Our Journey to Being Shortlisted for LAMA 2024

The Clogheenmilcon Fen & A Dash of Pure Blarney

The Clogheenmilcon Fen is an alkaline wetland system on the outskirts of Cork city in the beautiful surroundings of Blarney.

aerial photo of the main car park at The Fen

Ireland has approximately 512 fens, mostly in limestone rich areas such as the midlands & west of Ireland. Cork county has only 18 fens, and with the transition of Blarney to the city boundaries, Cork City now has its own biodiverse jewel- 100 hundred acres of wetlands in Irelands second city! It is home to over 83 species of birds, 10 types of small mammals and even the Sika Deer.

However, the fen was also unkempt with broken pathways and difficulty accessing the water. It also had some anti-social behaviour issues and a litter problem.

Brand Blarney, recognising the potential of the fen for the wider community & beyond, began to work with local ecologist Tom O’ Byrne back in 2019 and using the existing biodiversity as the baseline, set down our objectives on a local, national and international level as follows:

objectives for the fen

We then began to prepare and pool our ideas which revolved mainly around eco-tourism as we already benefit from almost half a million tourists to Blarney each year between Blarney Castle & the local Woollen Mills. We see this project as a community opportunity with community buy in, to enhance this space for tourist and locals alike.

  • We went to Cork City Council and presented our ideas based on the following guidelines:
  • To maintain & enhance the biodiversity of the fen.
  • To make it more accessible as a quiet space for the community.
  • To make it wheelchair & buggy accessible.
  • To work on various festivals in keeping with the area (such as wildlife/ bird watching etc.) and avail of an international audience through its connectivity to local airports/ports/trains & bus routes- especially off-peak season events.
  • To see the fen positioned as it is on the N20 as a gateway destination for both the Wild Atlantic way & Ireland’s Ancient East.
  • To see the fen recognised as a viable tourist offering promoting more visitors and contributing to the local economy.

We feel very fortunate as a group to have had our voices heard and to have had the fen recognised by Cork City Council. We are now working alongside them as part of a Fen Management Committee and have availed of 2 different Town & Village Renewal Grants in 2019 & 2022 and the changes are already significant.

All work done/planned is based on the ‘Clogheenmilcon Fen Ecological & Tourism Plan 2021- biodiversity & visitor management recommendations’ set out by ALC.  See attached.

One of Brand Blarney’s aims was to encourage a sense of community ownership & pride in the fen. However, the main benefits are to the wildlife, flora, fauna & biodiversity which we work to preserve and enhance. We maintain the area as a carbon sink, a floodplain for the Blarney area, and a beautiful space where we are just the visitors and the observers of this biodiverse gem!

  • To date here are some of the projects engaged in by the wider community:
  • Over 30 bird boxes/Bat boxes made for the fen by the local Blarney Men’s Shed
  • Two large bug hotels ( made to simulate industrial wheels) installed by the local Blarney Men’s Shed
  • Dawn Chorus each 1st of May attended by locals and others- speakers Tom O’ Byrne & James Mulcahy
  • Culture Night Art in the Fen- a huge turn out to wander the pathways and see photographs placed along the walk ways. 24 easels made for this occasion by local handiman 85 year old Eddie Barry.
  • Choral performances by Cór Geal & Blarney Local Choir on different occasions. 
  • New  decorative seating used on a very regular basis and number visitors increasing to the area with the addition of the new seating and new planting.
  • Planting initiatives supported by the local schools who come along to help sow the spring bulbs.
  • Sponsorship of planting areas by the local Blarney & District Chamberof Commerce/ Rathpeacon Community Association.
  • Tree hugging initiative where every school in the area created jackets for the trees along the fen with the help of a local craftsperson who visited every school and helped get this project over the line.
  • New signage and information points give the fen a sense of identity/branding and are regularly used.
  • We have a mobile coffee shop that is now part & parcel of the offering every weekend.
  • We organise biodiversity lectures on various topics each year which are very popular.
  • Brand Blarney took part in the filming for the Cork City Local Economic & Community Plan- Lets Plan Together (LECP)  this year. See link here https://youtu.be/iqjU54Wh4Pk?si=dw3Dd1zXsChihUmF
  • We filmed “Father of the Fen”- a documentary to acknowledge the work & dedication of Tom O’ Byrne over the last 30 years and his vision in saving this space from being backfilled when the N20 was being built. That is being launched in January 2024.
  • We have now created a Friends of the Fen group to enable the local community get involved in whatever way they wish- be it as guardians, litter pickers, photographers, idea givers or anything they would like to try in the fen. This is being rolled out for January 2024.
  • We constantly create an awareness of the space & update the public of all these events through our social media pages & website.

To date we have organised:

  • The Clogheenmilcon Fen Ecological & Tourism Plan 2021- biodiversity & visitor management recommendations’
  • Clogheenmilcon Fen Landscape Architect Plan -Okra 2023
  • Civil works to main carpark area
  • New seating and picnic tables- all wheelchair friendly.
  • Increased the parking capacity.
  • Installed bike rails.
  • Created planted areas as well as wild planting- including spring bulbs and native flowers & organised community clean up days.
  • Installed signage and information maps at key points along the way.
  • Created a link footpath between the Fen and Waterloo walk so we now have connectivity all the way from the fen to Waterloo who work closely with us and support us in our initiatives.
  • We see the outcome in the increase of traffic to the fen, the events we can create there and the increasing public awareness of the area as a recreational space.

Ongoing projects:

  • Two new signposts are presently being installed with mainly visual info on the flora & fauna.
  • Presently we are clearing the waterways of overgrown sedge at the Blarney end of the fen. This is funded by the Town & Village Grant and is a huge project which we hope to extend year on year until the overgrowth is cleared along the entire waterways.
  • We are working with OKRA design company and have a blueprint for the locations for a floating boardwalk onto the waterways, an amphitheatre, a looped walk, a bird watching platform and more accessible pathways for the public. We will also be utlising willow reeds from the fen to create fencing and pathways boundaries. For these projects to go ahead, we need continued access to and support with funding as well as continued fundraising efforts from ourselves as a voluntary committee.
  • Future projects earmarked in the plan include the installation of research pods to allow universities home & abroad avail of the space to observe/record and document the history of the fen in a collaborative process.
  • We are also working towards connecting the space as a greenway from the city centre onwards to Blarney and out to Waterloo.
Brand Blarney awards 2023
Photo: Brand Blarney Committee members: Award recipients 2023
Previous winners of Cork County Mayors Community Award 2019, Blarney & District Ambassador Award, Muintir na Tire Awards