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The Potential for the Sustainable Development of the Bangor Trail By Liam Loftus

This dissertation was submitted in part fulfilment of the requirements for the Batchelor of Arts Honours Degree in Humanities (Heritage Studies) at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Castlebar Campus.

I hereby declare that this dissertation is my own work

____________________________________________ Liam Loftus


Table of Contents Acknowledgements......................................................................................................... iv List of Figures.................................................................................................................. v List of Plates ................................................................................................................... vi Abstract ......................................................................................................................... vii 1. Introduction................................................................................................................. 1 2. Literature Review........................................................................................................ 3 2.1 Introduction............................................................................................................. 3 2.2 Development Potential............................................................................................. 4 2.3 The Trail Network ................................................................................................... 5 3. Research Methodology ................................................................................................ 8 3.1 Introduction............................................................................................................. 8 3.2 Research Method..................................................................................................... 8 3.3 Constraints ............................................................................................................ 11 4. Findings and Analysis ............................................................................................... 13 4.1 Introduction........................................................................................................... 13 4.2 Findings of the Research........................................................................................ 13 4.3 Trail Usage............................................................................................................ 14 4.4 The Condition of the Bangor Trail ......................................................................... 14 4.5 Maintenance Work ................................................................................................ 19 4.6 Management Issues ............................................................................................... 20 4.7 Potential Areas for Development ........................................................................... 22 5. Recommendations ..................................................................................................... 29 5.1 Introduction........................................................................................................... 29 5.2 Trail Maintenance.................................................................................................. 29

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5.3 Trail Structures...................................................................................................... 34 5.4 Signage and Waymarking ...................................................................................... 39 5.5 The Trail Network ................................................................................................. 41 6. Conclusion ................................................................................................................. 44 Bibliography .................................................................................................................. 45 Online References.......................................................................................................... 48 Appendix A – Glossary of Terms ................................................................................... 49 Appendix B – My Work Log.......................................................................................... 50 Appendix C – NPWS Work Log .................................................................................... 68 Appendix D – Interviews................................................................................................ 82 Appendix E – Letterkeen Counter Data .......................................................................... 88 Appendix F – Maps........................................................................................................ 90 Appendix G – Photographs ............................................................................................ 96

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Acknowledgements

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine a chuidigh liom, le bliain anuas, an fhoirm seo a tráchtas. Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le mo léachtóirí as an treoir, go háirithe mo maoirseoir Dr. Séan Lysaght agus Fergal O’Dowd a chuir an gleas GPS ar iasacht liom.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil freisin leis na daoine go léir a chuir mé faoin agallamh le linn mo chuid taighde, go háirithe Leonard Floyd a chuid oibre ar an rian leanúnach a bhí mar fhoinse luachmhar eolais.

Ba mhaith liom go háirithe buíochas a ghabháil le mo theaghlach don foighne agus an tacaíocht atá léirithe acu dom thar na blianta beaga anuas.

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List of Figures Figure 1 – The Bangor Trail from Letterkeen to Bangor

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Figure 2 – Section of the Bangor Trail at Scardaun (EPA Map)

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Figure 3 – Section of Bangor Trail at Owenduff (EPA Map)

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Figure 4 – Footbridge at Tarsaghaun (EPA Map)

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Figure 5 – Halfway shelter at Owenduff (EPA Map)

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Figure 6 – Restored section of the trail at Tasaghaun (EPA Map)

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Figure 7 – Halfway shelter at Owenduff (NPWS Map)

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Figure 8 – Letterkeen trailhead (NPWS Map)

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Figure 9 – Bangor Trailhead (NPWS Map)

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Figure 10 – Ownership in the Owenduff/Nephin Complex (NPWS, 2006)

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Figure 11 – Letterkeen Trailhead (EPA Map)

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Figure 12 – Stream Crossing at Scardaun (EPA Map)

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Figure 13 – Halfway shelter at Owenduff (EPA Map)

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Figure 14 – Tarsaghaun footbridge (EPA Map)

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Figure 15 – Bangor Trailhead (EPA Map)

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Figure 16 – Potential areas for development on the Bangor Trail

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Figure 17 – Turnpiking a treadway, (Appalachian Trail Handbook)

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Figure 18 – Geotextile to stabilize fill material (Appalachian Trail Handbook)

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Figure 19 – Boardwalk construction (Mountain Meitheal Handbook)

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Figure 20 – Drainage dip on a tread surface (IMBA’s Guide Singletrack)

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Figure 21 – Potential ‘Clapper’ bridge at Scardaun (EPA Map)

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Figure 47 – The Bangor Trail Network

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List of Plates Figure 22 – Section of the Bangor Trail at Muingnahalloona, November 2012

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Figure 23 – Waterlogged section in Owenduff catchment, January 2013

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Figure 24 – Stream on trail at Owenduff, January 2012

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Figure 25 – Halfway shelter at Owenduff and Interior

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Figure 9 – Bridge at Tarsaghaun and Closure Notice

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Figure 26 – Boardwalk at Tarsaghaun, February 2013

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Figure 27 – Trail Maintenance at Tarsaghaun, November 2012

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Figure 28 – Side-drain installed at Tarsaghaun, February 2013

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Figure 29 – Signage for Western Way, Letterkeen loop walk and Bangor Trail

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Figure 30 – Altaconey Bridge and Letterkeen Trailhead, January 2013

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Figure 31 – Brogan Carroll Bothy and panel display, January 2013

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Figure 32 – Scardaun Lough from Corslieve, March 2013

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Figure 33 – Owenduff Catchment, March 2013

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Figure 34 – Halfway shelter with Scardaun waterfall in background, Feb 2013

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Figure 35 – Tarsaghaun footbridge, February 2013

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Figure 36 – The ruins of a house at Tarsaghaun Bridge, November 2012

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Figure 37 – Bangor Trailhead, March 2013

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Figure 38 – Stepping-stones at Srahmore, December 2012

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Figure 39 – Boardwalk at Tarsaghaun, November 2012

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Figure 40 – Waterbar at Tarsaghaun, November 2012

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Figure 41 – Sidehill section of the Bangor Trail at Muingnahalloona, March 2013

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Figure 42 – Metal bridge at Srahmore and Sleeper bridge at Tarsaghaun

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Figure 43 – Metal bridge at Letterkeen and Timber bridge at Tarsaghaun

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Figure 44 – Stream crossing at Scardaun, February 2013

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Figure 45 – Traditional 'Clapper' bridge (Geograph.org.uk)

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Figure 46 – Signage and waymarker at the Letterkeen trailhead, December 2012

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Abstract

This research project was carried out to investigate the potential for the sustainable development of the Bangor Trail. Research focused on the physical condition of the trail from Letterkeen to Bangor and on potential solutions for the development of a sustainable trail network. In carrying out this research, a review of the literature was undertaken in order to ascertain the most appropriate action to be taken in the maintenance and development of the Bangor Trail. This was followed by a field-walking assessment of the condition of the trail and the identification of potential areas for future trail development. A Conservation Ranger from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Walking Officer for the Mayo County Council were interviewed for the purpose of this study. Data was gathered from Coillte, the NPWS, Mayo County Council and Mayo South West Development Company to support the findings of this research. The study found that the Bangor Trail has declined in recent years and this has had an adverse effect on the number of users of the trail. Significant sections of the trail are waterlogged and regular maintenance is required. At present, the Bangor Trail fails to meet National Waymark standards and is currently uninsured. However, maintenance work is ongoing and it is expected that the trail will be reclassified as a long-distance waymarked way by the end of 2013. The research paper concludes that at present, very few hikers walk the entire trail but in the future there is huge potential demand for the trail which will form a major trail network in a wilderness designated area.

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1. Introduction

The Bangor Trail is a long-distance way-marked way, approximately 23km in length which runs from Letterkeen to Bangor. The old cattle trail traverses the Nephin Beg Mountain range of North West Mayo and serves as the main point of access to Ballycroy National Park, a unique landscape of international ecological importance and one of Ireland’s last great isolated areas.1 In recent years the Bangor Trail has suffered from neglect and the surrounding bog has begun to encroach on the trail surface making it difficult to walk. The degradation of the trail surface has had an adverse effect on the number of users and in recent years the Bangor Trail has been declassified as a long-distance waymarked way. I believe that in the next few years there will be huge demand for long-distance wilderness trails in Ireland and that the Bangor Trail has the potential to provide direct access to a vast and undeveloped wilderness. The purpose of this research is to assess the condition of the Bangor Trail and to make recommendations for its improvement. In order to do this I must first determine what work has already been carried out on the trail and what plans are in place for development. For the purposes of this research it will be necessary for me to confine myself specifically to the undeveloped section of the Bangor Trail extending from Altaconey Bridge to Bangor.

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J. McDermott and R. Chapman, 1992, County Mayo: the Bangor Trail.

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Figure 47 - The Bangor Trail from Letterkeen to Bangor

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2. Literature Review 2.1 Introduction In order to get an initial impression of the condition of the Bangor Trail I examined online newspaper and journal articles to see what the general perception of the trail is. There was very little information online relating the Bangor Trail. There was no website for the trail or promotion of the trail through online tourist and walking guides. This suggested that the Bangor Trail had been neglected in recent years. However much of the existing literature indicates that there is significant potential for its future development as a trail network. I reviewed both national and international trail construction and design handbooks in order to develop a better understanding of the make-up of the Bangor Trail. The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance (2008) is an excellent example of sustainable trail development practices. As a national example of trail practice, the Mountain Meitheal Handbook of Trail Design and Construction (2011) is an excellent handbook which is strongly influenced the AMC publications. These guides were important for illustrating best trail maintenance practice and in the sustainable development of trail networks. Appalachian Trail: Design, Construction, and Maintenance (2000) dealt with the development of sustainable trail networks and proved to be very beneficial to my research. I carried out my literature review in the months of December and January before I undertook my field-walking survey of the Bangor Trail. Many of the themes that emerged during this stage of my research served to structure the subsequent data collection.

