Coillte shows off 30 wooded acres


Mayfly, midges, monastic settlements and music were celebrated this weekend on Lough Corrib's most famous island, Inchagoill.

The State forestry agency, Coillte, held a barbecue to illustrate to communities in Galway and Mayo how its plans to plant more than 30 acres of native hardwood trees on the island - replacing existing conifers - have progressed to date.

Inchagoill is the most popular and archaeologically renowned of Lough Corrib's 365 is lands, frequented regularly by fishermen, local nature-lovers and tourists.

Its ecclesiastical remains include two ancient churches and a graveyard reputed to be the burial place of St Patrick's nephew, Lugnaed.

Two years ago, Coillte, which owns the island, announced plans to plant 30 acres of hardwood trees and to improve visitor amenities.

The pines to be replaced had been planted in the early 1960s following Hurricane Debbie which had destroyed native trees planted in the last century by Inchagoill's previous owners, the Guinness family.

Restoring hardwood trees would encourage bio-diversity, according to Coillte, which, after a series of consultations with local communities and organisations such as the Corrib Anglers, began harvesting the pine two years ago, Coillte's western regional manager, Mr Vyvian Ryan, told 200 people at Saturday's event.

Following research into Inchagoill's ecosystem, Coillte discovered that sycamore and ash thrived naturally there. To encourage the greatest amount of diversity, the organisation left those species, while planting more than 30 acres of oak and Scots pine, with oak forming 90 per cent of the plantation.

Earlier this year, some local people expressed concern about the state of Inchagoill, which they said had been devastated by the felling of the conifers and, more recently, by last Christmas's storms.

To allay fears and to mark the importance of the island to local people, Coillte organised this weekend's visit to the island.

It was a celebratory event, with representatives of 12 local communities including Saw Doctor Pearse Doherty, who lives in nearby Clonbur, taking part in a tree-planting ceremony.

This was followed by a tour of the island's archaeological remains and by a barbecue, with music provided by local father and daughter John and Una Flanagan.

Indeed, the only objectors were the midges whose peace had been disturbed and who took revenge by biting the revellers.