Coast Diary – June 18th: Newtown Woods Resources

This post is a resource for those wanting to send a submission to Waterford Council in regards to Newtown Woods. It’s far from comprehensive but feel free to use this information and copy and paste what you need Submissions in writing or by email, to reach Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford  iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.

Old Wall, Summer 2022.

Back in 2007 a lot of locals here campaigned against a big development on our coast which is a Special Protected Area (SPA). At the centre of the campaign was the chough, a bird of the crow family that lives on cliffs. The campaign group was ignored by the County Council, who supported the development, with one councillor saying on local radio that ‘Choughs could go and live in trees’ for all she cared. To which I say ‘may a rat take up residence in your underpants’. 15 years on, in response to the current proposals at Newtown Woods, the Council Heritage Officer devotes a paragraph of her memo (See References and Links below) to choughs who, as noted, don’t live in trees. Perhaps in 15 years they will survey the trees to measure impacts on dolphins…

It’s true that the rest of that memo deals with use of modified lighting with regards to wildlife, particularly birds and bats, and the conservation of trees, but time and again it only commits to protect and preserve ‘where possible.’ And in their own proposal vis a vis lighting they add the rider that ‘PUBLIC LIGHTING TO BE RENEWED AND EXTENDED WHERE REQUIRED’ (Appendix 1). All of which leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre.

It should also be noted that in the memo, the developers have been asked to keep construction within the boundary fence and not store flammable chemicals outside it but as is obvious to all they have continuously stored construction materials outside the fence and under the trees, which is skating a bit close to the line if you ask me. That’s how much such agreements and conditions are valued.

Anyway the the main points of my submission are below.

  • Street lighting limited to the entrance of the housing development and not continue down the roads by and through the woods.
  • The containing wall is vital and needs to stay. 
  • Scrap the one way system.

Of specific concern in regarding the council’s proposals:

  • The proposed street lighting (even modified lighting) – disturbance to bird and bat life.
  • The possible planned removal of the containing wall – disturbance to flora and fauna, removal of food source, removal of insect habitat. Added light pollutions from passing cars.
  • The increase in traffic through the wood by the one-way system and by additional proposed apartments.
  • That these developments and proposals will pave the way for further developments including further lighting and impacts.
  • Lack of a proper survey of the woods itself, it’s flora and fauna and how they integrate.

I will also request a survey to benchmark the woods. In the best case, the woods will be ring fenced and managed for future generations. In the worst…well I have to try. As far as I am concerned, we cannot afford to lose the Newtown Woods habitat or have it changed even one iota. Below, some more information and links, including the Heritage Officers memo.

Next week I’ll be back to giving out about other stuff…

Appendix 1: Irish Woodlands and Newtown Woods in brief.

Ireland is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 9% wooded area and most of that being made up of commercial forests. Older woodlands are incredibly important and in fact are in an emergency situation. Newtown Woods contains Native trees such as oak and ash – which is under threat from ash dieback, a disease which came to Ireland in 2012 and is expected to wipe out most of our ash trees. Also present are sycamore and beech, considered non-natives but in fact long term resident on the island of Ireland.

Appendix 2: Heritage

Newtown Cove & Woods, Ordnance Survey Map, 1840.

This area is also part of our heritage, the woods and wall – which is also a habitat in itself as well as a provider of food for birds and a protection from traffic noise and light – being part of Lord Doneraile’s estates. Lord Doneraile was a title owned by the St. Ledger family who had estates in Cork and Waterford from the mid 1600s. Newtown House was built around 1750. By the early 1800s, Newtown was being managed by the Power family, still the dominant name in the area. Above is a map from 1840 which includes Newtown Woods. It was supposedly planted for commercial use – most likely for building carts, tools and out-buildings on the estate, and there is likely evidence of woods management from that period. It has not changed much since then however it has decreased to the northern edge where the developments are creeping in. But with the extra traffic this habitat will surely not last as long again.

Appendix 3: Benefits for Humans

Connection to nature is important for humans and this is acknowledged by initiatives like An Coillte’s Woodlands for Health program. Without going into it too deeply, Here is a recent evaluation of the program. Another evaluation (2014) noted that participants mood and sleep was noticeable improved by the program (Nairn, R,. 2020, p.58).

Appendix 4: Impacts

However, Human interaction with the woods demands knowledge and for that we need it surveys. For instance the recent building of dirt bike ramps in Newtown Woods and using branches cut from trees is a serious threat to this fragile environment and the council and others need to work harder to make sure this environment is properly appreciated.

Two of three dirt bike ramps, Newtown Woods.

Traffic

Traffic has already increased hugely on the road through the woods. Visitors to Newtown Cove have swelled through lockdown and will increase more with the added developments. Every single visitor to Newtown Cove now leaves by car through the woods. This must have impact despite any surveys which were conducted, apparently without local consultation. As a local I would calculate the one way system could have increased traffic by the power of ten.

Knock on Effects on Wildlife

The lack of surveys of the specific area of Newtown in relation to developments means that we cannot tell what knock on effects there are because of those developments. In the past there was a badger sett at the north east corner of the woods. This has now been abandoned most likely due to the building of the Newtown Glen estate. It is also likely that the recent influx of rabbits to Westtown is a result of the new Newtown Cliff development. What impact will they have on the Westtown habitat – for hares for instance? And the increased traffic – what species will we lose? The owls, the nesting sparrowhawk? Some birds will stay but lighting has in other areas caused disruption to sleep and therefore breeding patterns. There’s some more species mentioned in previous posts.

