Since we last met, the An Óige Conservation Group they have been busy as bees with their green efforts around Knockree Hostel. While their woodland area has been the main focus of attention in the past, in recent years it became obvious that the remaining three quarters of the site (18 Ha / 45acres) needed to be looked at too. This area is composed of open fields, hedgerow and part of the Glencree river. The loss of hedgerow and bracken encroachment in the fields are the most noticeable conservation issues here.
Conservation Management Plan
The group realised that a nature conservation management plan was needed for the whole site and so they gathered together a group of volunteers (The Knockree Conservation Volunteers) to focus specifically on developing the management plan. After presenting their ideas to the An Óige board they were given the go ahead to draft a nature conservation management plan for the entire site around the hostel.
Most of the Knockree conservation volunteers are new to An Óige, so site visits were organised to get them familiar with the land. Nobody fails to be struck by the natural beauty of the place and the great facilities of Knockree Hostel.
A visit to Kilmacurragh Arboretum Co. Wicklow also took place to meet with head gardener, Seamus O’Brien. Kilmacurragh is an old Anglo Irish estate with a fascinating collection of rare trees and plants that fell into disrepair but is being restored by the National Botanic Gardens since 1996.
The group has also introduced UCD Department of Biology and Environmental Science to Knockree. They were delighted and surprised that there was such a site so close to the capital. Knockree Conservation Volunteers hope the site will be used by students for their practical studies and also provide us with expert advice and the benefit of their research.
One of their great hopes for the future is to link in with other environmental organisations to make them aware of this unique place and the great facilities of the hostel.
In March 2016 there was great news from the Heritage Council. They approved a grant towards the project which would make it possible to have the nature conservation management plan drafted by a professional ecologist. Since then an ecological consultancy company has been appointed and they have carried out the first phase of drafting the plan.
The site has been ecologically surveyed and a digitised habitat map done up. The final draft of management plan should be ready by autumn 2016. The plan will set out practical ways of preserving and enhancing the nature conservation status of the site for the next five years and will be updated every five years after that.
It will become the blue print that will guide the sustainable use of the Knockree site by An Óige and help toward fulfilling its aim of fostering the love and preservation of our natural heritage and access to it for all.
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