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2.2 Development Potential In recent years, the Mayo County Council has begun to recognise the potential of the Mayo landscape for the development of walking trails. In 2006 they published the Mayo County Walking Strategy with the aim of establishing Mayo as ‘the walking capital of Ireland’ (5). This report identified Mayo’s “largely unspoilt, clean countryside, varying landscapes, unique scenery and rich heritage and folklore which mark it as an ideal walking destination” (8). The report also recognised that established linear walks “remain of foremost importance in spearheading the drive to establish Mayo as the walking capital of Ireland” (12). Mayo currently has four official long-distance waymarked ways; The Western Way, The Foxford Way, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail and the Achill Spur. Until recently, the Bangor Trail was also classified as a long-distance waymarked way. However in recent years it has failed to meet National Trail Office standards and has lost its status. The trail crosses the Owenduff/Nephin Complex, a region dominated by the Nephin Beg mountain range in the east and south, and a large area of blanket bog in the west and north. The old cattle trail traverses a striking wilderness of bog and mountain which forms a unique landscape of international ecological importance and one of Ireland’s last great isolated areas.2 The trail passes through Ballycroy National Park landscape, much of which is designated as Annex 1 of the Habitats Directive as a priority habitat type of Community interest, the conservation of which requires the designation of SPA (Site Code 004098) and as a SAC (Site Code 000534) (NPWS, 2006: 1). Covering an area of 26,033 ha, the Owenduff/Nephin Complex encompasses one of the largest tracts of blanket bog and associated habitats in Ireland. In recent years the wilderness potential of this unique landscape has being gradually recognised. In 2012, Coillte announced the Wild Nephin Project, a project aimed at setting 2

J. McDermott and R. Chapman, 1992, County Mayo: the Bangor Trail.

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aside ‘almost 9,000 hectares of forest and national park lands as a wilderness area to provide challenging and primitive recreation experiences’ (Murphy, 2012: 34). Under this new initiative, an extensive area in the Nephin Beg Range will gradually be converted into wilderness over the next fifteen years. The management of this site will entail opening vistas onto the mountainous terrain and lakes with the purpose of offering visitors a unique opportunity to experience a two to three-day hike in remote or challenging county. To enhance this experience, new routes and trails will be laid out with “limited way-marking to provide an authentic recreation experience” (Murphy, 2012: 36). At present, the whole site around the Bangor Trail is remarkable for the lack of roads and tracks within its boundaries. The trail itself is the most significant evidence of human activity in the landscape. It runs roughly in a north-south direction, from the Srahmore River at the south-east margin to Bangor, which lies just north of the site. This track cuts through the centre of the site, winding between the higher mountains to join the Western Way in the south-east (NPWS, 2006: 13). As the only means of public access into Ballycroy National Park, the Bangor Trail has the potential to serve as a major trail network within a fragile and remote wilderness area. 2.3 The Trail Network The Bangor Trail is more than just an isolated trail through a vast blanket bog. It is a point of access in a unique and appealing landscape. As such, it should provide a focus for any trail development in the area. In the 2006 survey of the condition of the Bangor Trail was undertaken by Ms. Rosemarie Kiely. In Access and Recreation in Ballycroy National Park, Kiely suggested that ‘it was the distance travelled to complete the whole trail that makes it difficult for the average hiker’ (19) and recommends the development a variety of walks to encourage more users of the Bangor Trail. This suggests that the Bangor Trail should form the centre of a sustainable trail network for the region.

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According to Birchard and Proudman (2000), a trail network should consist of a combination of different trail formats that satisfy a diversity of recreation needs. They outline the various elements that make up a trail network in their handbook, Appalachian Trail: Design, Construction, and Maintenance. The backbone trail carries the most traffic in the system. It has the “most conservative design and most robust construction by comparison to other trails in the system” (33). As a backbone trail, the Bangor Trail could be used to connect features, forests and structures along their route. As the main trail it can link the outstanding features of the area and give a sense of cohesion to an otherwise remote and inaccessible landscape. In this way, the Bangor Trail could be central to the development of a more complex system of trails. In 2006, the Irish Sports Council recognised the growing demand for a variety of trails-types to suit different users. They saw a changing preference in Ireland towards “shorter walking trails of a varied nature ranging from 30 minutes to a day” (3). At the same time the National Trails Office observed in their Review of National Waymarked Ways, that “the linear nature of most National Waymarked Ways makes them somewhat less attractive to use for day walks” (18). Their 2006 Irish Walking Strategy identified the need for trails “that offer landscape variety, a range of physical challenges and facilities and services commensurate with the trail experience are critical to meeting visitor expectations” (26). They recommended that development of linked, loops and spurs off existing National Waymarked Ways which would greatly improve opportunities for usage on many routes. In this strategy, they specifically identified the development of localised loop walks as a priority. According to Birchard and Proudman (2000), side trails can be developed to enhance recreation for hikers travelling the main trail. They can be used to provide access to features in the landscape and inject variety into the trail experience. These can take the form of spur trails or circuit trails. Spur trails are dead-end side trails leading to points of interest not far 6


from the main trail. These features often include shelter and camping areas and other spots with fragile plant life and unstable soils. Spur trails give hikers only one point of access in the landscape which serves to reduce the impact of footfall on fragile environments. Loop walks are a popular format for day-use trails because they enable easy access and parking. These shorter walking routes cater for the needs of experienced and ‘occasional’ walkers and are popular with many day-visitors. The Letterkeen loop walks were developed on the Bangor Trail over the last ten years. These loop walks follow a portion of the Bangor Trail and link with the Western Way via ‘The Sheep Pass.’ They are designed to be suitable for a variety of trail users and are colour-coded according to their varying level of difficulty. The Blue Loop or ‘Bothy Loop’ is the easiest walk. It is about 6km long and is suitable for all levels of fitness. The Red Loop or ‘Lough Aroher Loop’ is about 10km long and is rated as moderate difficulty. The Purple Loop or ‘Letterkeen Loop’ is about 12km long, crosses difficult terrain and is suited to walkers with higher than average levels of fitness. All three loop walks return to the trailhead at Brogan Carroll Bothy. The trails use the existing Bangor Trail black waymark posts with blue, red and purple arrows indicating the direction of travel. From my review of the literature relating to walking trails I can conclude that there is a growing demand in Ireland for short loop walks and the long-distance linear trail have the potential to promote a variety of challenging trails for the average user. There is evidently some trail development already in place on the Bangor Trail. However, in order to find out what infrastructure would be needed for future trail development I must ascertain the current condition of the Bangor Trail.

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3. Research Methodology 3.1 Introduction This chapter describes the methods I used to conduct my research. In order to assess the condition of the Bangor Trail I carried out a field-walking survey of the trail during the winter months. In this survey I recorded any trail degradation, stream crossings and any features along the trail that had potential for development. I recorded the locations of key features on the trail using GPS and developed a detailed map using the EPA GeoPortal database. I also accessed databases to explore the hydrology, soils and topography of the landscape which would have an effect on trail quality and development. In order to get a better understanding of management and funding issues surrounding the Bangor Trail I interviewed representatives from key agencies involved with the trail. I interviewed Ms. Anna Connor, Walking Officer for the Mayo County Council and Mr. Leonard Floyd, Conservation Ranger for the NPWS. I also contacted Mayo South West Development Company in order to ascertain the level of usage on the Bangor Trail. This gave me a better understanding of the extent of the infrastructure needed on the Bangor Trail. 3.2 Research Method In order to collect suitable data for my research I decided to use field-walking as the primary data collection method. However, before undertaking my fieldwork I accessed satellite imagery and topographic maps in order to get a better understanding of the terrain. The EPA GeoPortal database provided detailed information on the drainage patterns for Ballycroy National Park and illustrated the hydrological conditions along the Bangor Trail.3 While reviewing literature on trail development I found that, “steep slopes and flat terrain if

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EPA GeoPortal Database accessed March 2013, from http://gis.epa.ie/Envision/

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combined with poor soil conditions pose a challenge for water drainage� so I paid special attention to the contours on the maps (AMC, 2008: 5). The EPA GeoPortal allowed me to examine the surface and subsurface conditions of the Bangor Trail. By overlaying soils and subsoil layers onto geology maps of the area I was able to identify low-lying and potentially waterlogged sections of the Bangor Trail. I used the OSI Map-viewer to identify key features in the landscape such as lakes and summits which may influence future trail development.4 Satellite imagery revealed forestry, wetlands and stream crossings that posed unique challenges to the development of the Bangor Trail as a trail network. Viewing the trail with satellite imagery and topographical maps allowed me to identify areas near the Bangor Trail that could be explored further during my fieldwalking survey. My field-walking survey was carried out over an eight-week period from January to March 2013. These are the wettest months of the year and by walking the route during periods of heavy rainfall I was able to get a better understanding of drainage issues on the trail. Going on foot allowed me to experience first-hand, any difficulties in walking the trail and identify the causes. I walked the Bangor Trail in sections, recording the condition of the trail surface, identifying problem areas, and recording any areas with potential for development. In order to carry out systemic survey of the trail I used a camera, GPS device, OSI map, a compass, 30m tape and a ranging rod. I also kept a log book of my work, recording; the name of the trail, the date, weather conditions and trail conditions, the exact location of where the log begins, any signs I encountered, where they were placed and what information they had, any problem areas, the best possible solution and any notable features or existing structures along the trail. For each entry in my work log I noted the site location, orientation and date on a GPS device. This enabled me to easily identify a photograph and match it with my notes. GPS also allowed

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Ordinance Survey Ireland Map Viewer, accessed March 2013, from http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,486895,821766,4,3

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me to record elevations and contours which proved useful in identifying low-lying areas or waterlogged sections of the trail. This data could then be uploaded to Trailmaster and plotted as points on a map. I retraced my steps in some sections of the Bangor Trail on different occasions and found that my previous survey work was accurate and easy to follow. The data gained from my field-walking survey should be beneficial for any future survey work carried out on the Bangor Trail. The NPWS have been undertaking survey work of the Bangor Trail over the last five years and I was also able to access their work log. This log book is a record of survey work carried out on the trail by Mr. Leonard Floyd, Conservation Ranger for the NPWS. Each section of the Bangor Trail is divided by townland and Mr. Floyd uses a system of ‘chainage’ to provide accurate locations for each entry in the work log.5 The log identifies problem sections of the trail and recommendations the appropriate actions needed to address them. Mr. Floyd’s notes are presented alongside recommendations made in an official assessment of the trail for the National Trails Office in 2008. The surveyor’s name, John Monaghan, is identified by the initials [J.M.] in the work log. This proved very beneficial because I was able to compare findings from both surveys with my own work log. I gathered data on the number of users of the Bangor Trail from Mayo South West Development Company. Mayo South West manages the loop walks at Letterkeen and in recent years they have installed an electronic counter at Altaconey Bridge to record the number of users of the Letterkeen loop walks. I contacted Cathleen Fergus, the Rural Recreation Officer for Mayo South West, and she provided me with counter data for 2011 and 2012. I plotted the raw data on an excel spreadsheet and calculated the number of users per month. By plotting the data on a graph I was able to determine some walker trends for the Letterkeen section of the Bangor Trail.

