New walking trails opened in Laragh

The village of Laragh recently hosted the official opening of several new trails to add to county Wicklow’s growing network of recreational trails.

A large crowd gathering close to the entrance to Ballard Wood for the first of the trails to be officially opened, the recently completed Ballard Wood looped trail. The 2.2km loop is suitable for all ages and takes a meandering path through a mixed forest and along the banks of the renowned Avonmore River.

With a particular focus on restorative wellbeing in the design, there are a number of seats installed to provide a place to reflect and enjoy the peaceful setting to its fullest. The trail itself features many natural elements, and in keeping with both a low carbon footprint objective and a desire to work in partnership with local nature, all materials used during construction of the trail were sourced on location – including three beautiful oak timber sculptors created by Shane O’Drea.

Detailing the journey of its creation and thanking all involved, Finian McEvoy and Judy Doyle of the Laragh-Glendalough Tidy Towns, opened proceedings before being joined by Cathaoirleach for County Wicklow, Shay Cullen.

A lovely addition to the presentation before the ribbon-cutting, came from retired Father Michael Rogers and Sister Breda who both recited selected poetry that included work from the late Nobel Laureate and former Wicklow resident, Seamus Heaney.The special guest who kindly did the honour of cutting the ribbon before a rapturous applause, was Bridie Stacey (nee Ward), who shared fond memories of exploring the woodland since the 1930’s.….

The second official opening, held shortly after many of the guests walked the Ballard Wood Trail, and on the other side of the village, was for the Brockagh Trails – consisting of three new waymarked trails of varying distances and incline.

The Red Loop that offers a moderate 8.1km trail full of panoramic views and mountainside forest roads, as well as multiple links to open mountain paths within the Wicklow Mountains National Park for the more experienced hikers.The Blue Loop that’s a shorter 4.3km option with the softer trail grading of Easy, that undulates through Brockagh Forest and touches The Wicklow Way.

The network also creates a very welcome (800m) Green Link from Laragh and the Brockagh Resource Centre, to the famed long-distance trail, ‘The Wicklow Way’.The special guest who kindly did the honour of cutting the ribbon to officially open the Brockagh Trails, was Bridie Merrigan (nee Nolan), whose family were the last to leave the Brockagh settlement in 1954.As a small token of appreciation for sharing in the joyful occasion, both Bridie Stacey and Bridie Merrigan were presented with a rowan tree (mountain ash) to plant in their own gardens. ….

All of the trails were developed by Laragh/Glendalough Tidy Towns, with great support from the community and a number of organisations and state bodies.The funding allocation to develop Ballard Wood Trail was received through the Forest Service’s ‘Neighourwood Scheme’ which is designed to aid the development of attractive close-to-home woodland amenities (or ‘neighbourwoods’) for public use and enjoyment.

The Brockagh Trails were developed in partnership with County Wicklow Partnership, by Carol Coad, Rural Recreational Officer for County Wicklow (Wicklow Trails).

A funding allocation for the waymarking and trailhead signage was made possible through the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme administered locally by Wicklow County Council. The colourful artwork featured on the mapboards, was kindly created by Eleanor Sutherland of Wicklow Mountains National Park.Both trail settings have adapted areas to enhance and maintain under this year’s Pure Mile competition, with Pure’s Project Manager, Ian Davis there to warmly welcome their official opening on Sunday.

Both forests are owned and managed by Coillte, with Mary Clifford and Barry Coad offering great assistance in their development, particularly with access and parking to enable everyone to enjoy them.

Present at the official openings were members of the community of Laragh & Glendalough, the Laragh-Glendalough Tidy Towns, family members of Bridie Merrigan and Bridie Stacey, Cathaoirleach of County Wicklow, Shay Cullen, Louis O’Byrne and Brian Dunne of Wicklow Uplands Council, Ian Davis of the Pureproject, Jim Sheehan of Mountaineering Ireland & W.U.C.,

Former Minister of State for Food, Forestry & Horticulture, Andrew Doyle and representatives from Coillte, Wicklow County Council, Rathdrum Tidy Towns and the local clergy.The trail building team for Ballard Wood, consisted of Paddy Purscer – forestry consultant, trail-builders Martin and Keiran Stacey and forestry contractors Noel Kenna and his team.

Tom Foster assisted with the installation of waymarkers and signage throughout the Brockagh Trails..…The popularity and enjoyment of these new trails for generations to come, seems to already be assured, with the local community and the many visitors that the area welcomes, sharing lots of positive responses from the multi-generations who have already explored and experienced them.

Wicklow Uplands Council would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to all involved with bringing these wonderful amenities to life with such detail and sympathy to the unique natural settings they very much compliment.

Speaking after their unveiling, Carol Coad, Rural Recreation Officer for Co. Wicklow shared,

“Working with the Laragh and Glendalough Tidy Towns is always a pleasure, they are a great organisation that continually seek to add recreational facilities to their area for all to enjoy.

Mrs. Coad added;

“Community groups like these are central to the successes of the RRO role, and I congratulate them on their wonderful achievements”.

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