***

Waterford City and County Council Memo including conservation recommendations for Newtown Woods

To: Anne Doyle, Executive Planner
From:Bernadette Guest, Heritage Officer
Re:21/836 Residential development of 27 houses comprising 24 no. detached two storey houses and 3 no. single storey terraced houses and ancillary site works. This development is an extension of the already complete Newtown Glen housing development in Tramore.
Date:16th October 2021

It is noted the proposed development is located adjacent to the northern section of Newtown Woods.

Under Section 6.2.3  New Residential Development in  the Tramore Local Area Plan 2014-2020 ; The Council will aim to protect and preserve mature and semi-mature trees where possible and will require new developments to be so designed as to integrate existing trees into any new schemes. Sufficient distance should be maintained between existing mature trees and new buildings

Policy GI 1  states; The Council will preserve and enhance the amenity and biodiversity value of Tramore by preserving as far as possible trees, woodlands and hedgerows and will consider Tree Preservation Orders in order to protect trees of significance in the Plan area.

To ensure compliance with these policies the following conditions are recommended;

The development shall establish a 5m buffer zone from the boundary of the existing treeline of Newtown Woods.

All trees within the development site shall be protected by way of a 2m high wire mesh fence and be continuous outside the canopy and root protection area. The fenced and root protection area shall be a construction exclusion zone with no storage of fuels or chemicals in this area. The RPA fence shall remain in place for the duration of construction works.

Public lighting in the area adjacent to the woodland shall be designed to avoid unnecessary light spill in the  interests of  wildlife such as birdlife and foraging bats. Lighting scheme shall comprise low-pressure sodium lights  on low height  columns  and shall minimise light spills  by use of shields or louvers. Lights shall be restricted in this area to ensure dark periods for foraging and commuting birds and bats.

The site is approximately 120m north  of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA designated for Chough, Herring Gull, Peregrine and Cormorant. The proposed development will not incur loss of habitat  from within the ecological footprint of the SPA and does not have direct or hydrological connectivity to the  SPA being separated by Newtown Woods. The proposed development will not incur loss of grassland habitat within or close to the SPA essential for feeding Chough  or lead to  reduction in water quality. It is considered the proposed development does not have potential  for significant effects on the conservation objectives  of the qualifying interests of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA and can be screened out for further assessment.

References & Links

Ancestry Network, (2022), Tenants of Lord Doneraile in Cork & Waterford. Available at https://www.ancestornetwork.ie/tenants-of-lord-doneraile-ck-wd-1765/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Nairn, R., (2020), Wild Woods, Dublin: Gill Books.

Waterford Council, (2022), Active Travel Scheme, Newtown, Tramore, Available at https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/06/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme-3/amp/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Planning Drawings https://waterfordcouncil.ie/media/projects/public-consultations/2022/newtown-hill/Newtown%20Hill%20-%20Part%208%20Planning%20Drawings.pdf

***Please note other plans and drawings are available on the Waterford Council Active Travel Proposal. Link in Reference section.

Coast Diary – June 11th

You may have seen in the news this week that Fair Seas, a new coalition made up of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), the Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Friends of the Irish Environment, SWAN and the Irish Environmental Network, have published a report calling for the protection of 30% of our coastal waters. Currently only 2% is protected. Theres a link to the report below but here is an image of the areas they are suggesting protecting.

As you can see, this is some good news for those who want to keep proposed windfarms 20km or more off the Waterford and East Cork coast where turbines have been proposed between 5-8km off shore. Though of course there are ways to work around protected areas. I have written elsewhere about the windfarms and intend to do some more research, primarily around how environmental impact is measured. The issues around Newtown Woods, which I have written about in the last weeks, have demonstrated how surveys are skewed. In the Newtown Woods case, the only areas surveyed were Natura 2000 sites, all between 3-30 miles away from the woods. In the windfarm’s case, most species may not be included in a survey because they are ‘migratory’ but show me a whale or dolphin or even a fish that’s not!

I do know change is inevitable and some development is desirable (imagine if it could be intelligent development!) but I find the disingenuouness – to put it mildly – that accompanies these changes really annoying. A part of me sometimes thinks I would be much happier if developers and councils and others (like the people near me who have just chopped down a load of trees in high nesting season) would just say “Look, we are going to kill all sorts of things and make everywhere look shit, get over it”. At least we would know where we stand.

But its not all bad. Waterford Council’s recent alignment with an All Ireland Pollinator Plan which allows certain roundabouts and verges to grow wild, is not only heartening but quite beautiful to behold. I have heard people give out about the council a lot and imply that destruction is only to be expected from them – I have succumbed to these thoughts too – but I don’t think that’s necessarily true and that mindset is not helpful. And as individuals I have always found them friendly and ready to help. For instance many council workers have helped me locate dolphin carcasses which I record for the IWDG.

Regarding Newtown Woods, I am still gathering information with the help of a number of people. I have been walking most days past the woods, where, at dusk I have tried playing long-eared owl calls in the hope of getting some replies. No joy yet. Might be too early for chicks. Anyway, next week I will publish as much information as I have for people to copy and paste into submissions they might like to make to the council regarding proposed road and lighting upgrades. For submissions contact Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford or by emailing iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.
Submissions should be clearly marked Submission Part 8 Newtown Hill in the subject line.