5 This system of measurement is commonly used by the Mayo County Council for road work and involves extending measurements from a fixed point at the start of the survey. For example, a section of the trail where chainage is 16604 simply means that the point is 16km 604m away from the first point surveyed.

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I also interviewed representatives from key agencies involved with the Bangor Trail in order to get a better understanding of issues surrounding the trail and plans for its future development. The NPWS are directly responsible for the management of the Bangor Trail and I made contact with Mr. Cameron Clothworthy, Conservation Ranger for NPWS. Under his recommendation I interviewed, Mr. Floyd who is directly involved with the ongoing survey and maintenance work on the Bangor Trail. Mr. Floyd also provided me with maps illustrating the different designation and management zones around the Bangor Trail. I also interviewed Ms. Anna Connor, the Walking Officer for the Mayo County Council who is directly involved in the development of trail networks throughout the county. Ms. Connor provided valuable information on funding and maintenance issues relating to the Bangor Trail. In the course of my research I contacted Mr. Joe Fenton a representative of Coillte who was able to provide me with a map of proposed Croaghaun Wood Loop Walk. I also notified Mr. Shay Walsh from Mountain Meitheal of my survey work on the Bangor Trail. Mountain Meitheal are a voluntary trail maintenance organisation that promote sustainable trail development techniques. I had worked with them in the construction of the Lough Aroher Hut at Letterkeen the previous summer and they had expressed an interest in the condition of the Bangor Trail. Mr. Walsh recommended the Mountain Meitheal Handbook of Trail Design and Construction by Mr. Bill Murphy, Coillte Recreational Officer and Head of the Wild Nephin Project. This book became central to my understanding of sustainable trail maintenance techniques during my literature review. 3.3 Constraints Since my research was undertaken from September 2012 to April 2013 most of my fieldwalking assessment of the Bangor Trail was carried out during the winter months. It would have been beneficial to get an indication of trail conditions during the summer when the

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weather is drier and more people walk the trail. Also, due to the limited size and scope of my research project, it was not feasible for me to extensively research the Wild Nephin Project. I did however make contact with Mr. Murphy and his interview in Mountain Log magazine provided me with enough information on the Wild Nephin Project. The main difficulty I encountered in gathering data for my research was the lack of data on users of the Bangor Trail. The electronic counter at Altaconey Bridge gave some indication of the volume of traffic at the trailhead, however it is unknown how many of those recorded undertook the Bangor Trail in its entirety. I had hoped to access a logbook from the new Lough Aroher shelter to ascertain hikers’ motivations for walking the Bangor Trail however it is currently missing from the shelter.

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4. Findings and Analysis 4.1 Introduction This chapter compiles the results from my research. Through interviews Mr. Floyd, Conservation Ranger for the NPWS and Ms. Connor, the Walking Officer for Mayo County Council I was able to gain a better understand of issues surrounding the Bangor Trail. I combined results of these interviews with the data I gathered during my field-walking survey of the trail. In this way I was better able to assess the overall condition of the Bangor Trail and make recommendations for its future development. The findings of my research will now be presented in this section. 4.2 Findings of the Research My research was conducted over an eight-month period from September 2012 to April 2013. The aim of the research was to assess the current condition of the Bangor Trail, to investigate what work was being carried out on the trail and to recommend potential areas for the sustainable development of a trail network. The data collected indicates that there is a low level of use on the Bangor Trail and that substantial sections have been neglected. Much of the existing infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. However, there is significant potential for the sustainable development of a trail network. At present, the trail fails to meet National Waymarking standards and is currently uninsured. Tarsaghaun Bridge is unsafe and has been closed since June 2012. Maintenance work is ongoing however, and the bridge is due to reopen in the next few months. Drainage work has been carried out on a section of the Bangor Trail at Tarsaghaun and a new boardwalk was constructed in 2012. An assessment of the condition of the entire trail is currently being undertaken by the NPWS and is due to be completed in the next few weeks.

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Maintenance work will commence in June in an effort to bring the Bangor Trail up to standard by the end of 2013. Through my research I was able to identify five potential areas for development on the Bangor Trail; the trailheads at Bangor and Letterkeen, the bridge at Tarsaghaun, the halfway shelter at Owenduff and the stream crossing at Scardaun. However, there are some management and land ownership issues relating that need to be considered. The findings of this research will now be developed further. 4.3 Trail Usage According to Ms. Connor, the Bangor Trail is most popular with European and International walkers as well as dedicated walking clubs who value its remote location and wilderness qualities. However, overall it appears that the length of the trail and the poor quality of the surface has meant that in general not many people walk the Bangor Trail. The counter data at Letterkeen trailhead indicates that 2574 individuals walked the Letterkeen section of the trail from October 2011 to September 2012. The most user traffic is in the months of June and July when the trail is driest and the least traffic is during the winter months. The data also showed that most people tend to walk on their own or in small groups of two or three. Although there is no data for those walking the Bangor Trail exclusively, the data does indicate significant traffic at the Letterkeen trailhead throughout the year which would justify the further development of information and parking facilities at this location. 4.4 The Condition of the Bangor Trail From my field-walking survey I found that the physical condition of the trail varies along the Bangor Trail. The most heavily used section of the trail is at Letterkeen and has a good trail surface. However, the trail quickly deteriorates in areas where there is less user traffic. In low-lying sections of the Bangor Trail the continual flow of water from poorly drained soils contributes significantly to bog encroachment. In Vegetation Composition and Habitat 14


Change in Ballycroy National Park (2006), Malone found that the trail was in severe state of disrepair. She concludes, that following years of neglect, “the surrounding bog habitat has begun to encroach on the trail and completely covers it in some sections making walking difficult� (14). The high levels of rainfall and poor drainage of the Owenduff/Nephin Complex contributes significantly to the build-up of vegetation on the Bangor Trail. North West Mayo experiences a mild, wet oceanic climate with annual rainfall often more than 1,120mm per year (Kiely, 2006: 7). The high levels of rainfall and poor soil quality can result in permanently waterlogged ground and rapid blanket bog formation. The side-hill construction of the Bangor Trail means that natural features in the topography

Figure 48 - Section of the Bangor Trail at Muingnahalloona, November 2012

serve as drainage point on the tread surface. However, on steeper sections, the trail surface often serves as a channel for water during periods of prolonged rainfall. This can result in rivulets of water flowing down the tread surface and pooling at low-point on the trail. With the absence of regular maintenance, encroaching vegetation can block these natural dips and create waterlogged conditions. Poor drainage is the most common issue on the Bangor Trail. Waterlogging appears to be yearFigure 49 - Section of the Bangor Trail at Scardaun (EPA Map)

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round on many sections of the trail and extensive areas are in need of largescale maintenance. The wettest part of the Bangor Trail is in the Owenduff catchment. This low-lying

Figure 50 - Waterlogged section in Owenduff catchment, January 2013

section of the trail is continually inundated with seepage from the upper catchment basin. In a survey of the Owenduff catchment section of the trail, Mr. Floyd found that the original tread surface has been buried under a thick layer of vegetation. Using a probing rod he measured the depth of peat on the trail surface to about 59cm. According to the NPWS (2006), the soils surrounding the Bangor Trail are ‘primarily peats, consisting of peaty podzols and underlying glacial tills’ (15-6). With poor drainage and lack of Figure 51 - Section of Bangor Trail at Owenduff (EPA Map)

regular maintenance the Bangor Trail has

deteriorated rapidly in low-lying areas. On higher ground and sloping terrain, many sections of the trail suffer from rapid flash flooding during periods of prolong rainfall. Water flowing from above the trail can quickly accumulate on the trail surface Figure 52 - Stream on trail at Owenduff, January 2012

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and form streams or rivulets. As the amount of water increases, the trail becomes inundated with fast-flowing water. This water continues down the trail until it is drained-off at a low point in the terrain. Without regular maintenance this process can have a cumulative effect on the quality of the trail surface. Many of the structures on the Bangor Trail are in a poor state of repair. The halfway shelter at Owenduff consists of a galvanised shed within the standing remains of an old house. At present, there is a large hole in the roof of the shelter and the continuous rain has rotted the plywood floor. The Figure 54 - Halfway shelter at Owenduff (EPA Map)

structure is in very poor condition and can no

longer serve as an overnight facility. The NPWS work log recommends that it be replaced with another structure. The bridge at Tarsaghaun is also in need of replacement. It is currently closed and there is some signage erected to notify walkers that it is ‘unsafe to cross’. The footbridge consists of a simple steel frame and concrete posts. The timber boardwalk is visibly rotten and the

Figure 53 - Footbridge at Tarsaghaun (EPA Map)

steel is seriously corroded. It spans 20m across the Tarsaghaunmore River and there is no other way across. At present, there is no through-access from Letterkeen to Bangor.

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Figure 55 - Halfway shelter at Owenduff (top left), Interior (top right), Bridge at Tarsaghaun (bottom right), Closure Notice (bottom left)

According to Mr. Floyd, the Bangor Trail is in a poor state of repair and currently fails to meet the National Waymarked standards set by the National Trails Office. Until those standards are met, the trail cannot be insured and walkers must hike the trail at their own risk. Maintenance work however is ongoing and efforts are being made to improve the condition of the Bangor Trail and restore its classification as a long-distance waymarked way.

