Photograph by the Abbeyleix Bog Project: An increase in visitor numbers during and after the recent pandemic necessitated maintenance and upgrade of the amenity infrastructure over the last two years by project volunteers.

WaterLANDS Knowledge Site Abbeyleix Bog in Co. Laois is a prototype project for successful community-centered conservation. The project is continuing to make significant strides in 2022.

Not resting on their laurels, or rather their sphagnum moss in this case, the Abbeyleix Bog Project continues to grow not just in terms of public awareness and popularity, but in terms of its physical footprint on the landscape.

The latest phase of groundworks at the Laois location is thanks to €75,000 funding from the government’s Peatland Community Engagement Scheme, an acknowledgement of the substantial progress and benefits demonstrated on the peatland site, over the past decade in particular. The works, expected to take about one month to complete, are being carried out by G Russell Plant Hire from Clonaslee, under civil engineering supervision by RPS Ireland.

The Abbeyleix Bog Project success story has encompassed not only demonstrable positive environmental and ecological progress, but educational and recreational benefits.

It is all down to hard work, ground-up community ownership and willing co-operation across a spectrum of stakeholders, but the dividends have been handsome too. Abbeyleix bog is hailed nationally and internationally as a textbook example of what can be achieved in such cases.

The landscape is being reclaimed and restored, the habitat recovered and replenished, the nature reserve a habitat for countless species and a recreational reserve for walkers and nature lovers of all ages. Small wonder that Abbeyleix Bog Project continues to win more admirers as the case study to be emulated with a win-win for conservation and community alike.

The good work continues at the bog this month, with manpower and machines bringing further change, all for the better. These further improvements are building on past successes, proven results, scientifically verified metrics demonstrating that the bog and the habitats it harbours will replenish, revitalise, restore, and regenerate once respectfully managed.

The bog, which is popular sanctuary too for walkers and nature lovers, will remain open to visitors during these latest phases of works, involving the building of ridges or berms, peat-dam features to assist the rewetting of the cutaway bogland on the periphery of the main raised bog. This intervention on the cutaway section and supportive hydrology will help support the core bog’s restoration and protect the habitat and its sustainability overall.

This is good news for fans of Abbeyleix Bog who continue to flock to the rehabilitated bog in increasing numbers, further enshrining its status, significance, and sustainability. This latest round of funding is a confirmation and acknowledgement of the prestige and importance of Abbeyleix Bog, not just at national level but within the wider EU conservation and carbon emissions context. So much so that Abbeyleix Bog has been selected as a ‘Knowledge Site’, a prototype for best practice in community collaborative projects within the EU Horizon 2020 project WaterLANDS.

"It's a really significant milestone for the bog and those of us connected with the project. The works bring renewed enthusiasm and drive to further rehabilitate our peat habitats which is massively positive in respect to climate action, for biodiversity and the community alike,” outlines Garry Luttrell, Director and Acting Chair of the Abbeyleix Bog Project.

"This wouldn't have been possible without the help, input, support and collaboration from all our stakeholders, volunteers and the local community. We hope that this will only be the start of a new era in which community-led projects will benefit from monetary support and stakeholder expertise to improve our natural environment,” adds Chris Uys, of the Technical Advisory Group to the Abbeyleix Bog Prjoect.

Announcing the €75,000 funding in August, under the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme, the Minister for State for Heritage, Mr Malcolm Noonan stated that he was delighted to support active and determined community and volunteer groups like Abbeyleix Bog Project in their efforts to embrace and bolster nature and biodiversity.