I also picked up a book from the library this week. Wild Woods by Richard Nairn is a celebration of Irish woodlands and also the story of how he bought and learned to manage his own piece of woodland in Wicklow. I haven’t started it yet but I am looking forward to reading it.

I have also been walking along the coast, to Kilfarrasy and Garrarus, but I have not been swimming. Partly because of an ongoing ear problem but it’s also because of the change that has occurred since the lockdown – the increase in traffic to the coast, the influx of drivers, walkers and swimmers hogging the roads and the bathing spots with little care for residents. Along with the Newtown Woods plans and the uptick in (ugly) house building it has made me quite despondent. I know I am lucky though because I am very far from being able to own property in this lovely area – or anywhere. But my place here is becoming incrementally more precarious and watching the change is like being trapped in a long drawn out goodbye. But, I’ll get over it. Worse things happen at sea…

Building materials storedat the edge of Newtown Woods

Links & References

https://fairseas.ie/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Revitalising_Our_Seas_Report_Marine_Protected_Areas_Fair_Seas.pdf

Coast Diary – June 4th

Into the woods…

Apologies to those further afield but today’s post will again be about Newtown Woods on Tramore Bay and the possible impacts of recent and proposed developments. Perhaps it will be of use generally as a small case study.

This week I have noticed there is a further massive development planned nearby too, slightly further from the woods. 58 dwellings in apartment blocks of all things (marked in blue on the map below). However I am very late to that particular party (I admit it, I have been turning a blind eye in recent years. Environmental campaigns can be draining) and residents have organised to fight this. Last I heard its been given the go ahead but I am assuming there will be appeals, so while its worrying – the traffic alone would be impossible – I am ignoring it here. Any information or updates on that can be shared in the comments below.

I have three areas of concern around the Council proposals for the roads around Newtown woods.

Lighting: I am still unclear about what the council means to do re road lighting around Newtown Woods. Their plans only include a notice saying PUBLIC LIGHTING TO BE RENEWED AND EXTENDED WHERE REQUIRED [my bold italics] which gives them a lot of room to manoeuvre and could lead to lighting in the woods themselves. There are already lighting columns installed in the development – as marked on the first map above.

Boundary Wall: Regarding the old wall, I believe it is important for plant and insect life which in turn feeds the birds. And I suspect it also protects the lower part of the woodland from the elements and from light and car pollution. I had heard rumours months ago that it would be knocked down and as it is nowhere on the plans – even on the ‘before’ drawings – I am assuming now they are definitely going to knock it. I don’t think that should be allowed.

Traffic: The one way system introduced in late 2021 means that all the traffic leaving Newtown Cove – which is not inconsiderable – is channelled up through the woods. This is likely in preparation for the development of the apartment blocks. I think all of this should be scrapped.

I also have a concern about the so called environmental surveys and how they were conducted not only for the Council’s proposals but for the developments at Newtown Glen and Carrigeenlea. It seems likely that none of them took into account the local environment because it is not designated as a protected area. But Newtown Woods is an important habitat, deciduous woods are becoming rare and there will be species of plants and birds within the woods that are protected. However it seems those commissioning surveys only have to include areas on the Natura 2000 list which is on the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) site here. The sites for Waterford are below. They are either SPA (Special Protected Areas), SAC (Special Areas of Conservation). An additional categorization is an NHA (National Heritage Area).

Ardmore Head SAC (002123)
Blackwater Callows SPA (004094)
Blackwater Estuary SPA (004028)
Blackwater River (Cork/Waterford) SAC (002170)
Comeragh Mountains SAC (001952)
Dungarvan Harbour SPA (004032)
Glendine Wood SAC (002324)
Helvick Head SAC (000665)
Helvick Head to Ballyquin SPA (004192)
Lower River Suir SAC (002137)
Site Name: Mid-Waterford Coast SPA (004193)
Nire Valley Woodlands SAC (000668)
River Barrow and River Nore SAC (002162)
Tramore Back Strand SPA (004027)
Tramore Dunes and Backstrand SAC (000671)

It is notable that the only woodlands protected are in the west of the county.

Of course SPAs and SACs can quickly become irrelevant in the face of big money. In the case of proposed developments at Garrarus c. 2007 for instance, the council, surreptitiously passed an addition to a local law that allowed for construction along the Waterford Coast, an SPA that includes a UNESCO heritage site. That development didn’t happen most likely because of the crash of 2008 though there was a huge local campaign too.

So – I contacted the NPWS and explained the situation and asked how to begin the process of protecting the woods and I am waiting for further contact and have expressed interest in meeting with a local ranger. In the mean time I have been looking at what Newtown Woods actually is and why it is of value so that in my submssion can request that a proper environmental impact assessment to be done specific to Newtown Woods in relation to proposed and future developments. Questions I have asked myself are…

  1. What area does Newtown Woods cover? (with a view to including a clearance area for light etc.)
  2. What are the woods is made up of?
  3. Who lives there?

I reached out to some friends and interested parties, including Tramore Eco Group, to help with a preliminary survey of the woods and below are some results…

1. What area does Newtown Woods cover?

Using an online acreage calculator and guesstimating the woods at 400m by 100m (its wider than that at one point and narrower than that at others – I have come up with 9.88 or roughly 10 acres. Feel free to correct me.