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4.5 Maintenance Work Recent maintenance work was carried out to bring the Bangor Trail up to National Waymark standards. In 2008, a section of the Bangor Trail at Tarsaghaun was prioritised by the NPWS for drainage work. Recommendations were made for the insertion of side-drains and cross-drains to alleviate excess water and for the construction of a boardwalk across a long flat boggy area between two stony slopes Figure 57 – Restored section of the trail at Tasaghaun (EPA Map)

waterlogged terrain. These recommendations were

implemented in 2012. Vegetation was removed from the trail surface and side-drains were installed. The restored trail surface is durable and well compacted. There is very little water on the trail surface and it is easier to walk. However a substantial amount of peat had to be removed from the trail surface which gives the finished trail a ‘rutted’ appearance. Figure 56 - Boardwalk at Tarsaghaun, February 2013

At present there is very little funding for maintenance work of the Bangor Trail. According to Mr. Floyd, the NPWS received about €30,000 from 2011-2 for labour and materials. Both Fáilte Ireland and Mayo County Council provide supporting funds for any trail maintenance work. For 2013, the County Council have Figure 58 - Trail Maintenance at Tarsaghaun, November 2012

allocated about €25,000 for maintenance work and have

promised to replace the bridge at Tarsaghaun in the next few months. Most of that funding 19


for 2013 will go towards maintenance work on a section of the Bangor Trail in the Owenduff catchment. Due to the remote location of the site and environmental considerations for the sensitive habitats along the trail, most of the material will have to be brought in by helicopter. Overall, Mr. Floyd states that there is not enough money to carry out repairs on the entire Bangor Trail and at present only prioritised sections can be addressed. 4.6 Management Issues

Figure 59 - Side-drain installed at Tarsaghaun, February 2013

Stretching across the landscape for 23km the Bangor Trail crosses several boundaries. Each area is defined by different ownership and management practices. This can have an impact on the maintenance work and determine how the trail is managed. For example, many of the key locations on the Bangor Trail are outside the control of the NPWS. The halfway shelter at Owenduff is on lands privately owned by McManamon, Murray and Grealis. The NPWS work log shows that the trail crosses several boundaries in this Figure 60 - Halfway shelter at Owenduff (NPWS Map)

area which needs to be considered when

developing halfway facilities at this location. The trailheads at both ends of the Bangor Trail are not part of Ballycroy National Park. The Bangor Trailhead is on commonage while the Letterkeen

Figure 61 - Letterkeen trailhead (NPWS Map)

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trailhead is owned by Coillte but managed by Mayo South West Development Company. The area around Scardaun Lough is managed by the NPWS and the development of an access trail from the Bangor Trail to the Western Way could be viable. Also, facilities around Tarsaghaun Bridge Figure 62 - Bangor Trailhead (NPWS Map)

could also be developed since both sides of the river are owned and managed by the NPWS. Overall however, the ownership of lands in and around the Bangor Trail can have an impact on future trail development.

Figure 63 - Ownership in the Owenduff/Nephin Complex (NPWS, 2006)

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4.7 Potential Areas for Development Through my field-walking survey and analysis of associated maps and satellite images I was able to identify five locations along the Bangor Trail that have the potential to be developed in an appropriate and sustainable manner. These include the trailheads at Bangor and Letterkeen, the bridge at Tarsaghaun, the halfway shelter at Owenduff and the stream crossing at Scardaun. These locations can be used to orientate visitors to the Bangor Trail and to encourage them to explore the surrounding landscape. They can be developed to provide facilities and attractions for both day-walkers and long-distance hikers. They add continuity to the hiking experience and serve to break-up an otherwise long and discouraging trail. A. Letterkeen Trailhead Historically the Bangor Trail begins in Newport and extends for 38km to Bangor. However in recent years plans have been made to make Altaconey Bridge the official start of the Bangor Trail. This will make it a purely off-road trail and will place greater emphasis on the trailhead at Letterkeen. At present, this trailhead serves as a starting point for both the Bangor Figure 65 - Letterkeen Trailhead (EPA Map)

Trail and the Letterkeen loop walks. It also lies at the

junction between the Bangor Trail and the Western Way. Trailhead information is already available at the Brogan Carroll Bothy and new signage is due to put in place by the end of the year. The bothy, the stone information display and the bridge across Altaconey River all add to the character of the

Figure 64 - Signage for Western Way, Letterkeen loop walk and Bangor Trail

Bangor Trail. 22


Figure 66 - Altaconey Bridge and Letterkeen Trailhead, January 2013

Figure 67 - Brogan Carroll Bothy and panel display, January 2013

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B. Stream Crossing at Scardaun The Bangor Trail could also be linked to the Western Way by means of an access trail. This trail would begin on the Bangor Trail at the Scardaun stream crossing and run east for 500m to Scardaun Lough. From here, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the Owenduff catchment and explore Figure 69 - Stream Crossing at Scardaun (EPA Map)

the

landscape. Mr. Floyd is currently working on installation of a new stone bridge at the stream crossing. This will be a traditional ‘Clapper’ bridge, made from large flag-stones and wide enough for hikers to safely cross.

Figure 68 - Scardaun Lough from Corslieve, March 2013

Figure 70 - Owenduff Catchment, March 2013

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C. Halfway Shelter at Owenduff At the moment, the halfway shelter at Owenduff consists of a galvanised shed in the ruins of an old homestead. However, the shelter has significant potential for development as overnight facilities at this point on the Bangor Trail. The shelter is ideally located roughly halfway between Letterkeen and Figure 71 - Halfway shelter at Owenduff (EPA Map)

Bangor and the remains of the old house could be used to blend any construction work into the landscape.

D. Tarsaghaun Footbridge There is also potential for development in the vicinity of Tarsaghaun footbridge. Mr.

Figure 73 - Halfway shelter with Scardaun waterfall in the background, February 2013

Floyd suggested that the construction of an iconic bridge at this location might serve to define the character of the trail for walkers and play a major role in the promotion and marketing of the Bangor Trail to an International audience. The ruins of a house beside the bridge could be developed to provide picnic facilities for hikers and as a starting point for the proposed Croaghaun Wood Loop Walk. Croaghaun Wood near Lagduff has recently been opened-up to the public by Coillte and Figure 72 - Tarsaghaun footbridge (EPA Map)

the proposed Croaghaun Wood Loop Walk will be

linked to the Bangor Trail via existing forest roads. This has the potential to diversify the choice of walks from Tarsaghaun Bridge.

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Figure 74 - Tarsaghaun footbridge, February 2013

Figure 75 - The ruins of a house at Tarsaghaun Bridge, November 2012

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E. Bangor Trailhead The trailhead at Bangor is the starting point on the Bangor Trail. As such, it should have parking facilities and information panels to orientate visitors to the trail. It should also serve as the trailhead for any loop walk development in the area and be developed to attract users to the Bangor Trail. All development should be confined to the trailhead vicinity and the provision of a Figure 76 - Bangor Trailhead (EPA Map)

variety of loop walks should encourage more

walkers to explore the surrounding landscape. Plans are in place to develop a new car park and to provide trailhead information in new display cases.

Figure 77 - Bangor Trailhead, March 2013

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Figure 78 - Potential areas for development on the Bangor Trail

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5. Recommendations 5.1 Introduction Through my field-walking survey and desktop research I was able to assess the physical condition of the Bangor Trail and identify potential areas for trail development. By reviewing literature relating to the sustainable trail development techniques I was able to gain a better understanding of some of the key maintenance issues surrounding the Bangor Trail. This also allowed me to ascertain the type of development that would be needed in order to create a sustainable trail network. Interviews with key agencies and individuals involved with the Bangor Trail gave me a better understanding of current issues surrounding the trail and future plans for its development. At this point of my research I can now make recommendations for the sustainable development of the Bangor Trail. The emphasis of these recommendations is on best trail maintenance practice, the development of appropriate trail structures and the provision of low-impact signage and associated infrastructure on the Bangor Trail. I conclude my recommendations with a model for a Bangor Trail network which should serve to attract users to the Bangor Trail and ensure that all future development is sustainable.

5.2 Trail Maintenance The most important work that needs to be carried out on the Bangor Trail is the removal of water from the trail surface and the installation of drainage structures to prevent water from getting on the trail. The lack of regular maintenance on the trail has meant that many lowlying sections are severely waterlogged and difficult to walk. Bog encroachment has prevented water from flowing away from the trail surface and this in turn has allowed vegetation to accumulate. Proper drainage is absolutely essential to economical maintenance 29


of a trail. If a trail is not regularly drained, it will quickly lead to heavier and more expensive maintenance. The next section of the Bangor Trail scheduled for maintenance work in the Owenduff catchment. This low-lying section of the trail suffers from extreme waterlogging and has been identified as a priority section in the NPWS work log. In order to restore this section of the trail, first the water needs to be removed off the trail surface and then the trail surface needs to be elevated above the water table. One way to raise the trail is by adding fill material. Turnpiking can be an effective solution for maintaining low-lying sections of the Bangor Trail because it serves to raise the trail up above the current water level and reduce

Figure 80 - Turnpiking a treadway, (Appalachian Trail: Design, Construction and Maintenance)

bog encroachment. Fill material such as rock and inorganic soil can be sourced in nearby stream beds. However, due to the remote and sensitive location of the Bangor Trail fill material needs to be sourced from another location and brought on site. It is important the imported material Figure 79 - The use of geotextile to stabilize fill material (Appalachian Trail: Design, Construction and Maintenance)

blends with the

finished trail and remains unobtrusive. Fill material for the Owenduff catchment sections is currently being sourced from Bangor quarry. 30


Many sections of the Bangor Trail cross areas of blanket bog where poor waterlogged peat forms much of the foundation. In the past a layer of brashing was used to ‘float’ the trail over unstable surfaces. In the Mountain Meitheal Handbook (2011), Murphy recommends using geotextiles to ‘prevent the fill from sinking into the saturated soils underneath’ (38). These water-permeable synthetic fabrics can be used to stabilize the treadway and, once buried, leave behind a natural-looking treadway. However, this type of trail hardening can impede lateral drainage and should not be used on sections of the Bangor Trail that pass through sensitive bog habitats.

Figure 81 - Stepping-stones at Srahmore, December 2012

In areas where drainage is not an option, stepping-stones may provide dry footing through wet terrain. This is the most desirable way to harden short sections of the trail because stepping-stones reduce the need for periodic maintenance. In many sections of the NPWS work log, recommendations have been made for the installation of boardwalks through waterlogged areas. Boardwalks are the Figure 82 - Boardwalk construction (Mountain Meitheal Handbook)

simplest form of trail construction.

They consist of two logs that form the treadway, resting on two base logs serving as ‘mud 31


sills’. Wire netting or staples are sometimes used to give them grip. Boardwalks can be an effective method of crossing sensitive or wet areas because they raise the trail surface above the water level. However, Murphy (2011) believes they should be used sparingly, because they can remove “all challenge or natural risk associated with hiking in a primitive setting” (56). For sections of the Bangor Trail suffering from periodic flooding, grade dips and waterbars can be an effective solution. Grade dips are most effective on sidehill trail construction where water is discharged sideways off the lower side of the treadway. This form of drainage takes advantage of the surrounding topography by forcing any water that washes down the trail to leave at a low point. Simple semicircular depressions on the Bangor Trail can prove to be a simple solution to waterFigure 83 - Boardwalk at Tarsaghaun, November 2012

logging and are cheap and easy to construct. They are also maintenance-free and blend into the landscape.

