park arch. Cleaning of the arch is on-going at Brian’s Blackdog forge near Ballintogher. Lettering similar to the original font has been ordered from England and is due to arrive in Sligo this week. Brian is also tackling the rust on the arch, which was erected at the entrance to Doorly Park in the 1960s.

Brian said: “I’m cleaning away. Once the letters arrive I can move on.”

Click to see the Sligo Champion Coverage

Brian Halpin Blacksmith

Blacksmith Brian behind restoration of iconic arch

Michael Moran –

AN ICONIC Sligo landmark may have disappeared – but it’s in safe hands. Blacksmith Brian Halpin has begun work restoring the Doorly Park arch. The arch was removed last Thursday and taken to Brian’s forge near Slish Wood.
Brian said: “People genuinely were wondering what we were at. Some thought the arch was being taken away permanently.
“When we explained the restoration project, they were thrilled.” Brian says he is delighted to be involved in The Sligo Champion-Sligo Tidy Towns Committee initiative to ‘green and clean’ Doorly Park. It’s the winning local entry in the ‘Get Involved 2013’ new nationwide competition run in conjunction with local newspapers across the country. The US native – he hails from Missouri – said: “This is a great scheme and I’m happy to help.”
The Doorly Park arch was erected to honour Edward Doorly, Bishop of Elphin from 1926 to 1950. It was initially located over the roadway from Riverside to Cleveragh. It was relocated in the 1960s as a result of traffic problems. Countless people have walked under it in one of the most scenic areas of Sligo town.
While some running repairs were carried out down through the years, this is the biggest ever restoration.
Brian said: “I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product. It’s good people are still taking care of the local heritage.”
Brian’s first task was to remove all the rust from the arch.
He’s hoping to retain the main wrought iron bow arches. Brian will source the lettering in Hampshire, England, to replace the inscription. The black and gold painting will also be restored.
Brian said: “A lot of the castings were broken and held together by ‘braces’ from a previous repair job. While this work served its purpose, the arch had become dilapidated.
“I didn’t expect to have to replace every letter, but it needs to be done.” Brian has worked with the Sligo Tidy Towns Committee previously. He restored the Marymount gates on Pearse Road. He also made the ‘salmon’ sculpture at the entrance to IT Sligo. Brian said: “Des Faul (chairman of the Sligo Tidy Towns Committee) approached me and told me of the ‘Get Involved’ project. I thought it was a fantastic idea. The arch is one of the first things people see when they enter Doorly Park and hopefully they will be impressed when it makes its return.”

Doorly Park Latest

Doorly Park Project Overview

  1. Original entrance Arch 
  2. Signage Information Boards
  3. Bat/Bird Boxes
  4. Bridge clean up and Repair
  5. Benches seating area replaced/ repaired
  6. Clean up of areas
  7. Schools / Groups 
  8. Open evening

Biodiversity Committee Eamon McGowan, Dympna Mannion and Micheal Feehily 

Sligo Tidy Towns Chairperson Des Faul 

1 Original Entrance Arch 

Having visited the site the original entrance was a beautiful metal arch that has fallen into disrepair.  We photographed the arch as it is and brought it to a number of local craftsmen who are in the process of advising us on how best to proceed to restore it to it’s former glory.  We know that there is a lot of history to the arch and we are gathering stories from the local community to present at an open evening when all the work is complete.  We are in the process of sourcing photographs of the original arch as there is some details that are missing through decay which we would love to include.  We feel the arch is so important with it’s history and we want to give a proper entrance to such a beautiful place.   We are in the process of getting quotes and advise on how best to proceed.

(The arch is now being restored as part of the project by blacksmith Brian Halpin. Progress reports will follow).

2 Signage Information Boards

Having viewed a number of areas we felt that for this year Doorly Park was in most need of Signage.  In previous years there had been booklets produced to explain the fauna and wildlife in the area .  We planned to erect a main sign at the entrance explaining why it is an area of conservation, for this we are in contact with the local heritage officer to help with the wording for the main sign. We also plan erecting  14 finger signs along the nature trail to explain the beauty and wildlife in the area.  We got the booklet which was published in 1998 and walked the area with the Biodiversity Officer and made some changes on his advice and he helped with the wording that should go on each point on each sign.  We meet a volunteer at an open evening who works for a book company translating English to Irish and had agreed to translate all the wording to have it both in English and Irish.  We got quotes from a number of different companies for the production of the signs but it was working out a little expensive so we spoke with the men’s shed having photographed signage from other areas and they are happy to help with the woodwork involved in the signage.  The men’s shed is a local volunteer group of retired men who help with local projects; they have a number of different crafts men and were delighted to be able help.  We also contacted a local sign company who are in the process of doing a sample of what we require. As Doorly Park is an area of conservation we needed to agree on what way the signs should be erected and the local parks department have agreed to put up the signs in the correct way as not to cause any adverse damage.  We also are in the process of looking for funding from the Environmental fund for Biodiversity awareness Grant Scheme 2013.  See Reference Environmental Fund for Biodiversity Awareness Grant Scheme 2013.We do plan to proceed with or without the funding but as with all voluntary groups all funding is gratefully accepted.