2. What is the wood made up of?

Tramore Eco Group observations: ‘Good variety of broadleaved trees: Oak, ash, sycamore, alder, beech, horse chestnut.  Many elms regenerating and some quite established which is good given the devastating effects of Dutch Elm disease.  Not so good that some ash may be exhibiting signs of die back.  Dense cover of hawthorn, blackthorn and bramble and various species of ferns (worthy of a Victorian garden, but happily, wild!).’

3. Who Lives There?

Animals

There are foxes and rabbits in the area. Rabbits have increased suddenly in Westtown and this may be because developments have pushed them west.

Birds  

A bird watcher friends tells me there is a sparrowhawk (protected) currently nesting there. Another bird watcher friend tells me there are tree creepers there too as well as wrens, robins, tits and blackbirds and possibly barn owls. There were barn owls in Westtown previously but they left after some bog was cleared about a decade ago. Tramore Eco group observations: ‘Thrushes, chiffs-chaffs, chaffinches, blackbirds, wood pigeons & possibly a blackcap singing [during a 30 minute walk].’ Along with plentiful rooks and pigeons, I have seen a pair of coal tits (the only place I have ever seen them), a pair of bullfinch (once), a grey wagtail, gold crest and gold finches. I have heard young, long-eared owls here too – they sound like a squeaky gate.

Bats

According to local environmentalist who has completed bat surveys here, there are two types of bat here, the Pipistrelle and Leisler’s Bat.

Insects

Tramore Eco Group observations – ‘Saw 3 white butterflies, 1 seven-spot ladybird, 1 Buff-tailed Bumblebee, 2 Common Carder bees [during a 30 minute walk].’

Flora

Tramore Eco Group onservations – ‘Flowering wild plants also present: wood aven, common vetch, bush vetch, Germander speedwell, thyme-leaved speedwell, wood sage, figwort, common mouse ear, ground ivy, (native) bluebell, 3-cornered leek, bulbous buttercup, field buttercup, herb Robert, cut-leaved cranesbill, trefoil (hop?), yarrow, wild carrot, cleavers, woodrush, sorrel (sheep’s ?), pennywort, bindweed, woodbine & many grasses. The above is merely a taster of the more obvious flora and fauna –  there are many more species in this precious place!’

Containing Wall Tramore Eco Group observations –‘The old wall is a treasure trove of mosses, ferns and many other plants and neither it nor the woodland area on both sides of the road should be interfered with, in my opinion. ‘

This is preliminary stuff but already I have a better picture of what we have with Newtown Woods even though I have walked through it for years. I will update on any other information as it comes and on any submission I make and how to do it for yourselves. June 28th is the cut off point. Hopefully I will get some other coast stuff covered in the next posts. Have a good weekend.

Coast Diary – May 29th

Last week I mentioned the proposed developments around Newtown Woods – on the west side of Tramore Bay – to support new builds there. I still haven’t yet had a chance to do more than skim these plans – which include street lighting and a cycle path. It may be that this work is needed but what is immediately apparent is that the environmental impact survey included for these upgrades, and presumably for the recent builds in the area, does not include Newtown Woods or Newtown Cove. It seems they are not protected areas or more specifically Natura 2000 sites. Natura 2000 sites are home to some of the 2000 species, and 230 habitat types, deemed to be most at risk and of European importance to protect. The impact survey does include the Back Strand, which is a few miles distant, as well as the Blackwater and The Nire Valley – at the other end of the county. Which seems a tad disingenuous. This is from the Explanatory Report…

The ecological sites …. are a Special Area of Conservation named Tramore Dunnes [sic] and Back Strand SAC, Site Code 000671, a Special Protection Area named Tramore Back Strand SPA, Site Code 004027, and a Special Protection Area named Mid-Waterford Coast SPA, Site Code 004193. None of the above sites are located within the scheme extent. It can be concluded that the proposed scheme, individually or in combination with other plans or projects, will have no effect on any of the ecological sites.

The environmental assessment – which the developments passed in flying colours seeing as they are nowhere near the environments assessed – is uselessly expanded on to include impacts on, among others, otter, salmon, lamprey, shad, godwit, and chough residing in the Blackwater River, Lower River Suir Dungarvan Bay, Blackwater Callows, Blackwater Estuary, Helvick Head – Ballyquin Coast, Mid Waterford Coast. Newtown Woods or its environs are not mentioned. It’s a bit chilling to think that the new estate which, in creeping up to the edge of this tiny woods saw materials stacked at the treeline, and which will presumably have street lighting, did not need to provide an environmental assessment for the area, only for the Back Strand – miles away. Too late now.

However there are a few areas where there may be some leverage to protect this little habitat. Bats are included and includes also all species outside designated sites [my italics]. And in the ‘Bat’ section – on page 24 of the Explanatory report – there is this addendum…

Along with above, in general all sites with any of the following; woods, mature treelines and hedgerows, old buildings and bridges. Activities that result in loss of woodland or hedgerow habitat or causes disturbance to roost sites.

Those in the locality will realise that Newtown Wood had two old bridges until they were replaced last year by the council which in retrospect has weakened the case for protecting the woods. Handy that. Additionally the one way system brought in at the end of last year that forces visitors to leave Newtown Cove via the woods instead of along Cliff Road means traffic has increased to a huge extent so the woods are being disturbed even as we speak. I wonder was there a survey done for that? I personally would love to see a return to two-way traffic which seems unlikely now.

