It’s not all about bog snorkelling at Peatlands Bog!
By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 1 August, 2015
People say the best things in life are free. Well, this is certainly the case in Northern Ireland when it’s hammering it down with rain. Eleanor McGillie throws on the wellies and heads round Peatlands Bog in County Tyrone for a good long walk.
This weekend, in spite of torrential August 1 downpours, we packed up the car and took ourselves and the dog to the heart of the province to visit Peatlands Park, near Dungannon.
It had been years since we had paid a visit to Peatlands Park. I remember, as a child, going there for a huge family picnic, jumping on little train and going on a tour of the bogs.
Why I haven’t been there since – I have no idea but it has changed dramatically in all of those years with signage improved, the greenery has matured and the visitor experience has been enhanced.
Peatlands Park is a country park which is designed to promote access to the countryside and encourages a better understanding and knowledge of the environment which surrounds us.
The network of marked paths brings you from woodland, to open bogs, round lakes, to picnic areas, a visitor’s centre and an organic vegetable garden.
It’s clear to be seen that much of the country park is protected as a National Nature Reserve, an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. As you follow the marked paths there are signs along the routes highlighting to the visitor the different rare habitats and species which can be found there.
The history of the park is fascinating too. Peat bogs have been forming here for over 10,000 years and are home to a variety of interesting insect and plant species. As we walked round we could see the beautifully coloured dragonflies, a big grey heron crane sitting by the lake, lots of ducks, fish in the lakes and an enormous amount of plant species which I am ashamed not to be able to tell you what they were.
The park, based at Junction 13 off the M1, boasts Mullenakill National Nature Reserve, Derryhubbert Bog, Annagarriff National Nature Reserve, Derryane Bog and Derryadd Lake. There is a railway which children and adults love, woodlands, orchards, turf cutting displays, a woodland school, a bog garden and an education and visitor’s centre. All walks are colour coded so before you set off you know where the routes will take you and how long it will take approximately.
The park has hit national headlines many times because it has hosted the famous Bog Snorkelling Competition. Although the competition didn’t run this year due to funding cuts it’s fair to say that when it comes back on again, we will definitely be giving it a go. How hard can it be? All you have to do is swim two lengths of a 60-yard bog drain using a snorkel, mask and flippers but participants aren’t allowed to use conventional swimming strokes. Talk about craic – and it’s free!
Although the event is fun, and captures the imagination of people around the world, there is a point to it and that is to highlight the beauty of our bogs and to raise awareness of our peatlands and the threats they face. When you walk around these bogs the beauty of them will never be 100 per cent obvious. We can only see what we can see but as visitors we will probably never gauge just how much of a home our lowland bogs are to important bird species, insects and unusual plants.
But you don’t have to wait to go bog snorkelling to appreciate the beauty of our bogs. Peatlands Park is stunning. Walking there in the rain made it an even more beautiful experience.
Whatever you do, dress appropriately. Bring your waterproofs, wear your wellies or walking shoes and although many of the walkways are suitable for prams and wheelchairs and bicycles, there are a lot of paths through the bogs which aren’t so wheel friendly. There is a park code so visitors take note.
All in all – Peatlands Park is a true gem. We love so we hope you do too. #liveitexperienceit
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