Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Howth Peninsula, Dublin Bay

Howth Peninsula, Dublin Bay
In December, I was invited to visit the Howth Peninsula, which is on the northern side of Dublin Bay. Travel plans were disrupted by the cancellation of the key train to Manchester Airport for the satisfyingly brief encounter with RyanAir. The trusty car had to take the strain and I just made it, but using all available modes of transport, against the clock, is all part of the HT role.

On arrival, my host from Fingal County Council whisked me to a hotel and left me to meet representatives of the Irish Upland Forum. I have had some fleeting contact with this Forum before, but it was great to meet two representatives in person and exchange views about the uplands. I was intrigued to learn about the work they are doing to encourage cells of activity around the whole island of Ireland.

The following morning, I got on with the main job of inspecting the Howth Peninsula. The challenge was to review the state of the vegetation and come up with some ideas for how it might be better managed. Traditionally, the peninsula appears to have been managed mainly by grazing activity but this is no longer taking place at a level that has a significant impact. There is no planned burning, but there is potential for plenty of unplanned burning, and much of the area is inaccessible anything but the most rugged cutting machinery. Add into the mix that there are large numbers of expensive houses along the coast, a golf course, a rhododendron sanctuary, a quarry, many tracks and footpaths, critical infrastructure (in the form of radio masts and the instrument landing system for Dublin Airport, which is close by) and you can get a feel for why management of this area is a challenging undertaking.   
The Golf Course provides a diverse habitat 
There was an interesting range of people on the visit but there was a consensus that the re-introduction of grazing should form part of the future management plans, including the use of goats. Some burning could take place and those areas, where some machinery access is possible, should be cut. Health and safety is a major concern for cutting operations and it was suggested that the potential to use robotic cutting machinery, which can be very robust, could be explored.

This was a very interesting visit, as it required a bit of thinking outside the box. There is no standard solution to this sort of challenge, and I suspect that the best way forward will be to employ a range of approaches where they can be applied. The key point is that sitting back and doing nothing is not an option. This would lead inevitably to a big wildfire that will be difficult or impossible to control. I congratulate Fingal County Council for daring to address the challenge and I hope that their efforts to bring most, if not all, of the vegetation back under management are successful.

Part of the Management Challenge

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