Figure 84 - Drainage dip on a tread surface (IMBA’s Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack)

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Waterbars are another drainage feature that is very effective in slowing down and removing water from a trail. Angled across the trail, the bar serves as a barrier to redirect water that has not been turned from the tread by outsloping. One problem with waterbars is that they can be an obstruction for walkers. Culverts allow the trail surface to extend without interruption while serving to conduct water beneath the trail. They have little visual impact on the trail but can frequently become blocked and require regular maintenance. Birchard and Proudman (2000) recommend, where possible to avoid using ‘drainage features that require rock construction in order to keep with the primitive nature of the trail’ (62). Artificial structures like waterbars or culverts can detract from the Bangor Trail’s primitive character and should only be used when absolutely necessary. Many sections of the trail follow the contours of the hillside and have outsloped treads which naturally shed the water from the trail surface. Outsloping allows water to flow off the pathway in sheets rather than puddling or coalescing into erosive rivulets. However, if the trail is not regularly Figure 85 - Waterbar at Tarsaghaun, November 2012

maintained, the build-up of

vegetation can prevent water from quickly leaving the trail surface. In this way, regular maintenance is essential to the long-term sustainability of the Bangor Trail.

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Figure 86 - Sidehill section of the Bangor Trail at Muingnahalloona, March 2013

5.3 Trail Structures The AMC Handbook (2008) stresses the need to “minimise the visual impact of the proposed trail work and avoid undue infringement on the trail’s natural and aesthetic qualities” (121). Trail crews occasionally overbuild on a trail, either by moving too many rocks and building too much with them or by paying more attention to tidiness that to primitiveness. Birchard and Proudman, (2000) recommend that the trail hardening structures left behind “should be sturdy and durable. But they shouldn’t call attention to themselves. 34


They should be subliminal to the casual observer and reflect the harmony with primitive values and the surroundings” (69). Obvious construction can detract from the hiker’s experience and should be kept to a minimum in remote locations. For Murphy (2011), trail building in remote areas “should not be about making the experience easier or less challenging but about landscape and environmental protection” (8). Good trails should be constructed from locally sourced materials; they should blend into the landscape and be integral to the walking experience. It is important that any restoration of the Bangor Trail should not result in an over-engineered or unnatural path. It is important to preserve the ‘wilderness-feel’ and the physical challenge of the trail. Many of the recommendations in the NPWS Work Log involve the installation of waterbars, boardwalks and drains to remove water from waterlogged areas. There are also recommendations for the construction of bridges and step-stones at all major stream crossings. Many of these comply with the previous National Trails Office inspection undertaken by Mr. John Monaghan. Mr. Monaghan recommended some key work that needed to be carried out in order to bring the Bangor Trail up to standard. These include: 1) The provision of new waymarkers 2) The provision of new information boards at trailheads 3) The removal of all excess water off the trail surface 4) The installation of short stretches of boardwalk on the wettest sections of the trail 5) The installation of bridges at small stream crossings Several bridges have recently been installed on the Bangor Trail. A timber sleeper bridge has been constructed to span a marshy area beside Tarsaghaun Bridge. It consists of six treated timber sleepers, two sleepers wide, with staples for grip. Another wooden bridge has been put in place at a stream crossing between Tarsaghaun and Tawnasheffin. This bridge is constructed from timber planking, spans a 4m stream crossing and is supported by stone piers. It has mesh and handrails. Both bridges are attractive features on the Bangor Trail and are constructed in a rustic and sustainable way. 35


The two metal bridges at Letterkeen however are unsuitable to the Bangor Trail and detract from the natural appearance of the trail. These bridges were installed in order to comply with the National Trails Office’s Irish Walking Strategy which sets out ‘clearly defined and consistent standards to ensure trails are sustainable’ (45). According to Ms. Connor, most of the bridges that are recommended by the National Trails Office only consist of railway-style sleepers spanning any stream crossings that are 1m wide or more.

Figure 87 - Metal bridge at Srahmore (top left), Sleeper bridge at Tarsaghaun (top right)

Figure 88 - Metal bridge at Letterkeen (top left), Timber bridge at Tarsaghaun (top right)

According to the AMC handbook (2008), bridges should only be constructed in wilderness areas “if there is a consistent hazard to hikers” (184). Many of the mountain streams on the Bangor Trail are subject to flash flooding which can raise the water level significantly in a short space of time. These headwater streams are often suitable for simple fording or step-

36


stone installation. It is important to maintain a more natural feel on a low-use trail and to maintain a certain measure of challenge for the hiker. All stream crossings on the Bangor Trail should be built as simply as possible in order to preserve the primitive character of the trail. For example, Mr. Floyd is currently working on installing a new stone bridge at Scardaun waterfall in the Owenduff catchment. It will be Figure 89 - Potential 'Clapper' bridge at Scardaun (EPA Map)

a traditional stone Clapper Bridge made from large flag-

stones that are wide enough to safely cross. This will enhance the aesthetic appearance of the stream crossing and could serve as an iconic feature in the promotion of the Bangor Trail. Mr. Floyd recognises that the footbridge at Tarsaghaun has the potential to serve as an iconic bridge for the Bangor Trail. If properly designed and constructed appropriately it can serve to define the character of the trail for those hikers approaching it from Bangor. The existing footbridge was closed in June 2012 because it is unsafe Figure 90 - Stream crossing at Scardaun, February 2013

and in poor condition. However, the Mayo County Council have promised to repair the bridge in the next two months. According to Ms. Connor, the County Council are replacing the footbridge with the same design for the time being.

37


Figure 91 - Traditional 'Clapper' bridge (Geograph.org.uk)

The halfway shelter at Owenduff has the potential to enrich the visitors’ experience of the area. Any construction of the shelter should make use of the natural stone ruins and provide a large window facing out over Ballycroy National Park. This would allow hikers to enjoy the unique and remote landscape while sheltering from the rain. Likewise, the ruined house near Tarsaghaun Bridge could provide a simple structure and an attractive feature on the Bangor Trail. The stone should be reused in its construction so that it blends into the character of the landscape. It is important however that any development on the Bangor Trail be appropriate to its character. More intensive development should be confined to the areas adjacent to trailhead with the longer middle section left primitive. Trail structures in general should be kept to a minimum on the Bangor Trail. All major developments should be confined to the trailheads at Letterkeen and Bangor and these should be developed to orientate hikers and encourage visitors to walk the trail. Information boards at trailheads can play an essential role in introducing the visitor to a trail site. Since they are usually form the first impression a visitor has of a trail so they

38


should be carefully designed to reflect the character of the trail. Hikers will associate the quality and taste of the design and construction with the character of the trail. In more remote areas, a rustic and simple design with basic information is most appropriate. The information boards for trailheads on the Bangor Trail have the potential to attract more users to the trail. They should be substantial, three-sided structures with a roof to protect panels from the weather. For Birchard and Proudman (2000), “a roof adds a sense of permanence to the structure and invites people to spend more time than a few minutes looking at the information� (169). 5.4 Signage and Waymarking All essential information should be confined to the trailheads at the start of the Bangor Trail or to overnight facilities and picnic areas. According to Murphy (2011), information boards at trailheads can convey a great deal of information which prevents sign pollution on the trail itself. They can also be used to accomplish several things at once. They can serve as a means of welcoming the visitor to the trail. They can also Figure 92 - Signage and waymarker at the Letterkeen trailhead, December 2012

serve to “orient the trail

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user and provide information that will aid their safe and enjoyable use of the trail� (65). Trailhead information should include the length of the trail, the difficulty of the trail and the length of time it will take to walk for the average user. There can however, be an issue with clutter. If you overload visitors with information at the trailhead, they will not read the most important notices. One way to address this is to confine priority information to shelters and camp sites. For example, the trailhead at Letterkeen has information both for the loop walks and Bangor Trail. However, the new Lough Aroher Shelter is located at the junction where hikers either continue on the Bangor Trail or turn off for the Letterkeen Loop Walk. Information could be posted here specifically for those hikers leaving the Loop Walks and entering the Bangor Trail. Likewise, the halfway shelter at Owenduff could provide more interpretive information for those hikers resting and enjoying the scenery. Information at this point could focus on the topography, terrain, ecological and historical value of the surrounding landscape. This could serve to encourage hikers to leave the Bangor Trail on day-hikes to explore the surrounding lakes and mountains. Potential vista could be suggested on a map with wooden finger posts outside the shelter to indicate the initial directions for exploration. However, at this point of the Bangor Trail the hiker is in the heart of a wilderness landscape and as such, all walks that leave the trail should be self-willed and undefined in the landscape. Signage in general on the Bangor Trail should be kept to a minimum. According to the AMC Handbook (2008), good trail marking should “effortlessly guide the hiker along the route without intruding on the natural experience� (206). The standard waymark signs for national long-distance trails are approved by the National Trails Office. These are made from timber or recycled plastic with a simple yellow arrow and walking man symbol on both sides. The Bangor Trail uses green symbols and arrows to distinguish it from the yellow waymarks of the Western Way. 40


In the Srahmore section of the Bangor Trail there is some examples of make-shift cairns. These are an effect way of reassuring users that they are on the right trail and should be used sparingly and kept small. Cairns can be a good alternative to timber or plastic waymark posts and can be constructed from natural stone. Whenever possible, they should be located where they will be seen against the sky as background. These cairns should be built with squat, large bases to withstand strong winds and the pushing and rubbing of sheep. 5.5 The Trail Network Having organised the data I have gathered in the course of my research into a map, I will now present a model for the Bangor Trail as a trail network. This map identifies zones for the development of a variety of walking trails and highlights key locations for the provision of basic infrastructure. The map shows existing trail infrastructure, such as the Bangor Trail and Letterkeen loop walks, but it also introduces proposed loop walks and access trails along the Bangor Trail, such as the loop walk at Croaghaun Wood and access trail at Scardaun. Key facilities such as trailheads and shelters have been marked on the map and these areas should ideally serve to re-orientate hikers to their surroundings and encourage them to explore the trail further. The Bangor Trail is defined by the two trailheads at the start and finish of the trail. These trailheads can serve as starting points for several loop walks. Murphy (2011) recommends that loops walks should be placed closest to the trailhead since they offer the easiest grade of trail for the user. However, as the trail system moves away from the car park, visitors ‘should expect to experience more rugged and demanding trails’ (16). The areas around Letterkeen and Bangor Trailheads should serve as buffer zones for the Bangor Trail. Most essential development should be confined to these zones. The footbridge at Tarsaghaun and the Lough Aroher hut should serve as gateways to the wilderness. These