A breakdown of the wording of the signage is enclosed.  See reference Doorly Park nature trail.

3. Bat Bird Boxes 

We meet with the Biodiversity officer to ask his opinion on how we should best precede and explained the benefits to birds and bats on having bat and bird boxes.  He then put us in touch with Barbara McInerney who is an ecologist studying and working with bats, birds and other natural history since 2004.  We arranged a meeting with her and the biodiversity officer to get best advice on how to proceed.   We again got help from the men’s shed who agreed to make the bat and bird boxes.  We arranged an evening with Barbara our bat expert, the biodiversity officer and the men’s shed on how best to make the bat and bird boxes and how they should be erected.  We spent two hours talking about the best materials to use and best practice for the longevity of the boxes.  We sourced all of the material locally. And having agreed with the Park’s Department it was ok to have them erected and arranged a meeting with the Park’s manager to agree suitable sites.  There are also a number of areas outside the remit of the park’s and we are contacting the people responsible to get permission to have the boxes erected.  Having got permission we got photographic points on where the boxes should be erected.  Both Barbara and the Biodiversity officer have agreed to oversee this and to ensure the bird and bat boxes are put up correctly and in the most suitable locations.  We are in the process of making the bird and bat boxes and have to agree a date to have them erected.

 Photos of the making of the bat boxes / bird boxes and proposed sites included click here.

4 Bridge clean up and repair

Having walked Doorly Park there is an old bridge in need of painting and repair. Its beautiful old metal bridge with some wonderful features that has gone into disrepair due to neglect. To do the work necessary to bring it back to its former glory  we are in contact with Leader who are happily assisting with the painting and works on the bridge.  We are also in contact with probation services that are providing man hours for people with community service.  We also have a number of volunteers assisting with advice on how best to proceed.  We will be contacting local paint shops for sponsorship and offering them a chance to get involved.

5 Benches seating area replaced/ repaired

Having walked the park there are a number of wooden seating areas that having fallen into disrepair in some cases they need to be replaced and the others need repair and painting.  Sligo men’s shed, Sligo Leader and the probation services are assisting with this.  We will also make contact with the parks department for the seats we will be replacing to have them put them in so we don’t cause any adverse affects in the area.

Photos have being taken by Sligo Champion to show the disrepair.

6. Clean up of areas 

Doorly Park need big clean ups.  We intend to have a few evenings to remove heavy waste and help the overall feel of the areas along both sides of the waterways.  There is a lot of rubbish not directly visible to the eye that needs to be removed.  The Sligo Tidy towns as a group organise big clean ups in different areas over the summer where we call on people involved to help in the clean up.  We will also be contacting people who live in the local area to get as much of the community as involved as we can.  We normally contact the local council who are happy to have the rubbish collected and disposed of properly.

7 Schools / Groups 

When the Signage is in place and the bird and bat boxes have been erected.  We plan on having an evening more focused towards teenagers to explain about the wildlife and fauna in the area.  Barbara McInerney  has agreed to come along and explain about bats and their habitat.  We are going to ask Steven Brightwood a Biodiversity Specialist to come and explain the important of biodiversity in an area.  We intend on inviting local groups, schools, cubs, scouts etc.

8 Open Evening 

When all works have being complete we would like to have an open evening to highlights the works which have being done and to show what can be achieved.  Also to explain a little bit of history about the area, some of the fauna and wildlife that inhabits the area.  Explain why it is an area of conservation and the importance of biodiversity.  We hope to have local media involved and as many of the local groups in the area and anybody who has being involved in the project from the start to appreciate the work done.

Doorly Park Nature Trail

Stop One: (old stop One and Two)

Doorly Park runs along the Garvogue River which flows through the heart of Sligo city. Doorly Park is part of the Lough Gill Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which links Lough Gill with the tidal waters of Sligo Bay. Along both banks of the river are low lying areas which are permanently marshy and fringed by woodlands and dense reed beds.
The large trees with the dense mesh of shoots at their base along the river bank are Lime and were planted by the former owners of Cleaveragh Demesne. Lime flowers in July when the tree is laden with pale yellow flowers which are an important source of nectar for bees.

Stop Two: (old stop three)

The wet woodlands and river are important habitats for birds. Commonly seen woodland birds are the  Wren, Pied wagtail with its long tail and distinctive bobbing motion. Robin, Wood Pigeon, Song and Mistle thrushes, and the commonest thrush the Blackbird. The river is home to the Mute Swan, Moorhen and Mallard. A variety of shore birds such as the Cormorant, Shag,  Herring gulls and the smaller Black headed gulls can be seen.

