Nature is all around at the former Doon Covent
THE sun came out for the staff and students of Doon Convent NS as we explored the social farm and the Kilmoylan Bog Trail. The first day was spent on the grounds of the social farm. As we entered the old nuns’ garden there was plenty of bumblebees feeding on the flowers.
These humble creatures are very important for us as they pollinate our flowers and crops.
The old convent has only been abandoned for about ten years but nature has started to reclaim its lost territory. The former tennis court was awash with ox-eyed daises and these had attracted a few unusual visitors.
We caught a cinnabar moth and because of its bright red and black colours it is often mistaken for a butterfly. The red colour warns predators like birds that it is unpleasant to eat. The old fashioned roses were also in flower and they have a divine scent.
The social farm are developing a dedicated outdoor classroom that can be used by schools and also other groups. This will be a great space to learn about nature, do a Leaving Cert ecology project or just relax in the great outdoors.
We started off by visiting the chickens and it is so important for kids to see where their food comes from. This new awareness re- connects them with their food and helps protect the environment. Their organic eggs are also for sale in the shop with other organic vegetables. The students fed the chickens some lettuce and they loved this tasty treat.
Down at the outdoor classroom we did pond dipping and caught whirligig beetles and fresh water shrimp. This snap sample is encouraging in terms of water quality. We then headed to the wildflower meadow and examined the diversity of wildflowers.
The next day was spent on the Kilmoylan Bog Trail. On the way down the sides of the student walkway were covered in wildflowers. One of the most interesting was bird’s-foot trefoil or because of its yellow and red colour, bacon and eggs. The bees were very active and we caught a large red tailed queen bumblebee.
The student had great fun with the stickyback or cleavers. They even made a stickyback student. The sides of the path were full of wildflowers and butterflies.
The common species of butterfly were the small white and the speckled wood. The latter is mainly brown with creamy white markings and prefers the dapple shade of the woodland or mature hedgerow.
Stichwort has medium sized white flowers and was once used for stopping the flow of blood from a wound. One of the teachers explained that when she was a little girl she fell of her bicycle and badly cut her leg.
A neighbour who had a great knowledge around the traditional uses of plants went to the hedge and gathered up a fistful of stichwort. This was applied to the wound and the bleeding stopped and she got no scar.
The Tidy Towns have erected information panels and these made great stopping points to chat around the birds, insects and plants. There was just time for a quick picnic before a last minute dash back for the bus.
Thanks to all the staff and students in Doon Convent NS and the Doon Social Farm for accommodating the visit.
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