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should be developed to impress on hikers that they are entering a more remote and primate environment. The halfway shelter in the Owenduff catchment is positioned at the heart of Bangor Trail and has the potential to serve as an overnight facility. This structure essentially bisects the trail in half and has the advantage of creating a target for walkers on the trail to push on and rest, dry the gear and re-orientate themselves at this point of the trail. Bunks could be provided for sleeping, a fresh water supply and a stove. The shelter could have a window which provides a view of the Owenduff catchment. From this point the hikers can explore the landscape in all directions with the reassurance of being able to return to the shelter for rest and recovery. This should encourage hikers to leave the linear Bangor Trail and explore the surrounding landscape. The development of an access trail from the Bangor Trail to the twin lakes of Scardaun Lough would allow hikers to enjoy panoramic views of the vast expanse of Atlantic blanket bog that makes up Ballycroy National Park. The trail would climb over the top of Nephin Beg and Slieve Carr and connect the hiker to the Western Way to the western side of the mountains. This could provide an alternative way of returning to the trailhead at Letterkeen. An ascent to the prehistoric cairn on the summit of Slieve Carr can be done in a day with an option for hikers to return to the halfway homestead. Also, the shelter would be an ideal location for an electronic counter to provide data on the number of trail users from Letterkeen to Bangor. Here hikers can relax, rest and learn about the area. Two other huts can serve to further divide the trail at Lough Aroher and Tarsaghaun Bridge and can serve as starting points for loop walks and day-hikes. The Lough Aroher hut was constructed by Mountain Meitheal in July 2012 and is situated at the junction between the Letterkeen Loop Walk and the Bangor Trail. A stone shelter could be constructed at Tarsaghaun which could serve a similar function at the junction of the Bangor Trail and the proposed Croaghaun Wood Loop Walk. Tarsaghaun Bridge would be an ideal location for an electronic counter to monitor trail usage in the area. 42


6. Conclusion The condition of the Bangor Trail has declined in recent years and this has had an adverse effect on the number of users of the trail. Waterlogging and bog encroachment are the biggest problems with the trail and regular trail maintenance is required in order to address this. At present the Bangor Trail fails to meet National Waymarking standards and remains uninsured. Key structures on the trail are in disrepair and the footbridge at Tarsaghaun will remain closed for the next few months. However, maintenance work is ongoing and it is expected that the Bangor Trail will be reclassified as an official long-distance waymarked way by the end of 2013. Several loop walks have been developed at the Letterkeen trailhead which is very popular with a variety of walking groups. There is a proposed loop walk for Croaghaun Wood which will be to the Bangor Trail at Tarsaghaun. The Wild Nephin Project will also have an impact on the future development of the Bangor Trail network. Since the Bangor Trail passes through a ‘wild’ and primitive landscape, its maintenance and development should be sustainable and non-intrusive. The trail itself has the potential to play a key role in conservation and access to the site. It can serve to keep hikers on the trail, to keep them dry and to protect the fragile habitats through which they pass. As such, the trail itself needs to be managed and maintained on a regular basis. It is, by definition, an artificial construction in the landscape. However, if managed correctly it has the potential to blend into its surroundings and enrich the hikers’ experience of the area. The ultimate aim is to attract more users by the sustainable development of the Bangor Trail as a trail network.

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McVeagh, J., (ed.), 1995, Richard Pococke’s Irish Tour, Irish Academic Press, Cambridge. Murphy, B., 2011, The Mountain Meitheal Handbook of Trail Design and Construction, Ross Print Services Ltd., Wicklow. Murphy, B., 2012, ‘Nephin Beg Wilderness’, Irish Mountain Log, Issue No. 103, pp. 32-6. National Trails Office, 2011, A Guide to Planning and Developing Recreational Trails in Ireland, accessed November 2012, from http://www.irishtrails.ie/National_Trails_Office/Publications/Trail_Development/Guide_to_Pla nning_and_Developing_Recreational_Trails_in_Ireland.pdf

National Trails Office, 2006, Classification and Grading for Recreation Trails, accessed January 2013, from http://www.irishtrails.ie/National_Trails_Office/Publications/trails_classification.pdf

National Trails Office, 2007, Irish Trails Strategy, accessed October 2012, from http://www.irishtrails.ie/National_Trails_Office/Irish_Trails_Strategy/Irish_Trails_Strategy_20 07.pdf

National Trails Office, 2008, Management Standards for Recreational Trails, accessed January 2013, from http://www.irishtrails.ie/National_Trails_Office/Publications/Management_Standards.pdf

National Trails Office, 2009, Setting New Directions: A Review of National Waymarked Ways in Ireland, accessed November 2012, from http://www.irishtrails.ie/National_Trails_Office/Publications/NTO_Review.pdf

NPWS, 2006, National Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation Plan for 2005-2010: Owenduff/Nephin Complex SAC and SPA, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. O’Sullivan, D., 2002, National Parks as a Model for Recreational Land Access, GMIT, Castlebar. Pilcher, J. and Hall, V., 2001, Flora Hibernica, The Collins Press, Cork. Praeger, R.L., 1937, The Way That I Went, The Collins Press, Cork. Seabrooke, W. and Milnes, C., 1993, Recreational Land Management, E&FN Spon, London. Trapp, S., 1994, Signs, Trails and Wayside Exhibits: Connecting People and Places, Foundation Press, Wisconsin. Whelan, T., 1991, Nature Tourism: Managing for the Environment, Island Press, U.S.A. Wood, D., 1992, The Power of Maps, The Guilford Press, New York.

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Online References Appalachian Mountain Club, accessed October 2012, from www.outdoors.org Appalachian Trail Conservancy, accessed October 2012, from www.appalachiantrail.org Ballycroy National Park website, accessed September 2012, from http://www.ballycroynationalpark.ie/history.html British Conservation Volunteers, accessed October 2012, from www.btcv.org.uk Coillte website with information on Outdoor Recreational Trails in Ireland, accessed October 2012, from www.coillteoutdoors.ie Grandon, R., July 2012, Mountain Meitheal Complete Shelter on the Bangor Trail, accessed September 2012, from http://www.mountaineering.ie/news/viewdetails.asp?ID=714 Hoban, B., Feb 2003, The Joys of Walking: The Bangor Experience, accessed September 2012, from http://www.castlebar.ie/news/bangor_trail.shtml Mountain Meitheal, accessed October 2012, from www.pathsavers.org Murphy, B., 2012, Walking The Bangor Trail with Lenny, accessed September 2012, from http://tourismpurewalking.com/tag/bangor-trail/ Plan to Develop Erris into Top Tourist Attraction, The Connaught Telegraph, April 2010, accessed September 2012, from http://www.connaughttelegraph.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4 66:plan-to-develop-erris-into-top-tourist-attraction&catid=72:editorial&Itemid=139 President Mary McAleese conquers Bangor Trail, The Western People, accessed October 2012, from www.westernpeople.ie/news/story.asp?j=15229 The Bangor Trail: The Very Loneliest Place, The Irish Times, February 2012, accessed September 2012, from http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/travel/2012/0218/1224311874386.html Westport Enjoy the Beautiful Bangor Trail, The Connaught Telegraph, May 2010, accessed September 2012, from http://www.con-telegraph.ie/opinion/melvine/566westport-enjoy-the-bangor-trail

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Appendix A – Glossary of Terms Berm: Debris that has built up on the outside of the tread, forming a barrier that prevents water from sheeting quickly off the trail. Buffer Zone: The land area on each side of the trail treadway. Carrying Capacity: The maximum number of people who can use a site without an unacceptable decline in the quality of the experience gained by visitors. Commonage: An undivided area of land which is either owned by more than one person or where the rights to use the land are owned by more than one person. Erosion: A natural process in which soils are worn away by wind, water, and other natural elements. Hardeners: Objects used to eliminate the impact of foot travel through wet areas. Sidehill Trail: Cut into the side of a hill, the trail gains elevation by moving up a slope and gradually following the contour. Slough: The name given to soil, rock, and silt that has accumulated on the inside of the tread, narrowing the walkway. Stringers: A horizontal structure in a bog bridge or boardwalk that runs parallel to the rail and gives support to the bridge. Sustainable Development: Development that meets the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Trail: A linear corridor that leads from one point to another. Trailhead: The beginning of a trail. Treadway: The walking surface upon which the hiker makes direct contact with the ground.

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Appendix B – My Work Log Sunday 20th January 2013 Conditions: Dry, cold weather Walking from Brogan Carroll Bothy to Owenduff catchment GPS Points:

1) Brogan Carroll Bothy and footbridge at Altaconey (looking East)

2) Step-stones crossing a stream

3) Footbridge crossing 50


Comments: The bothy is 25km from Bangor and 14km from Newport. On the section from Altaconey to the footbridge there is evidence of some trail hardening. Rocks are laid in wetter sections but no structural maintenance work carried out. A drain has been cut to relieve excess water on the river edge. The trail follows the margins of the river and is mainly low-lying. There are no steep exertions. Waymarkers are visible without being too intrusive.

4) Stream crossing (cement, 1.5m wide)

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5) Blue Loop Turnoff

6) New 6m bridge installed at stream crossing beside a Holly tree feature

7) Step Stones

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Comments: On this section of the Bangor Trail there are some issues with drainage and there are signs of some trail hardening – step stones. There is a tendency to walk to one side of the trail and stray from the thread surface when it is waterlogged. The main priority is to stay dry. The loop section of the Bangor Trail shows some development. There is a good amount of signage and some variety with a mix of signposts, rock blazes and cairns. 8) Log retainers – wet peaty soil, 20m section.

9) Red loop turnoff

10) Purple loop turnoff and Shelter (note: warning of closure notice for those hikers continuing on the Bangor Trail past this point).

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11) Lough Aroher Shelter (looking NWW)

Comments: On this section of the Bangor Trail: some evidence of maintenance on loop section of the trail. There is good signage. Reasonably good thread surface. A lot of walkers on this section of the Bangor Trail (noted ten vehicles in total). 12) Enclosure 13) Stream crossing [140], 2m wide

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14) Old tree and stream crossing Comments: Trail surface up to the farmstead is okay. Solid. Rocky. 2.5m wide in most places. Water is flowing from right to left across the trail and coming from the higher ground. Some minor drainage is needed (crossbars, dips and outsloping) to alleviate flow. Further on there is a change in elevation with a steep gradient. Here the path zig-zags in switchbacks. At this point the conditions are very poor – wet – flowing water, as the grade increases. There is bog encroachment and it is the first place on the Bangor Trail from Letterkeen where I got my feet wet. At the farmstead there is evidence of walls along the road. The waypoints are faded and the distance is illegible. The trail improves again on the high ground. I finished my survey within sight of the Owenduff catchment and Sliabh Carr. Saturday 26th January 2013 Conditions: Mist, Rain and Wind, Mild weather Walking from Owenduff catchment to Halfway Shelter (with detour to Scardaun Lough) Comments: The section from last work log to 1st stream crossing: Rocky well-defined trail with some waterlogging at low points. Drainage and waterbars are needed. The trail drops to low ground in the Owenduff catchment. There are walls on the higher side which defines the trail but there is much bog encroachment. Grouse droppings along the trail and spaits. GPS Points:

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15) Stream Crossing [WM 150], 2m wide

Comments: Easy to cross but can flood quickly with heavy rains. Step stones. The old cattle trail to Srahduggan runs SW of the trail. Seriously waterlogged section for about 70m. 16) Crossing downstream of waterfall, 3m wide, looking West

Comments: Issue: flash flooding. The step stones are covered by water and need to be more defined. There is potential for a spur trail here; due East 500m is Scardaun Lough with beautiful vista of the Owenduff catchment. Spur trail to Scardaun Lough following the stream and waterfalls. There is a great view and opportunity to return again via the same route. There is a link to the Western Way on the other side to form a larger loop. Possible issue might be the Wild Nephin Project which may place future restrictions on access and trail development for that area. After this I passed through a very wet section of the trail until I came to another stream crossing.