But all is not lost – the mature trees and the old wall running down towards the turn off to the woods are necessary to both bats and bird species – including long eared owls – and should be taken into account. We had barn owls here too until a small area of bog was cleared a decade or so back. In such ways is nature pushed aside – bit by bit. Anyway, I feel the wall needs to stay and the street lighting should not be put in alongside the woods there if that is what is planned (its difficult to tell from the online drawings). And that is where I will be directing my concerns. I am one individual and a busy one at that and if anyone else is concerned they should also make submissions in writing to…

Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford or byn emailing iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.
Submissions should be clearly marked Submission Part 8 Newtown Hill in the subject line.

Any information on species and habitats within the Newtown Woods area can be included in the comments below. This can include anything from sightings to more detailed knowledge. For instance I saw a pair of bullfinch in the woods two years back, the only time I have seen them there. Has anyone else seen them or similar? ncidentally I also saw bullfinch once in the trees running down by the Newtown Glen Housing Estate, trees which were disturbed by the recent roadworks there. What about the old wall?Does it support plant and insect species? What will pulling it down disturb? You can comment below or contact me via the contact form. I would love if an Ecological group wood take this up too as its too much for one person.

Shares and Likes appreciated on this one folks.

Coast Diary – May 21st

I’m back – what did I miss?

May is in full swing – its been sunny and rainy and occasionally even warm. The big field below is a sea of green barley, the swallows are gaining strength and numbers while the rabbits continue to proliferate. I have found out that, as I suspected, rabbits are not usually so numerous here and there’s no real reason for the recent influx mentioned in a previous post. The foxes are still about according to a neighbour, as are the buzzards – though I have not seen Buzz in his tree in a while. Hatching eggs I suppose. The ditches, all a-twitter with wrens and tits and robins, are green and bursting and the whitethorn has blossomed, its flowers like exploding popcorn. It is even on the wane already in some places while I am still awaiting for the tree out the back to take off. When I was younger I used to think of summer as a time where everything stays at its peak for the set number of weeks we call ‘The Summer’. Now I know that change is constant and even as I watch this peaking I see the other side of it – the green yellowing, the flowers wilting, the swallows gathering and going. Nothing is constant.

And down the road the change is even faster than I had thought it would be when I started this diary. Recent roadworks have caused traffic havoc, but now the new storm drains are in, the local council have published further plans to cater to the latest wave of housing. If all this building I am seeing was solving the problem of where to live I’d probably keep my silence – but somehow none of us can afford these houses. Since the Celtic Tiger, successive governments have pushed the house as an investment opportunity rather than a necessity, and buying-to-let has pushed prices up to ensure profits for global investors. There has not been a concurrent evolution in renters rights either. But I digress – if you want to read more, you could do worse than follow Rory Hearne, a local lad, on these issues https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/ireland-investment-housing-5428746-May2021/

Anyway, once this side of Tramore bay was more or less rural but since the eighties the red roofs have spread like a rash that is now tipping the edge of the little woods I have mentioned here before. From afar you can see the tops of the trees of Newtown Wood springing from the narrow glen that runs down to Newtown Cove. Off to the left and right of the woods stand two tall pine trees, perhaps the remnants of a once larger forest. Down in the glen, the trees are ivy covered and tall and fragile looking. An unlit road curves picturesquely through it as the leaves above shiver and coo and croak with pigeons and rooks and robins, coal tits, grey wagtails, magpies, gold crest and others, many of them feeding on the insects living in the cracked, old wall that edges the woods. In May it is carpeted with bluebells. In summer you might hear the creak of an owl and in the evening, at dusk, you will see for certain the little bats whirling about.

As yet I have only skimmed the plans for the woods but I do know that streetlighting is planned for the road along the wall beside it and it is likely that that wall will come down to make way for the planned cycle paths and pavements – which are no use to bats or owls and just as well as the light will see them off. It is unclear whether trees will be taken down – the language is typically oblique. And I imagine, as the houses have approached the wood, the street-lighting will soon enough make its way down the road that runs through it. Apparently there will somehow be a reduction in traffic but how this will happen when there are more houses than ever is beyond me. There is a four week consultation period – which started this week – and I will be making a contribution. I suggest if you care about these woods you do something too.

Here is the link to the plans https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/05/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme/

Watching the rabbits this evening, I thought again of that book Watership Down and how a superstitious person might take their curious proliferation in a place they were once so scarce as an omen. The book begins just before high summer. The rabbits notice a new sign near their warren as the sun sets red, the field seeming to run with blood, and they know it means something, perhaps even something bad, but do not forsee the scale of the destruction that will be very shortly visited upon them to make way for the houses of men.

National Drawing Day: If you’re in Waterford city today, Saturday May 21st, myself and my artist pal Julie Cusack are hosting a Drawing Day at Garter Lane Arts Centre in the Courtyard. Drop in (and drop out) any time between 11 am and 4pm for as much or as little time as suits you and try your hand at drawing or mark making to salsa music, or just for a look. All levels welcome. Free tea and coffee (and biscuits!)

