Michael Fisher If you passed by the link road close to Monaghan shopping centre recently you might have noticed a large banner on the fence at McNally’s car park signalling Monaghan as a “Biodiversity Town” and calling on residents to notice nature in Monaghan. It is sponsored by Monaghan Tidy Towns to help raise awareness of the issue of global climate change. The biodiversity project is being promoted by a group called Transition Monaghan. It will hold its annual general meeting on Saturday afternoon (29th August) at 3pm at Andy’s Bar in Monaghan. Everyone is welcome and it will provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about the work of the group, according to Chairperson Micheál Callaghan.
TransitionMonaghan was founded in 2013 and is part of the worldwide Transition Town movement that originated in Kinsale. It aims to promote local sustainability and boost well-being in communities. Most people think of hanging baskets and litter picking when they hear the words “Tidy Towns” but the local committee now has a much wider remit where the environment and sustainability take centre stage. There is a great biodiversity existing within the town environs, according to Emer Brennan. She says the aims are to create awareness and appreciation of the biodiversity of Monaghan Town and its environs and to develop an education infrastructure and perspective on an ongoing basis and to promote Monaghan as a “Biodiversity Town” both within the town, its people, schools and community as well as for visitors.
A biodiversity plan was drawn up, based on a previous habitat survey. This has been supplemented this with surveys on birds, trees, a tree planting plan and a plan for Tom Young’s Wood on the Clones Road. The next move is to develop the biodiversity infrastructure with interpretative trails and signage through the town starting at Peter’s Lake and complete with QR codes that including a link to the group’s website www.monaghantownbiodiversity .com. Last year biodiversity signs were added at TomYoung’sWood and along the Greenway accompanied by activity worksheets for schools and families.
A professional survey on Monaghan’s birds conducted over the four seasons of the year was completed in 2012 and is now being updated by Joe Shannon from Birdwatch Ireland. Visits from an expert from Birdwatch Ireland were also offered to schools. A town tree survey by horticulturalist Denis Flannery was also completed in 2012 and followed up with a tree planting strategy for 2013 and 2014 with more trees planted at Peter’s Lake car park last year. A biodiversity area was developed within the allotments site at Killygoan. With the help of community volunteers and the Irish Wildlife Trust 15,000 bulbs (crocus, daffodil, tulips) were planted in 2013 to ensure bright and colourful spring-times. A further 5000 were added last winter. The most recent project has been the development of the area around the old canal lock house on the Greenway.
This area has been planted with apple trees and fruit bushes. Wild flowers were added this year and the ultimate aim is to create a Victorian style garden where fruit and flowers combine to attract pollinators and reduce the need for artificial control of pests. The committee hopes the biodiversity project will continue to grow and heighten awareness of the meaning of biodiversity, awareness of habitats and species in the town and a respect and appreciation of both across the whole town population.
The group seeks to promote our town as a place that appreciates, promotes and protects biodiversity. Monaghan Town is amply endowed with spaces where wildlife can feel right at home, according to Billy Flynn (Flynn Furney Ecologists). A real highlight is the Ulster Canal – a 150 year-old wildlife corridor which allows mammals (including bats) birds and bugs to travel freely trough much of the town. Now, thanks to the Ulster Canal Greenway, people can do so too. There are few better places where we can walk and appreciate a variety of habitats over a few very pleasant kilometres. Otters and kingfishers are among the distinguished residents of this beautiful old waterway.
Right in the middle of Monaghan Town is Peter’s Lake. This natural water body has a rich fringe of reeds and other plants that are home to several species of birds and countless bugs. Take a long walk or a cycle out to Ballyalbany and the Ulster Blackwater. This is a really important river for several fish species including salmon, trout and eel. It’s also a great place to spot dragonflies on summer days. You may have only noticed it in passing, but the Shambles River flows right through the town. Covered along part of its course, it once was used as a channel for waste from the butchering of animals but now flows cleanly and freely through the town. It provides spawning habitat for fish and habitat for the bugs they will grow up to eat. There are few better places to admire mature trees in a seminatural setting than Tom Young’s Wood on the Clones Road.
The mature ash canopy here allows lots of light for the very many wildflowers that make springtime a delight in this woodland. Trees are a great reason to enjoy long walks in the campus of St Davnet’s Hospital. Mature trees of over a dozen species can be seen here. This makes the grounds a haven for birdlife and the wide open spaces that sweep all the way to the canal make this an ideal place for bird watching. Monaghan Town Allotments member Michael O’Hare explained how on the allotment, rather than removing hedges, the surrounding hedges were incorporated into the allotments and used as boundaries. The hedges consist of native planting including hawthorn, blackthorn and dogwood rose. Mixed within the hedgerows are some species of native trees among them, elder, and ash.
In autumn 2013 and throughout spring of 2014, in a joint project with the Monaghan County Council biodiversity officer, a major planting operation was undertaken and with the help of members of the allotments and members of the local community we planted twenty one native trees including wild cherry, bird cherry, oak, rowan, birch, white beam, crab apple, over two hundred and fifty whitethorn and blackthorn quick’s, mixed hazel and holly hedges as borders, mixed hedging including dogwood rose and spindle.
A biodiversity garden approximately half an acre in size was created, incorporating an outdoor classroom bordered by a herb garden for visiting schools and community groups to enjoy. The herbs are mostly flowering and were picked to attract bees and butterflies and other pollinating creatures. Surrounding this there is an orchard, a hazel coppicing area, a natural growth area (wild grass, thistle, buttercup, and other natural plants indigenous to the site), an edible hedge (blackcurrant, white currant, gooseberry, red currant) a natural habitat zone (old hedge toppings and scrub/brush that have been thrown in a heap along an existing hedge), and a Nature Trail (natural pathway going through a double hedgerow that links the allotments with the Biodiversity Garden) all bordered by the previously mentioned mixed hedging. At the entrance to the Biodiversity Garden a walled mini woodland garden has been developed with holly, hazel, whitethorn, blackthorn and elder surrounding, the woodland garden is planted with native woodland plants including primrose, foxglove, calla lilly, ferns, and wild garlic etc. There are also bird and bat box and bug hotel projects carried out in partnership with the local Tidy Towns and various other community groups including Monaghan Men’s Shed.