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17) Smaller stream crossing, 1m wide

Comments: Issue: flash flooding (evidence of erosion and siltation). Weak GPS signal here. 2 Grouse rose from the heather. 18) Stream crossing beside old farmstead – minor stream 19) The Halfway Shelter (Nephin Beg and Scardaun waterfall in the background)

Comments: The shelter consists of a galvanised shed within the substantial standing remains of an old house. There is a large hole in the roof of the shelter and the continuous rain has rotted the plywood floor. There is significant potential for development for these ruins as an overnight stopping point on the trail. Bangor is 15km from this shelter. Newport is 23.5km. The existing stone remains should be used to blend the shelter into the landscape. There is some information present in the shelter highlighting the history of the area, access and behaviour on the trail, flora and fauna, placenames and translations. A proper bulletin board should be erected here for hikers to relax, rest and learn about the area. At present, there are inadequate facilities for sleeping; the benches are too 57


narrow, there is a large hole in the roof and everything is wet and miserable. What facilities need to be provided? Bunks for beds or sleeping bags, fresh water supply (nearby stream), fire, a window looking out over the magnificent Owenduff catchment, toilets. There are dates and names carved on the timber dating to 1996 which means that this galvanised shed is at least 17 years old. 20) Waterfall with platform for vista of Owenduff catchment looking SW

Comments: It is important to have targets for people to push themselves on. It provides a focus for people – a destination. The shelter also functions as a target. Other potential targets in this area include the great cairn on corslieve, Laghtdaughybaun which may be a Bronze Age burial site or the panoramic view from Scardaun Lough. I came across a Dipper in the stream on the ascent. 21) The Pass between the mountains at Scardaun Lough

Comments: The key issue with the Bangor Trail is the high levels of rainfall. Drainage is the main type of work needed on the lower trail to alleviate waterlogging and divert water flow.

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Sunday 3rd February 2013 Conditions: Misty, Dull weather; no Rain Walking from Tarsaghaun Bridge to Bangor GPS Points:

22) Ruined House at Tarsaghaun Bridge [WM 150]

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23) Tarsaghaun Bridge and Puncheon

Comments: Puncheon Bridge – 7m long, 4 beams of treated cut timber; sits on beams (stringers); nails for grip; crosses a permanent stream joining the river; the area is prone to flooding. Tarsaghaun Bridge – narrow footbridge, high span (20m), steel frame, concrete posts, width between the rails 46cm; the bridge is unsafe and at present access to the Bangor Trail is closed for the indefinite future. There is some signage notifying hikers of the dangerous conditions of the footbridge; the timbers are visibly rotten; the bridge shakes when you touch it, the steel is rotted away underneath and it is very unstable; the Bangor Trail is effectively closed since this is the only point of access across the Tarsaghaun River. There is no date given for repair work to be carried out [Ask Mayo County Council and NPWS] Between Tarsaghaun Bridge and the boardwalk there are cross-drains installed approximately every 50m along the trail. The cross-drains are stone-lined; they are effective at alleviating the water and the tread surface is easier to walk. There is a good flow of water across the trail with little water accumulating on the tread. These drains are about 12 inches wide and 8 inches deep. There is however inconsistent spacing between cross-drains, they disrupt walking on the trail and many are cross the trail horizontally rather than at an angle of 45°. When the cross-drains are horizontal the water flows in from all angles into the drain and pooling occurs. Also the rocks are not firmly set in the ground and will be dislodged by footfall over time. Aesthetically the cross-drains blend well with the overall trail surface and there is evidence that the stone was taken from along the trail. Natural stone is also used as definers at places to line the edge of the trail; these definers are unnecessary and inappropriate since they give an unnatural appearance to the trail and ruin the aesthetic of the Bangor Trail.

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24) Start of the Boardwalk, looking NNE

Comments: The trail surface has been hardened at both ends of the boardwalk with solid packed stone. The boardwalk is 2 beams wide and constructed from blackened timber which blends in with the surroundings. There are no straight lines; these beams rest on horizontal beams or ‘stringers’. There is also newer, untreated timber. Nails are used for grip and at drain crossings the boardwalk widens to 3 beams. Heard grouse and saw two rise from the heather nearby. 25) End of the Boardwalk [WM 160], Overall length: 123m Comments: It is quite wet on this section of the trail and there is evidence of recent work carried out on the trail (in Summer 2012 maybe? Ask NPWS). Drains are dug at low points to alleviate water-logging. 26) Start of Extensive Trail Maintenance

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Comments: The surface has been cleared of vegetation; the trail is clearly defined but is too artificial in places with clean cut edges and obvious construction – evidence that the trail has been over-constructed in places. Cross drains have been installed but most are horizontal rather than at 45°. It is much easier to walk this section of the trail, however there is some issues with aesthetics and erosion since a significant amount of soils and vegetation has been removed. 27) End of Trail Maintenance, about 220m long 28) Bangor Trailhead, looking South

Comments: There is no signage to orientate the users before they begin. There is space for cars to park but no official car park. There is no billboard or bulletin board and nothing to inform the hiker that they are about to undertake a long distance walk. There are two temporary signs informing users that the bridge at Tarsaghaun is unsafe to cross and that effectively, the Bangor Trail is closed for the indefinite future. A system of signage and information panelling should be installed at this trailhead in the future.

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Saturday 16th February 2013 Conditions: Wind, Mild weather Walking from the Halfway Shelter to Tarsaughaun Bridge Comments: Boggy sections of the trail with waterlogging at low points. Drainage and clearer waymarkers needed in sections. GPS Points: 29) Minor Stream Crossing, 1.5m

Comments: Easy to cross. Some Step stones. 30) Stream crossing with new bridge, 4m Comments: Issue: flash flooding. The bridge is concealed from a distance. Wooden structure – rustic appearance. Was this bridge necessary? There is quite a lot of erosion around the bank and there is some evidence of high water levels and rapid flow. 31) Smaller stream crossing Comments: Issue: flash flooding (evidence of erosion and siltation). Weak GPS signal here. 32) Tarsaughaun Bridge

Comments: Issue: the bridge is closed temporarily – very shaky and unstable. The span of the river is too wide for hikers to cross without a bridge. This effectively makes this section of 63


the Bangor Trail off-limits and cannot be completed coming from Newport. I must check with Anna Connor about the current situation with the bridge and when it is expected to reopen. At this point I had to turn back on the trail. There are ruins at the bridge that could be converted into overnight facilities for walkers – even a daytime shelter would be good at this point to stop and enjoy the scenery, stay dry and have lunch. Sunday 2nd March 2013 Conditions: Mist, Rain and Wind, Mild weather Walking to Scardaun Lough via Western Way GPS Points: 33) Corrie lake Comments: An excellent feature in the landscape. Boggy around the margins – may be issues with erosion from footfall. Quite sheltered between Sliabh Carr and Nephin Beg. Provides a nice environment in itself; surrounded on all sides by mountains – could be a spur loop of the Bangor Trail or potentially a linking trail between the Western Way an the Bangor Trail. Depends on the Wild Nephin Project. The Bronze Age cairn on Sliabh Carr is visible and could provide another potential target for hikers. 34) The Pass between the mountains at Scardaun Lough

Comments: Great panoramic view of Ballycroy National Park. Great attraction for walkers. Not much signage needed for a potential spur trail here. 35) Mountain Pass

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GPS locations for key features identified on the Bangor Trail:

65


Map of the Bangor Trail with GPS coordinates:

66


67


Appendix C – NPWS Work Log Extracts from Leonard Floyd’s Work Log, Conservation Ranger for NPWS

Srahgraddy (Trailhead at Bangor)

68


Muingnahalloona

69


70


71


Tarsaghaun

72


73


74


75


Tawnasheffin

76


Owenduff

77


Scardaun

78


Srahmore

79


80


Letterkeen

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Appendix D – Interviews Interview with Mr. Leonard Floyd NPWS Conservation Ranger 24th March 2013 Q. Is there any data on the number of users of the Bangor Trail?

Data was gathered of the number of users of the Letterkeen Loop Walks by Mayo South West Development Company a few years ago. A counter was installed at Altaconey Bridge however the majority of users recorded on it were undertaking the shorter Loop Walks. The ideas would be to have a counter installed at the halfway point of the Bangor Trail to get data on the number of users of the long-distance linear walk. The counter at Altaconey Bridge is no longer used.

Q. Are there any current issues with sections of the Bangor Trail?

The condition of the Bangor Trail is holding it back. Until the trail meets National Waymark Way standards it cannot be insured by Mayo County Council and consequently the trail is not promoted on their website. Currently any walkers on the trail are uninsured. An assessment of the trail was carried out by John Monaghan in 2008 and a report was made. He made recommendations to ensure that the trail meets the requirements of the Long-Distance Waymarked trails of the National Trails Office. Work is currently underway to upgrade it. There is a Work Log current under construction for the Bangor Trail. Maintenance work is expected to begin on the next section of trail in about two months. Contractors are due in for May 2013 and current assessment of the trail need to be completed by then.

Tarsaghaun Bridge was closed in June 2012 because it was considered unsafe. The Mayo County Council have promised to repair the bridge in the next two months. Land on both sides of the river is owned by the NPWS. The construction of an iconic bridge was proposed to replace the bridge at Tarsaghaun. This feature has the potential to market the trail and define the character of the trail for those approaching it from Bangor. However, a temporary replacement has been recommended in the meantime.