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Coast Diary – April 23rd

Traffic out my way has gone (more) haywire as part of the road has been closed for a month to facilitate new storm drains, presumably for the new estate down the road. The old wall that runs beside a footpath lined with trees has been taken down as have some of the trees for access. And in nesting season too. I saw a pair of bullfinch in there one year, only the second time I have seen bullfinch in this area. I imagine the lovely old wall further down, the one that runs along Newtown Woods (New Town, how ironic), will be next to fall. The new (mindless) one way system has also been temporarily abandoned for the second time in months to add to the mayhem. All the cars from the housing estate are being redirected out by my house and they are all travelling at speed without regard to anyone along the road. An SUV changed course to drive straight at me to avoid another SUV one evening. I am not sure how I am still here. The choice between an SUV or ‘hedge monkey’ is no contest to some of those housing estate folk. I know because I grew up in one. A housing estate not an SUV…

But there’s good stuff too. We have been having some lovely dry weather with a bit of a chill in the air. I had a lovely walk on the main beach mid-week. There were not as many birds as there used to be in this Special Protected Area, possibly because of the the boom in dog walkers who allow their dogs to run wild here (insert more giving out with swears), but I saw geese and oystercatchers and a snowy egret. Best of all I found a horses tooth (pictured above).

Why would there be horse teeth on a beach? There used to be a race course behind the beach from 1785 to 1911. The land had been reclaimed and the sea held in check by an embankment from the mid 1800s, however this gave way in April 1911 and the race course flooded. The only lives lost were those of three puppies belonging to the local hunt. The racecourse was moved up the town to its current location. While you might not think a racecourse would also be a cemetery, there seems to be precedent for it. The bodies of three famous horses were exhumed at Hollywood Park, the once famous track in California, to make way for a housing development recently. I suppose it makes most sense to bury a horse where it falls, as must have happened more than once at Tramore.

I found a horse’s tooth on this beach many years ago and thought it belonged to some sort of sea monster. They are big, horse’s teeth. I was soon put right but the thought of a sea monster lingered. Then my tooth disappeared, stolen, I think, by another horse tooth appreciator. Now I have found another one, I feel I have some sort of closure. Laugh all you like but I take my consolations where I can. You can’t be depending on any of the big stuff to make you happy…

The new bird hide had its official opening this week too. An initiative of the industrious Tramore Eco Group it’s is situated overlooking the Back Strand on the small nature reserve that has evolved on the old town dump. The nature reserve has its issues with irresponsible dog walkers too, especially in nesting season, as does Fenor Bog out the road, but maybe, eventually, these people will wake up to the rights of others – both people and creatures – and their part in the continuing existence of all. If they do it will be down to those strong hearts in groups like Tramore Eco Group.

I saw my first swallows of the year out on an evening walk (me walking, not the swallows). It was April 20th so I am not setting any records at all – sure they are practically on their way back to Africa now!- the first ones were seen weeks ago and further north. Someone spotted a basking shark too, on one of the sunnier days, down off Kilfarrasy. Yesterday morning I walked down to another of the smaller beaches and paddled in the ice cold water. It was a lovely, grey morning i.e. it was quiet. I saw a lone whimbrel on the beach and sat and watched it until it was chased off. By a dog. Sigh. Then I walked the grey road home.

Windy Wednesday: The distance to the horizon for Dummies

This is a mini-post ahead of Saturday’s. The distance to the horizon varies from where you are standing on land. There are any number of ways to estimate distance to horizon.

  • If you’re standing at sea level, divide your height in half. So if you’re 5’6″ (5.5 feet) tall, the distance to the horizon is only about 2.75 miles.
  • Use an online distance to horizon calculator (link below)
  • Use the AIS Marine Traffic website which will give the position of most vessels you can see out on the water.
  • Use geographical features e.g. far off headlands, a map and a piece of string

I whale watch, most often from Dunabrattin at Boatstand, from the first car park going west. This is 22 metres (72 foot) above sea level. (I can find elevation using free online elevation finders. There’s a link to one below). Helvick head is 20 km from Dunabrattin as the crow flies on a map. So I can see at roughly 20km from 22 metres above sea level at Dunabrattin.

For more accuracy we can use formulas. This is the most simple one:

Multiply your height in metres above the ground by 13**, and take the square root of that.

So for Dunabrattin…

  • Height above sea level = 22 metres
  • Add my height up to to eye level = 23.6 metres
  • Multiply by 13 metres** (1.5 foot if using imperial) = 306.8
  • Calculate the square root (a calculator or Google does this for you) = 17.5157072366

According to this the horizon from straight out from Dunabrattin is 17km distant.

From Gallwey’s Hill in Tramore the horizon is 19km distant

From the Tramore Racecourse roundabout the horizon is 23km distant

But… that’s just the horizon. At 190-260 metres above sea level, the height of the proposed turbines is no small consideration. It seems to me that even a windfarm at 22km will be well visible from much our coast. And at 5 km or 10 km distance?Yikes.

Many of you will also be aware that it’s possible to see things over the horizon due to effects of the light. That is why one far off container ship may seem tiny while the upper decks of another one even further over the horizon is five times larger.

See you on Saturday when I’ll try and describe the proposal for the Waterford coast in 500 words or less. Any corrections, – especially to my equation! – comments etc. can be sent via the contact form on this blog.

**I am not sure where the 13 comes from. I think its something to do with triangles and the radius of the earth but as I have an allergy to sums my head imploded before I could read much more.

