AMENITY Coillte believe Colonel’s Woods in Westport can be transformed into a recreational area similiar to Belleek Woods in Ballina. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
THE felling of 8.8 hectares of mature conifer trees as part of as a major ‘recreational and silvicultural’ amenity for Colonel’s Wood in Westport is to begin at the end of August.
Coillte plan to develop Colonel’s Wood in Knockranny, Westport into an accessible, close-to-home woodland amenity with walking trails and convert 8.8 hectares of the 27.5 hectare woodland from conifer to oak broadleaf forest.
The felling of the conifer trees is scheduled to begin at the end of this month and will be replanted with native species such as sessile oak, Scots pine, rowan, downy birch, and holly. A 2.4km looped walking trail within the woodland will be development and it is expected that the new amenity will be open to the public within 12 months.
The project is developed by Coillte, in association with Mayo County Council, Knockranny residents and is part funded by Coillte and the Forest Service under the NeighbourWood (NBR) Scheme.
Dermot Tiernan of Coillte, who is spearheading the project, explained that the woodlands at Knockranny is unique as it dates back to the early 1800s and believes it will be an great amenity for Westport.
“I think this will be a great facility for Westport and will be similar to the amenity at Belleek Woods in Ballina, which is a fantastic recreational area. At the moment Colonels Woods is not really accessible and you’d need wellies to walk through it. When the development is complete people of all ages will will be able to walk around it and enjoy it.
“The felling of the mature conifer trees, which were planted in the 1960s, is due to start at the end of August and is expected to be completed by Christmas and immediately replanted with native species similar to what happened at Brackloon. People may get a shock when the trees are felled but it is all part of the development which will transform the area,” he told The Mayo News.
The development will also include a dedicated entrance to include a small car park at the entrance while there will also be a pedestrian access link from the adjoining Greenway.
In 2012 Coillte began the native woodland restoration in the eastern section of Knockranny woods, with the replanting of four hectares of oak and Scots pine. The NeighbourWood (NBR) Scheme facilitates the continuation of this restoration with the 60 percent of the 8.8 hectare site to be made up of sessile oak and Scots pine with the rest made up of rowan, downy birch and holly.
Colonel’s Woods was the subject of a planning application for 61 houses in 1993 and for an 86-bedroom nursing home in 2009. That application was withdrawn by Coillte in February 2011, two days before it was due for consideration by Westport Town Council.
The woods have also been used as a location of anti-social behaviour with teenagers using the area as a drinking den. Mr Tiernan added he believes the development will also help end this activity and the woods will be used for the ‘right reasons’.