It’s all about Partnership in the Dublin Mountains
For over a decade, the Dublin Mountains Partnership has been working to make the hills around the capital more accessible, more sustainable and more fun for everyone. In the first of a series of blogs, Recreation Manager Clodagh Duffy introduces the DMP and sets out its programme of work.
A sign for the Dublin Mountains Way, a waymarked trail that guides walkers through the Dublin Mountains forests
There is so much to see in the Dublin Mountains
Located within touching distance of Ireland’s capital, the Dublin Mountains offer a wealth of recreation opportunities: from walking, mountain biking and mountain running, to orienteering and equestrian pursuits. The Dublin Mountains are also uniquely rural, sitting in an upland farming landscape where fields and commonage grazed by sheep lie beside Coillte forests and recreation trails. This is also a landscape of important habitats, including heaths and blanket bog, and protected species such as Red Grouse, frogs and a diverse range of other flora and fauna.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in recreational visitors across Ireland and also in people noticing and connecting with nature more so than previously.
The Dublin Mountains Partnership is working to make the area better for everyone
The Dublin Mountains Partnership (DMP), working with Coillte Nature’s Dublin Mountains Makeover team, would like to build on this positive momentum while protecting the mountains’ farming and biodiversity interests and having a positive impact on the rural communities of the Dublin mountains.
The DMP partner organisations are the Dublin Mountains Initiative (whose affiliated member organisations are Mountaineering Ireland, Cycling Ireland, Orienteering Ireland, Irish Mountain Running Association and Scouting Ireland), National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Coillte.
When the partners came together in 2008 to form the Dublin Mountains Partnership, there were two key objectives:
- To improve the recreation opportunities in the Dublin Mountains for the citizens of Dublin and beyond in a sustainable way both in trail design, access and impact on rural communities
- To work together to influence how Coillte managed their Dublin forests from a principally commercial forestry objective to one prioritising recreation and biodiversity.
Orienteering in the Dublin Mountains
We invest in tracks and trails for walkers, hikers, orienteers and mountain bikers
Since then, the DMP has invested in recreation infrastructure across the Dublin Mountains including the development of the 42 km Dublin Mountains Way national way-marked walking route between Tallaght and Shankill. In addition, there are looped walking trails in all of the recreation sites across the Dublin Mountains from Slievethoul and Lugg in the west to Carrickgollogan and Barnaslingan in the east.
Ticknock Forest, as well as being Coillte’s most visited recreation site, is a centre for mountain biking with 15km of single track mountain bike trails with plans to expand this network in 2021 supported by Fáilte Ireland funding. Four of the Dublin Mountains forests have permanent orienteering courses, a really fun way to explore the forests and brush up on map reading skills. The development of designated equestrian trails is being explored in 2020.
Through the DMP Volunteer Rangers programme, currently stood down due to COVID-19, the DMP engages with the public through weekly walks and events, at which the Volunteer Rangers share their knowledge and love of the Dublin mountains with the public.
We tackle the big problems: dog attacks, littering and poor car parking
The popularity of the Dublin Mountains brings big challenges, including some serious negative impacts for adjoining landowners and residents. Dogs attacks on sheep have been an issue, with sheep kills and injuries reported in the past two years. Disturbance of vulnerable wildlife like the Red Grouse (below) by people and dogs is also an issue: many of the upland birds are ground nesting (like Red Grouse) and are therefore particularly vulnerable in the spring and summer.
Irresponsible car parking has resulted in County roads being impassable for emergency vehicles and farm machinery. There has also been a very noticeable increase in littering in recent months.
The DMP and Coillte work with Leave No Trace Ireland, the Gardai, County Councils and national organisations to promote responsible visitor behaviour so that a visit to the Dublin Mountains is a positive experience for everyone.
Red Grouse is a Red Listed (protected) bird species that nests in the upland heath
We’re also responsible for the vision that led to the Dublin Mountains Makeover
The Dublin Mountains Makeover has its origins in the DMP: from the outset, the Dublin Mountains Initiative was advocating for a change in how Coillte’s Dublin forests were managed. That vision is now beginning to be realised with commencement of the first Continuous Cover Forestry harvesting operations and the development of long-term forest management plans that focus on recreation and biodiversity, for future generations to enjoy.
The Dublin Mountains Partnership’s first Recreation Manager, Karen Woods, is now the Coillte Nature Operations Manager overseeing the Dublin Mountains Makeover – this is important continuity.
This is the first in a series of blogs from the DMP linking with the Dublin Mountains Makeover. Future blogs will look at the DMP’s Volunteer Ranger programme, what each of the nine forests in the Dublin Mountains Makeover project have on offer to the recreational visitor, how the DMP is working to overcome the challenges faced in managing Dublin Mountains in a sustainable and responsible way and how the positives of COVID-19 in terms of the increase in people discovering the outdoors and connecting with nature can be built upon.