Open Green Spaces

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In Abbeyshrule we constantly work to protect, increase, enhance and champion the Royal Canal and River Inny banks, village green, open spaces and public rights of way in the village and of course the visitors’ opportunity to enjoy them. We are keen to demonstrate the role that green spaces can play in modern day community life.

In recent years, our green space areas have undertaken a mixture of physical improvements, education and celebratory events as well as providing an increased sense of space and relaxation in the village environs. Open green spaces are maintained regularly by a grass cutting mulcher throughout the growing season. Our canal banks follow an exact maintenance plan where only a certain depth of the canal bank is cut, thus avoiding disturbance to the flora and fauna that flourish by the water’s edge.

Over the years we have developed our open green areas’ policy with the community workers in the village who have learned a greater appreciation for their maintenance. Through our involvelment in the Tidy Towns competition and learning about supporting eco-systems we have passed this on to those who maintain the greens and canal banks throughout the year, ensuring we have a careful balance of maintaining our green areas to a high standard and respecting the natural habitats that dwell in our midst. Our maintenance team take great pride and effort in ensuring that all areas are cared for meticulously.

Our Green Spaces’ achievements include creating an improved village green with a calming water feature depicting an Abbot from our monastic traditions in the village. Here visitors to the village can take time out and reflect on the evolution of Abbeyshrule. Once an exposed green open space, the village green has since matured with native trees and a rose bed as its centrepoint. This is a space that is often explored by the children who live in the village and those who visit.

Central to our open green spaces in Abbeyshrule is our extensive canal bank walkways. For generations the canal banks stretching both east and west of the village are a second home to locals and visitors. The canal banks provide great memories for those who have grown up in the area as a place to congregate in years past and it is delightful to see that they still remain as popular with many families today. The well maintained canal banks entice people to sit on the grass, interact and enjoy Abbeyshrule from a height (on our most used green space).

Helping to transform the grounds at a derelict old furniture factory into a community time out garden is one of our latest additions to our green spaces. The Royal Canal culvert lies opposite this time out garden. Here the trickle of water can be heard from the culvert as it drains water from local sources. Interestingly, there is always a sense of water closeby which reflects the culture of the village.

There are two housing developments called Barley Gardens and Corncrake Meadows in Abbeyshrule Village. A large open green space area adjacent to the River Inny has recently been landscaped within the Barley Gardens’ development. This has been a special project that was undertaken by the residents of Barley Gardens in conjunction with the Tidy Villages Committee. The well maintained private front gardens at the ten houses in Barley Gardens offer a pretty extension of green space to the edge of the roadway.

As a housing development, Corncrake Meadows has an extremely generous allocation of green space for the houses in its settlement. These lush open green spaces are conducive to the sustainable living policy and green space allocation for the creation of new houses in Abbeyshrule . The zoning of open green space for Corncrake Meadow was a priority for the community, the developer and the planning department prior to development. The green space at the entrance to Corncrake Meadows features bog oak sculptures, street furniture and a community composter. The green open space to the River Inny side of the development has an orchard of various fruit and a vegetable garden. With the growing of fruit and vegetables in both Barley Gardens and Corncrake Meadows, it is evident that sustainable living is more than just a policy with the residents.

Other aspects of our open spaces include the two harbour areas either side of Webb’s Bridge. It is from these slipways that both locals and visitors launch their boats to navigate the Royal Canal.

The residents in Abbeyshrule appreciate the outdoors and this is reflected in many private gardens. The distinctive thing to note about private gardens is that there are no uniform characteristics to these gardens. Residents are passionate about nature and gardening. Therefore, each garden is individual and unique, which is a testament to the village as a whole. One garden in particular in the centre of the village is ‘The Farrar Garden’ which is located between the entrances to both of our housing estates of Barley Gardens and Corncrake Meadows. This garden is admired and enjoyed by many.

Abbeyshrule Cistercian Abbey and Abbeyshrule Cemetery are an integral part of the open spaces in the village. The grounds at both burial sites are carefully maintained. Over the years we have changed the maintenance plan with certain sections in the cemeteries now left natural and non- interrupted to support biodiversity.

Nestled on the edge of the Royal Canal is a pretty green space known locally as Fisherman’s Haven. As its name suggests, it is a peaceful green space close to rich aquatic life with traditional seating where one can enjoy the canal and the canal overflow which is another aspect of our built heritage.

Although there are no sports grounds in the village, the community keeps very active with all that nature provides for sporting activity. Our sports are a little different in Abbeyshrule in that sporting activity takes us to the water for boating, kayaking, fishing and swimming. The quieter roads surrounding the village are a dream for walkers and cyclists. Abbeyshrule Airflield is a four acre site where people can fly model aircraft and enjoy hand gliding.

One green area close to Webb’s Bridge in the village is rather steep and not conducive to maintenance as an open green space. Therefore we purchased two white goats (Thelma and Louise) to naturally maintain this green area. The Tidy Villages Committee attend to the goats’ needs and locals feed the goats with leftovers from family homes.

We plan to document our green spaces in an education pack and make it available for schools and youth groups to encourage children to explore and enjoy Abbeyshrule’s green spaces through outdoor learning activities.

Boglands

On the perimeter of the village are the boglands – our carbon sinks. Clonbrin & Williamstown raised bogs lie to the east of Abbeyshrule village, running along the Longford / Westmeath county boundary. Raised bogs are accumulations of deep acid peat (usually between 3-12 m deep) that originated in shallow lake basins or topographic depressions. The name is derived from the elevated surface, or dome, that develops as raised bogs grow upwards from the surface; the domed effect is often exaggerated when the margins of a bog are damaged by turf cutting or drainage, and are drying out. In a natural state, raised bogs are circled by a wetland fringe, known as the lag zone, which is usually characterised by fern communities.

Raised bogs are most abundant in the lowlands of central and mid-west Ireland although exploitation has been extensive and no Irish raised bogs remain completely intact. In Ireland, most lag zones have been lost through drainage and land reclamation. It also contains areas of intact high quality raised bog, mainly in its central areas with much of the remaining surrounding edges being highly degraded through turf cutting and drainage. The central intact areas of high bog are classified as PB1 Raised Bog while the other areas are classified as PB4 Cutover Bog, WS1 Scrub, WN7 Bog Woodland or other transitional habitat types.

The intact areas of raised bog contain characteristic bog species including Hare’s-tail Cottongrass Eriopherum vaginatum, Heather Calluna vulgaris, Bog Rosemary Andromeda polifolia, Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccos, Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia, Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia and a diverse range of lichens and Sphagnum mosses.

Bog Rosemary is particularly abundant in some of these areas. Some areas in the southern part of the bog are supporting dense WN7 Bog Woodland characterised by Downy Birch Betula pubescens with Gorse Ulex europaeus around the fringes and heavy encroachment by Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus. In areas where Cherry Laurel has not got a stronghold birch dominated WN7 Bog Woodland is present with understorey growth of Holly Ilex aquifolium, Bramble Rubus fruticosus agg., Bracken Pteridium aquilinum, Purple Moor-grass Molinia caerulea and Sphagnum mosses. Other areas around the fringes of the raised bog have been planted with Sitka Spruce Picea sitchensis and Norway Spruce Picea abies conifer plantations, some with established networks of pathways and paved roads.

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