Another great readers picture from Shane O'Brien from Castleconnell
THIS week we finished our walk around Castletroy. Next we find a true survivor, a centuries old lime tree. Old trees are such a precious habitat and a direct connection to generations past. High in its branches we heard a chaffinch calling and he might build his nest there in the spring. Vetch is still in flower and its flowers are visited by long tongued bumblebees.
Old walls if managed sensitively can be excellent habitats for nature. The one under the lime tree has a rich community of plants. Wall rue, red dead nettle, bramble, ivy and Polypody fern. The next section is shaded by a big conifer tree and has also been badly repointed. There are only a few amenic nettles surviving here.
We turned on to the Limerick University road and thankfully the traffic was still light. We took out time savouring the variety of plants in people’s gardens. Hebe and the white flowers of winter viburnum brighten up any dull winter’s day.
At the edge of a large green space in front of a housing estate, mountain ash and crap apple are growing. We found a few crap apples and birds like blackbirds and thrushes love to eat apples. There is also the decaying stump of a large tree. There is often more life is rotting timber that when the tree was alive. Willow trees dry out wet ground and also have catkins in spring for bees.
In Oak lawns housing estate one gardener has masses of hydrangeas and I love the use of just a single species. By the edge of the path there is one yellow flower on creeping buttercup. If this area is left uncut ragwort will follow suit in high summer. The next garden is mature and shady and we heard a dunnock singing there. This is a shy and retiring species and likes to have deep cover.
In the fading light we head a magpie calling. He is well hidden in the tall conifer trees across the road. A hawthorn tree has been left to grow in a garden and old man’s beard is also dangling from the trees. Housesparrows and starlings are getting ready to roost on an ivy covered gable wall.
An enterprising gardener has created a tropical feel in his garden by using phormiums and leafy pittosporum in pots. They also have a yew hedge around their property. This is expensive and slow growing but makes a magnificent boundary. In many of the houses the Limerick flags are still proudly fluttering.
We turned left just before the entrance to UL. A darkening grove of beech, lime and sycamore trees hid a singing robin. Our peace was soon shattered when we hit a wall of traffic as we emerged by onto the main road.
The path was narrow and with hunger kicking in we did only a few stops. Pellitory of the wall, valerian and maidenhair spleenwort are incredible hardy wall plants and also don’t seem to suffer ill effects from car fumes.
I loved the next section as there is an old mile stone giving the distances to Nenagh and Ballina. Also there are some of the biggest trees found outside of the parks. Horsechestnut and sycamore that must be a few hundred years old. Elderberry and privet are far smaller and younger but are equally important for wildlife.
Our walks ends with a roasting bag of chips to warm frozen ads and bodies.
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