Stop three: (old stop four)

In summer this canal is typically carpeted in Common Duckweed, a tiny free-floating plant. It is the smallest European flowering plant with a single root hanging down into the water. The dense woodland habitat is used by red squirrel, otter, pine martin and mink.  An early morning walk offers the best chance of a sighting these species. Mink were introduced to Ireland in the 1950’s from America and are now a destructive invasive alien species which are voracious predators which take eggs from nesting ducks.

Stop four: (old stop Five)

The large trees beside the path are pedunculate oak. There are two types of native oak commonly found in Ireland, the sessile oak and pedunculate oak.  Pedunculate oak can be distinguished by the short leaf stalks and long acorn stalks. In contrast sessile oak has longer leaf stalks and the acorns grow directly from the branch. A single oak tree hosts a huge range of insects and can support up to 300 species. These in turn feed many birds and mammals. The ferns growing on the trees are called Polypody, and the bark is encrusted with of lichen.

Stop Five: (old Stop Six)

Willows are common throughout the woodlands and lake edge as they are tolerant of wet conditions. There are a number of species and the commonest is the sally with small rounded leaves. Cleaveragh means the place of the basket makers and they would have used willow in basketmaking. In spring, willow catkins produce huge amounts of pollen which is a very important supply of food for bees and hoverflies. In the ditch can be seen growing Bullrushes with their brown heads.
Looking across the river there is the wonderful panorama of the Darty mountains and Ben Bulben. These limestone mountains were formed around 300-350 million years ago from shell bearing sea organisms.

Stop Six: (old Stop Seven)

The tall conifer here is Scots Pine. The rich red bark of the tree, its bunches of paired blue green needles and umbrella form of the canopy are characteristic.  In the 18th century it was reintroduced to Ireland and planted for its landscape value. Over 150 different types of insect species have been recorded from Scots Pine. One of the most interesting aspects of the Scots Pine is the association that its roots have with fungi. Young seedlings that fail to have an association with a fungus invariably die, the fungi provide the tree with nutrients while the tree produces sugars which feed the fungi.

Stop Seven: (old Stop Eight)

If you look upstream towards Lough Gill you will see the Ox Mountains which comprise Slieve Daeane and Killerry Mountain. They are very ancient at over 600 million years old and are composed of a metamorphic rock called gneiss. These mountains were originally formed from sea sediments but were altered deep in the earths crust under tremendous heat and pressure, when continents collided millions of years ago. They were originally very high but have subsequently eroded.

Stop Eight: (old Stop Nine)

This pool is surrounded by a mixture of oak trees, sally and alder. In summer, it is covered in water lilies amongst which moorhens and duck are frequently seen. In summer, dragonflies and Damselflies patrol over the waters of the pool.  Directly behind you is the evergreen Yew. The small red fruit develop towards the end of summer. The hard seed enclosed in the fleshy pulp is poisonous like the leaves, but birds can eat the fleshy pulp and pass the seed without any damage to themselves and in this way the trees seeds are dispersed.

Stop Nine: (old Stop ten)

The dominant tree occurring in the wet woodland is Alder. Like willow, it does not mind having its roots in water so grows well in waterlogged conditions. It flowers before the leaves emerge  and bears attractive reddish catkins and small seed bearing cones.
Woods have a layered structure. In this wood this is composed of a herbage layer (grasses and flowering plants), a shrub layer and a tree layer. Mixed within this are fungi which serve to recycle the nutrients of dead and dying trees. The woodland sees a succession of different ground plants throughout the year, with most flowers appearing in the spring before the canopy closes and light levels fall.

Stop Ten: (old stop eleven)

This is a young Ash tree, which given ideal conditions could eventually reach a height of 35 m in fifty  years, with a life expectancy of 200 years. It is the commonest Irish tree species.  It is one of the last trees to come into leaf and one of the first to lose its leaves. The winged fruit of the ash (ash keys) are dispersed by the wind  and are an important food source for animals.

Stop Eleven: (old stop twelve)

The large tree behind the Holly is the Beech. Holly is a typical shrub layer species and does well in the deep shade cast by the Beech. On your right as you walk is a large Holm, or evergreen oak. This non native has been widely planted around Lough Gill in the past.
Fish present in the Garvogue include sea trout, salmon, brown trout, bream, eel, pike and Lamprey. The lifecycle of the salmon is fascinating with stages alternating between fresh and salt water. Most Irish salmon spend 14-15 months at sea and return to our coastline in summer, but the salmon in the Garvogue are special in that they stay at sea for longer and grow larger.