Beyond the Woods
Last year I went on a tour of Killinthomas woods in North Kildare. After it, I wrote the following article for the Autumn issue of Irish Wildlife to share my thoughts on the woods. I decided to share the article with you all as I plan to revisit the woods in the coming weeks for its annual bluebell display. Watch this space for an update on the woods and the brilliant bluebell show!
Beyond the Woods ( Autumn issue of Irish Wildlife)
Killinthomas woods is an unique and beautiful mixed woodland nestled outside the picturesque village of Rathangan, Kildare. Killinthomas is part of Lullmore Forest which is situated in North Kildare and comprises of more than 13 different woods and covers 888 hectares (2194 acres) in the county. Killinthomas woods itself covers over 70 hectares, was developed by the Rathangan CORE group in cooperation with Coilte. The woods date back to the 1830s and shows some signs of its age with plantings of spindle visible as you meander down the walks. Spindle is a tree which is associated with ancient woodland. Shortly after the woods officially opened, it received the National Wildlife Award in the Tidy Towns 2000 for its efforts in conserving the natural habitat which thrived in the area.
The woods hold a special connection with many of the long term residents of Rathangan. Some sections of the original oak and beech trees were cut down and used during WWII for fuel. During this time many young men were brought to the area from all over the country to work in the surrounding bogs to cut turf for fuel. There are still the remnants of train tracks which carried men from the camps located in the woods to the bogs a few kilometers away. Many of the men who came to work during the war ended up staying in the area and now, generations later, the woods holds a special connection to the community and is an integrate part of the local heritage.
With some of the old wood removed during the WWII it was later planted with using both broad leaved trees and conifers. This creates different habitats within the woods, capable of supporting very different woodland ecosystems. In recent years thinning, a common practice in modern Irish woodlands, has taken place to clear out trees leaving the mature and most suitable trees. The group in Killinthomas are trying to return the woods to how it would have been pre- WWII by keeping mostly broad leaf trees such as oak and beech. It is hoped to introduce more native broad leaved trees in the future, which will be more suitable to supporting native wildlife.
One of the main highlights of the woods is its spectacular display of bluebells and wild garlic in late Spring to early Summer. The floor of the woods becomes of wash of dusky blue and white as the bluebells and garlic put on their show. Other areas are not without their glitz with spectacular displays of wood anemones and honeysuckle. As you walk the meandering paths in one of the more natural woodlands in Kildare, it is not uncommon to stumble across areas of increasingly uncommon wild primroses and even spot a red squirrel or two. The rich biodiversity acts as a corner stone for schools to educate their students on the importance of ecosystem protection and this is a message the Rathangan CORE Group want to pass on to all who visit the woods. They encourage biodiversity and do not interfere with nature, when a tree falls it is not removed and becomes home to a rich ecosystem of insects and wildlife.
Killinthomas is truly an area of great beauty and boasts a rich biodiversity through the help of the volunteers from the Rathangan CORE Group and Rathangan Tidy Towns Association. For more information on the woods visit http://www.rathangan.info