Links

Elevation Finder https://www.freemaptools.com/elevation-finder.htm

Marine Traffic https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-12.0/centery:25.0/zoom:4

Distance to Horizon Calculator http://www.ringbell.co.uk/info/hdist.htm

Archive: Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, Tramore 2013

Walking in to Tramore town to collect my car, abandoned at the start of an unplanned night out, I was feeling a little fragile. When I came across the St. Patrick’s Day parade at the top of Gallwey’s hill over looking the beach, I took the opportunity to stop and take a breath. The exuberance, colour and good humour of both the parade and the crowd was immediately captivating as well as surprising. The growing media coverage of glitzier spectacles in the 80s and 90s began to make local parades, with their ragged processions of vans and trucks, the inevitably sodden troops of scouts and Irish dancers, look dull, made it hard to work up much interest.

This parade was a lot bigger than I expected. There were the shiny vans and ambulances of our Coastguard in their smart uniforms along with the Sea Cliff Rescue. Smiling tractor drivers chugged by on their colourful tractors and classic cars, carefully polished, gleamed in the surprising sunshine.

ROCKY DRIVING THE WOMEN NUTS
Rocky Mills..

Local businesses were represented on floats and by gleaming vans. Some extra vehicular oomph was provided by TCRFM and their sexy red convertible and Tramore Tourism’s retro caravan. T-Bay Surf Club, who won best float with their big funky bus and hawaiian shirts. Even the Pope was there in his Popemobile though he was naturally outclassed by the legendary Rocky Mills, local Elvis impersonator. There were many more participants who I missed: the bands, the scouts, the taekwondo club, the dancers, the athletes and all the various groups that make up a community. 

To see these people – the exuberant leprechauns with sacks of free goodies, the crowd with their balloons and wigs and flags, Rocky rocking out, the pirates in their wee boat and my own favourite, the Metal Man – was a burst of positivity that I didn’t know I needed. Life has been tough across the board in recent years and the future is weighs heavy on most. Yet here were crowds of people, people who had dressed up, washed their cars and tractors, who had made an effort to show their achievements with pride, all smiling and laughing in the sun together. Standing there, propped against the old pebbledashed wall in the bright spring air, I had a deeper understanding of the importance of community and I felt stirrings of local pride…

…then again it could have been the hangover….

Archive: The Battle for the Metal Man 2013

The Metal Man and his pillars in 2005 before some Waterford business people sponsored their repainting. Photo:The Author.

This is a synopsis of three posts from 2013 that were moved when the site name was changed. This summary was created as a part of a new archive of The Mermaid’s Purse posts and reposted in order to provide an historical account of some events in the life of The Metal Man, a local amenity in Tramore, Co.Waterford, Ireland. 

Back in 2009, a community group, Tramore Tourism, was encouraged by the then Waterford County Council to seek ownership of the Metal Man and his pillars – including the pillars at Brownstown Head – from the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) who, having no practical reasons for maintaining their upkeep, were prepared to gift them to an appropriate organisation. Waterford County Council had already refused ownership due to lack of money. In summer 2010 CIL determined that Tramore Tourism were the best candidates to do so.

It was necessary for Tramore Tourism to set up a legal entity to receive the pillars and Tramore Heritage Ltd. (THL) was born in October 2011. THL was limited by guarantee and was a public company. A public company in this instance means not-for-profit rather than being connected to the stock market. This appears to be the only way for a group or community to create a legal framework and is used by sports clubs and amenities such as Hook Head Lighthouse. None of the directors of a public company can make profit from it in any way nor sell any assets. If THL had wound up, the pillars would have to be passed onto another community group. The board of THL consisted of various local business people and, initially, a Tramore Town Councillor. THL had also applied for charitable status which, once granted, would have provided extra safeguards for the public.

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THL’s plan for the Metal Man Heritage Trail

THL worked towards getting the transfer of the pillars from CIL locally approved as well as negotiating access with the farmers on whose land the pillars stand. THL met with various interested parties a number of times to discuss their plans in detail. A public meeting was called for and held in January 2012 in the civic offices in Tramore.

Not everyone agreed that THL was the best way forward. In 2010 the Town Councillor had parted ways with THL. In December 2012 the concerned councillor wrote to An Taisce raising concerns around THL’s public company status. The fear was that the pillars were falling into private hands. Incidentally, in September 2012, that same councillor had set up a private company called Tramore Cultural Development (TCDL) to “assist individuals and organisations working to advance the preservation of the towns heritage.”

An Taisce then wrote to the Tramore Town Manager suggesting the deal be postponed until 2014 when Tramore Town Council – who had approval of any transfer of the pillars – would be dissolved, elections would take place and the new Amalgamated Council could take on the ownership of the pillars. It was suggested that the new Amalgamated Council (with some seats still to be contested at this point) could then lease the pillars to a private company interested in preserving local heritage. Any access to the pillars would have to be renegotiated.

Due to this confusion of the definition of public versus private company, in early 2013 things got heated. To cut a long story short, enough doubt and obsfuscation were created around company status – particularly in a social media campaign in March and April of 2013 that included personal attacks on THL’s board – that Tramore Town Council ultimately decided not to approve the transfer of the Metal Man and its pillars from CIL to THL. As An Taisce had suggested, on the back of the concerned councillor’s letter, a move was put forward to get the Council, soon to be The Waterford City & County Council, to take over the pillars. THL was dissolved as it had been set up for the sole purpose of managing the pillars for the community in the first place

Eight years on, it appears nothing came of that motion and without access to the land or any necessary legal framework, it may be very difficult to restart any venture there. Even if the Council do manage to gain access, as was suggested might be on the cards in the local press in 2015, the quality of the management of the amenity in either cash-strapped council hands or left to a private company, may not be popular with locals.

