Schoolchildren blaze new heritage trail

Going Out

BRINGING THE PAST TO LIFE Fifth and Sixth Class pupils from Holy Trinty NS, Westport, with Principal Orla Brickenden and Ms Meriel Donaghy at the launch of their Crow’s Foot Trail. The children are pointing to a crow’s foot marking on the base of Westport’s Octagon statue. Pic: Conor McKeown

Historical Crow’s Foot Treasure Hunt launched in Westport

Ciara Moynihan

A new heritage trail was launched in Westport Town Hall Theatre last Thursday, giving tourists and locals alike another good excuse to explore the town whilst learning about its history in a fun, tangible way.
Enterprising young pupils from Holy Trinity NS have compiled a Crow’s Foot Treasure Hunt, which people of all ages can do while wandering Westport, finding out about the town’s built heritage as they go.
Crows’ feet markings are elegant symbols carved into the stone façades of buildings. These simple crows-foot-shaped engravings started to appear on stone walls in built environments all around the country during the early 1800s. Benchmarking the height above sea level at particular locations, they were used by ordnance surveyors to map the terrain.
The chance discovery of a crow’s foot marking at the rear of the Holy Trinity NS building led teacher Meriel Donaghy to start the school project, which saw the pupils (then in Fourth and Fifth Class) set out discover crow’s foot markings around their town and then devise a fun way to share their newfound knowledge.
The children discovered 12 crow’s foot marks still in existence, beginning with the one on their own school building, then they mapped them and wrote clues for each one to create the Crow’s Foot Trail of Westport.
They have also written an accompanying information brochure, explaining what crow’s foot markings are and giving brief histories of the historical buildings and places where some of the benchmarks can be found. In a charming touch, the guide includes the children’s thoughts about the benchmarked buildings and places, in their own words, as well as some of their illustrations.
The project was funded by the Heritage Council of Ireland and supported by Burrenbeo Trust’s Heritage Keepers programme. The trail guides (designed in collaboration with local graphic designer Barry Murphy) can be viewed now on the school website, – and they’re also available on Instagram at @crowsfoottrailwestport. QR codes also allow the Crow’s Foot Trail to be accessed in digital form.
The school’s budget initially stretched to a small print run of 200, and these printed treasure-hunt brochures were available at Wesport Library, Westport Town Hall Theatre, the Clew Bay Heritage Centre and the Custom House Studio and Gallery during the summer.
At the launch, the brains behind the project, Meriel Donaghy, revealed that the printed brochures and maps are now to be made more widely available. “Yesterday we received terrific news from the [Westport] Chamber of Commerce to say they are going to fund a reprint of the brochure, and Mayo County Council Heritage Office have also come onboard to fund further printing,” she said, adding that it is ‘rewarding and encouraging’ to see the project so valued.
Display boards about the project are also currently on show at Westport Town Hall Theatre.