Discover Galway city’s hidden green walking network

As part of Heritage Week, the Terryland Forest Park Alliance is joining once again with the HSE and the Galway City Partnership in calling on the people of Galway city to take part in a ‘Reclaim the City’s Green Spaces’ walk to increase public awareness of the wonderful rich mix of natural landscapes and largely unknown rural lanes or boreens that exist so close to the city centre. The guided walk will begin at 9.30am on Sunday August 27 at ‘The Plots’ sports’ pitches on the Dyke Road.

“Galway is unique among Irish cities in possessing a diverse range of natural green spaces and a network of country tracks that are located in proximity to the city centre,” said Brendan Smith of the Terryland Forest Park Alliance. “This is particularly true of the Dyke Road catchment area that connects the wetlands of the River Corrib to the grasslands and woodlands of the Terryland Forest Park, as well as to the rural farmlands of Menlo and Castlegar, by a way of old rural tracks known as boreens (from the Irish bóithrín for ‘little road’ ) that once served as the transport arteries for the predominantly farming population of the district up until the mid 20th century.

These habitats, that include the boreen hedgerows, are home to thousands of wildlife species, from meadow flowers such as the ragged robin to raptor birds such as kestrel, mammals such as bats, and freshwater creatures such as shrimps, to tiny arthropods with delightful names such as the devil’s coach horse.

Unfortunately these beautiful ‘green jewels of the city’ have not been experienced at first hand by the majority of the city’s population. The Terryland Forest Park Alliance wants people of all ages to join in an exciting journey of discovery into the rich biodiversity that exists on our doorstep. These habitats also include the mosaic of waterways from streams, rivers to canals that could make the city the ‘Venice of Ireland’, the bee friendly wildflower meadows, grasslands, and the woods of Terryland Forest Park, with its 90,000 native Irish trees planted by the ordinary people of Galway working with council staff since March 2000, a green zone that covers approximately 70 hectares and stretches from Woodquay to as far as the village of Castlegar.

“In the year of the European Green Leaf status for Galway, we have to give due recognition to the fundamental importance of green space, particularly forests, to human wellbeing and health, a fact that is being increasingly borne out by science as Earth becomes an urban planet with more and more people living in crowded cities covered with concrete and tarmac,” Mr Smith said. “Scientific research shows the beneficial impact that walking in natural landscapes and among trees has on lowering stress, inducing calmness, and improving physical health. The Japanese have long known this and practice ‘Shirin-yoku’ which is about taking in the forest atmosphere or ‘forest bathing’ to alleviate fatigue, aggression, and feelings of depression. But trees also have another health bonus; they are the most effective way to tackle air pollution by filtering out the toxic particles that emanate from motorised vehicle traffic which can contribute to cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous illness, and death. This is most critical in Galway city which has one of the highest levels of air pollution in Ireland.

“Sadly though, our young people are experiencing an alarming disconnect with nature with only five per cent of children having ever climbed a tree, compared to 74 per cent of their parents’ generation. With 20 per cent of teenagers experiencing some form of mental health illness, and with 25 per cent overweight or obese, we need to get out and enjoy the natural environment more so than ever before in order to counteract the hectic fast paced lives that so many of us find ourselves in. By so doing we are implementing low cost enjoyable preventive health rather than expensive reactive medicine.

“By taking part in this walk, we hope that the citizens of Galway will start to become cognisant of the health, social, and environmental benefits in protecting and connecting the city’s areas of natural beauty and biodiversity. We need to convince central and local government to follow the examples of other cities, from New York to Dublin, in investing the resources required to set up a park wardens unit as well as a forest-waterways-boreen visitors’ centre complete with café, toilets, and gallery at the old Waterworks on the Dyke Road, which could also serve as the starting point for the Connemara Greenway if a pedestrian/cycle bridge was constructed on top of the limestone pillars of the old Galway–Clifden railway line.”

For further information, contact Brendan at [email protected].

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