The pillars still remain, undisturbed.

Photo:The Author.

A Note on Sources

Most sources were public and included articles and letters in national and local newspapers incl. The Journal, The Waterford News and Star, The Munster Express, The Tramore Tourism and Friends of the Metal Man Facebook Pages and Solocheck for company information. Other sources included directors of THL interviewed by the author at their invitation while other individuals aired their views extensively on a public Facebook page which set up in March 2013 specifically to “save” the Metal Man from THL. It was deleted soon afterwards, however screenshots were taken.

Appendix

The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) is the General Lighthouse Authority for all of Ireland, its adjacent seas and islands. The Metal Man and his pillars are defunct and CIL no longer want the responsibility of them.

Tramore Tourism is a community group established in 1991 to promote Tramore and has many active members from various business sectors in the community.They were encouraged by the County Council back in 2009 to begin the process of obtaining the Metal Man.

Tramore Heritage Ltd. (THL) was a legal entity set up by Tramore Tourism to receive the Metal Man and his pillars. It is limited by guarantee, it is non-profit and public. It has also been negotiating access, planning a cliff walk to the Metal Man. Its accountant, solicitor and surveyor worked for them pro bono. If THL is ever wound up the pillars and all assets will go to the next appropriate community group.

Tramore Cultural Development (TCDL), established in 2012 it is still operational and has been recently designated a micro company, a category created as part of the Companies Act 2017

Tramore Town Council was dissolved in 2014 when the Waterford City and County Councils were amalgamated. Some Town Councillors already had a seat on the new County Council at the time of these events while some would have to fight for one.

Waterford County Council (now Waterford  City & County Council) will always have an element control over the development of this area due to planning processes. The County Council tried to get access to the Metal Man some decades ago and failed despite the willingness of the land owner at the time.

An Taisce, our version of The National Trust in the UK, which is a far more influential organisation, must be informed of any developments in areas where there are archeological, environmental or architectural concerns. Local authorities are required to consult with them on certain applications.

The Landowners are those who own the working farmland on which the Metal Man stands and naturally enough they control the access.

Break-your-heart-blue: A Virtual Walk on the Copper Coast

I am currently working on a book of illustrated essays from this blog. In the meantime here’s an old post.IMG_0501

It is beautiful today, though there is a cold wind from the west. The light is rich and honeyed, the waters of the bay an intense blue. It is the kind of blue that reminds me of the Firth of Forth at Edinburgh, which is visible from so many parts of that beautiful city. It is the blue of Cezanne’s Mediterranean at L’Estaque on the aptly named Cote d’Azur. So dense a blue, I can feel it resonating in my chest; a break-your-heart blue, vibrant and intense.

L'ESTAQUE WITH RED ROOFS(PAUL CEZANNE)

L’Estaque with red roofs (Paul Cezanne)

Up the dusty road, daffodils nod on the ditch towards the T-Junction watched over by big bellied pine trees. Rockett’s Bar (now closed) is up to the left, while the bright ochre beach and dunes are visible, for a while at least, to the right until the road drops past the big yellow field to bend and turn north towards the town.

DAFFS SMAn Anvil Head cloud has risen to the south. It is a cloud that occurs when cold air rises until it meets warm air and then spreads out to form the shape of an anvil. In the sun on an ivy covered wall, two cats sit facing each other, as if in deep conversation.

PALS

PALS

The road towards the town passes Newtown House where the crows carrying sticks are wheeling through the blue sky crazy-paved with the twisted branches of squiggly trees. Further on the apple blossoms delicately kiss the sky.

BLOSSOMS

BLOSSOMS

TREE

TREE

Descending Newtown Hill I pass a plump collared dove perched on a wire. At the bottom of the hill I turn left onto the Cliff Road which runs along the west side of the bay to Newtown Cove & the Guillamene, a mecca for swimmers all year around. The rocks on this side of the bay, empty now, are often dotted with people fishing for mackerel in the early autumn.

MACKEREL TIME (1)

Fresh Mackerel

Swerving past the entrance to the cove’s car park, the road curves up into Newtown Woods, a steep sided ravine of decrepit decidusous trees that shelters owls and pigeons. Here the new ferns glow between the shadows that also ladder the footpath which is edged with the mush of last years leaves.

Today, as every day, at every step of the way, something catches the attention, from my own shadow, to a twist of ivy root, to a familiar and much-loved stump (much-loved by me that is. I know it’s weird to love stumps). Everywhere there are possible paintings, photographs, drawings:striped shadows on a barn wall, a road sign, trees that look like a dancing couple, a sunlit path descending into dark undergrowth, an ivy covered fence post.

BARN AND MOON

BARN AND MOON

Emerging from the woods, I turn towards home and the landscape opens out again. The dusty road is lined by fields and an occasional house. The Metal Man and his pillars dominate the landscape here but the rusty cows pay him no heed as they amble in the gorsey, rocky fields. As I pass the familiar bank of rattling reed stems and walk up towards the setting sun, the sea to my left, is still blue but the waxing moon is rising towards the coming night.STUMP

IVY AND THE MOON

IVY AND THE MOON