Oh dear, I am embarrassed about how long it is since I have posted anything. I have no excuse – just life! I was inspired to return to the blog after a lovely weekend in Lough Key, Co. Roscommon. The Nieuwe Zorgen is moored there now so keep an eye our for her if you are in that neck of the woods.
The Lough Key Forest Park has been developed in recent years into an activity centre consisting of the Lough Key Experience, Boda Borg and Adventure Kingdom. The grounds of the park consist of a mix of non-native conifer woodland and mixed broadleaved woodland. Part of the Lough Key Experience is a 300 metre long tree canopy walk that brings you through part of the forest, 9 metres above the ground. The tree-top walk emerges at the waters edge, just next to the Waterways Ireland mooring facilities, where there are excellent views across the lake to Castle Island. Another interesting part of the ‘experience’ are the 19th century tunnels which lead out to the Moylurg Viewing Tower (the tunnels were my favourite part). The Tower stands in the place of Rockingham Estate, which was designed by the architect John Nash in 1809. Don’t worry if you don’t fancy climbing the stairs to the top, there is a lift. It is a must for the beautiful views of the park and across the lake. The house was destroyed by fire in 1957, and the surviving walls were demolished in 1971. The viewing tower was built in 1973.
The park is home to a variety of bat species such as Brown Long-eared (Plecotus auritus), Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), Leisler’s (Nyctalus leisleri), Natterer’s (Myotis nattereri) and Daubenton’s Bats (Myotis daubentonii). All bats are protected in Ireland by Irish legislation and the EU Habitats Directive, but the Leisler’s Bat is of particular importance because despites being relatively common in Ireland it is rare in the rest of Europe. There are nine species of bat found in Ireland, all of which eat insects and hibernate during the winter. In late spring or early summer the bats awake and venture out from their roosts to hunt. Leisler’s Bat is the largest of our bat species, and flies at greater heights than our other bats. It emerges from its roost in a tree hole or under the roof tiles of a house, just after sunset to begin hunting over fields and water.