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Land ownership is the biggest issue for the Bangor Trail. If it wasn’t for private ownership trail maintenance would have been completed by now. Since not all the trail is on National Parks and Wildlife Service lands, they can only make assessments and recommendations for maintenance of certain sections of the trail. As it is you can’t throw resources into it if you’re not sure that you’ll have control over the work that needs to be done. At the end of the day, whatever the condition of the trail, you can’t stop people walking it. For example, the trailhead at Letterkeen is on Coillte land, the trailhead at Bangor is commonage and the halfway shelter is on land privately owned by Mr. Grealis. These three key features of the Bangor Trail are currently outside the direct control of the NPWS. A section in the middle of the trail is not part of Ballycroy National Park. This has implications on trail management and repairs.

Support for the development of the Bangor Trail must come from the local community. NPWS provides some local employment for the community. For example, 4 or 5 local workmen were employed for the maintenance work on the section between Bangor and Tarsaghaun in 2011 and 2012. In general however, the Mayo County Council tends to liaise with the local community and encourage their cooperation in relation to the Bangor Trail.

Q. What work is currently being done to improve the Bangor Trail?

A new Loop Walk has been proposed from Bangor to Tarsaghaunmore. Croghan Wood near Lagduff has recently been opened-up to the public by Coillte and there is a plan to link the forest road to the National Park.

A management plan is currently being prepared for the Bangor Trail.

Mr. Floyd is currently working on installing a new stone bridge at Scardaun waterfall in the Owenduff catchment. It will be a traditional English stone Clapper Bridge made from large flag-stones and wide enough to make it safe to cross.

[Mr. Floyd is also completing a work plan for the Bangor Trail which is due to be implemented in the next few weeks. He used a system of ‘chainage’ throughout his survey work to provide accurate locations for key areas of the Bangor Trail. This system

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of measurement is commonly used by the Mayo County Council for road work and involves extending measurements from a fixed point at the start of the survey. For example, a section of the trail where chainage is 16604 simply means that the point is 16km 604m away from the first point surveyed. This method of measurement is very useful because it can be easily translated using ArcView.]

Q. What kind of funding is available for maintenance and development of the Bangor Trail?

There are very little funds coming in at present for maintenance work of the trail. The NPWS received about â‚Ź30,000 for the last 2 years for labour and materials. The Mayo County Council is providing â‚Ź25,000 under a community grant scheme for 2013 as well as repairing Tarsaghaun Bridge. Overall however, there is not enough money to tackle the entire trail and only sections can be prioritised each year. The next section of maintenance work to be undertaken is the part of the trail that passes through low-lying sections of the Owenduff catchment. Money is coming in gradually and the aim it to get the 25km off-road section of the trail up to National Waymark standards and then promote it.

Q. Are there issues with signage and promotion of the Bangor Trail?

In future the Bangor Trail will officially start from Altaconey Bridge and not at Newport making it a purely off-road trail. Signage has already been removed from around Newport and the trail is no longer promoted. Mayo South West is responsible for the development of the Letterkeen Loop Walks. They share the same trailhead as the Bangor Trail but there is lack of coordination between authorities in maintaining consistent trail signage.

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Interview with Ms. Anna Connor Mayo County Council Walking Officer 5th March 2013 Q. What is the current condition of the Bangor Trail?

The Bangor Trail was developed as a long-distance waymarked way in the 1980s with the aim of meeting national standards of the time. An award-winning guidebook was developed by Mayo County Council (McDermott & Chapman) in order to promote the trail. However over the years the trail has fallen into disrepair and the bog has grown over it.

Q. So the trail doesn’t meet NTO standards and cannot be uninsured?

Yes. Standards have changed over the years and the Bangor Trail needs to meet them. An inspection report was carried out by the National Trails Office a few years ago which recommended key work that needed to be carried out to bring the Bangor Trail up to standard: 6) Install bridges at small stream crossings 7) Install short stretches of boardwalk on the wettest sections of the trail 8) Provide new waymarkers 9) Provide new information boards at trailheads 10) Remove all excess water off the trail surface

Q. What has been done to address this?

The Mayo County Council has teamed up with Fáilte Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in order to improve the trail and get it back to NTO standards. The plan is to upgrade the Bangor Trail and get it insured this year (2013). Both Fáilte Ireland and Mayo County Council provide supporting funds for this work. I received €30,000 this year for the work. Most of it will be handed over to the NPWS to carry out maintenance work and to helicopter in the materials. A lot of the materials are needed at difficult locations and there are issues with the remoteness of the site and environmental considerations that need to be taken into account.

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The National Parks and Wildlife Service are currently doing an environmental screening at Tarsaghaun Bridge for Mayo County Council and it is expect that the bridge will be replaced in the next few months. The same type of bridge will be put in place but it is hoped that a more iconic bridge will be developed in the foreseeable future.

Q. The Wild Nephin Project will involve the removal of a lot of infrastructure and the restoration of wilderness to the area. Will it be necessary to implement all the recommendations made by the NTO for the upgrade of the Bangor Trail?

It is important that the work carried out on the Bangor Trail does not infringe on the environment. The National Parks and Wildlife Service do environment assessments of any work that is carried out on the trail. However, with concerns for walker comfort and liability it is recommended by the National Trails Office that sections of the trail be upgraded and that stream crossings be provided. Most of these bridges that are recommended will only consist of railway-style sleepers spanning any stream crossings that are 1m wide or more.

Q. What about signage? Will they be in keeping with waymark standards too?

All new signage will be provided after the main maintenance work has been carried out. This will include signage at trailheads. For example, at the Letterkeen trailhead the old signs will be taken down and replaced by newer, cleaner versions of the same panels. The stone display will remain the same and there is no plan to provide a kiosk-style bulletin board. At Bangor trailhead there is going to be a new car park for trail users and trailhead information will be provided in new display cases. There will still be signage at Newport directing users to the Bangor Trail but the start of the trail itself will be now be located at Letterkeen.

Q. Is there any data on the number of users of the Bangor Trail?

Over the years the biggest users of the Bangor Trail have been European and International visitors that come to enjoy the wilderness experience. Also keen walking clubs often walk the trail in groups but there is no current data on the annual number of users of the Bangor Trail.

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Q. Is there plans to develop any shelters along the trail?

There are plans to update the halfway shelter. The Mayo County Council will need to liaise with local landowners and as yet there is no specific plan for what kind of shelter will be installed. However, it might be in the same style as the recently constructed Lough Aroher Hut at Letterkeen. Mountain Meitheal carried out work on the shelter last summer and Bill Murphy, the head of the Wild Nephin Project, is a leading member in Mountain Meitheal so he would have good knowledge on sustainable trail development. The Foxford Ramblers Association came together in recent years for a workshop with the aim of establishing a meitheal here in Mayo. They carried out some work on the Foxford Way but at present their interest lies in maintaining trails in their own area.

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Appendix E – Letterkeen Counter Data Sample of the raw data from the counter data at Altaconey Bridge: D >>>>>>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Factory:_B4.14_C2.81_F8127_EY_ME_D1 =DOCK TIME (yy-mm-dd hh:mm):11-04-11 15:07:25 Counter log start ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ System check... *****V9.0d S/N100527 (c) 2001-2010***** TRAFx Research Ltd. www.trafx.net Fx:F6E0R1M3T2T_c26f26L33LN4P0A0E2_m064I2_d Sets:N:H:001:030:E:060:000:F:Y:F:016:000:Y:000 *Serial Number: 1006Vu *Counter name: Letterkeen Loops *Mode: Infrared (IR+) *Batt. Voltage: 4.4 *Stored records: 01322 =TIME (yy-mm-dd hh:mm):11-04-11,15:08:22 =START(yy-mm-dd hh:mm):11-02-15,15:00 PERIOD (1/24/0=Timestamps): 001 DELAY (see manual): 030 11-02-15,15:00,00005,00000 11-02-15,16:00,00003,00000 11-02-15,17:00,00000,00000 11-02-15,18:00,00000,00000 11-02-15,19:00,00000,00000 11-02-15,20:00,00000,00000 11-02-15,21:00,00000,00000 11-02-15,22:00,00000,00000 11-02-15,23:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,00:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,01:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,02:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,03:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,04:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,05:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,06:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,07:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,08:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,09:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,10:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,11:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,12:00,00003,00000 11-02-16,13:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,14:00,00000,00000

11-02-16,15:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,16:00,00002,00000 11-02-16,17:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,18:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,19:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,20:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,21:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,22:00,00000,00000 11-02-16,23:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,00:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,01:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,02:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,03:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,04:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,05:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,06:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,07:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,08:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,09:00,00000,00000 11-02-17,10:00,00000,00000

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I took the raw data that I got from Cathleen Fergus, Rural Recreation Officer for Mayo South West Development Company, and I broke the figures down by month and year.

I was then able to add the figures together and plot the totals in a graph. Number of Walkers 600

500

400

300

200

100

0 Aug-11

Sep-11

Oct-11

Nov-11

Dec-11

Jan-12

Feb-12

Mar-12

Apr-12

May-12

Jun-12

Jul-12

Aug-12

Sep-12

This graph indicates walker trends from August 2011 to September 2012. The highest volume of traffic beginning the Bangor Trail at Letterkeen is in the drier summer months with very little usage during the winter. These figures are representative of the number of users of both the Bangor Trail and the Letterkeen Loop Walks. There is no data available for those walking the Bangor Trail exclusively however this data does indicate that there is significant traffic at the Letterkeen trailhead throughout the year which would justify the further development of information facilities at this location. From October 2011 to September 2012: 2574 walkers were recorded at Altaconey Bridge.

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Appendix F – Maps Croaghaun Wood Loop Walk (Coillte)

90


Nephin Wilderness Area Map (Coillte) (Note the trail route via Scardaun linking the Bangor Trail to the Western Way).

91


Management Zones Map (NPWS)

92


Geology Map (GSI)

93


EPA GeoPortal Subsoil Map

Blanket Peat = (brown), Rock = (yellow)

94


NPWS Boundary Map

95


Appendix G – Photographs

Tarsaghaun Bridge before the construction of the sleeper bridge (Leonard Floyd, 2011)

Tarsaghaun Bridge after the construction of the sleeper bridge (February 2013) 96


Maintenance work at Tarsaghaun, February 2013

Electronic counter at Altaconey Bridge, December 2012 97


Owenduff catchment looking north towards the halfway shelter, February 2013

View of waterfall and stream under Scardaun Lough, February 2013

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View from halfway shelter at Owenduff, February 2013

Trailhead at Brogan Carroll Bothy, December 2012

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Lough Aroher Hut, January 2013

Lough Aroher hut, looking towards Glennamong

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The Potential for the Sustainable Development of the Bangor Trail  

A survey of existing conditions on the Bangor Trail and a proposal for the best means of maintaining and developing the long-distance trail...

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