Photo courtesy of Colin Stanley
A volunteer group battling to conserve Merlin Woods is to apply for further funding from the Heritage Council in the coming weeks.
The Friends of Merlin Woods have received funding from the council over several years and have used the money to rebuild the historic stone walls in Merlin Woods, which were on the original 1840 maps.
Lead volunteer with Friends of Merlin Woods Caroline Stanley said the group are confident that they will receive the funding.
“Hopefully, we’ll be successful in getting it and continuing the project and it will be nice to get all of the wall completed over the next few years – it’s a very long wall and a very historic wall as well. It’s a real feature,” she said.
The volunteer group also lobbied for the restoration of Merlin Castle, a process which began early last year. Structural repairs such as the stone windows and chimney have been completed. However, to fully restore the castle, a new roof worth around €400,000 is needed. Ms Stanley hopes that funds put aside for castles by Galway City Council will be allocated to the roof, but it will first have to go to tender.
Ms Stanley said that she would like to see Merlin Castle put back into community use once it’s restored. “We’re looking at upskilling people in the community and then the castle could be used as a community building, or for heritage projects as well to do with biodiversity and history.”
“It could be used for all of those craft industries that are associated with some of the woodland activities – biodiversity, even sustainable tourism as well,” she said.
Another issue the group would like to tackle is the lack of water making it into the woods. Ms Stanley explained that there are “a lot of species that would remember the river being there and returned to the woodland, but over time they could die out because the river is not there anymore”.
The river currently runs through storm drains and according to Ms Stanley, “it’s an urgent issue because we have a lot of wildlife in there that have no water source”.
Ms Stanley suggested that the water could be pumped up from the storm drains, because it is putting pressure on the drains by going under the woods rather than through them. Ms Stanley said that it would create less flooding in other areas if the woodland was soaking it up.
The issue has been brought to Galway City Council. However, during this process it was discovered that there is some grey water pollution running into the woodlands from pipework in Ballybane. This will need to be sorted before the river can be pumped up to the woods.
Ms Stanley hopes that once this pollution problem is fixed, that the Friends of Merlin Woods can work alongside the GMIT Environmental Society and the local Green-Schools committees on this project.
The group’s next event is their Spring into the Woodlands walk, which will take place on Sunday 30 January to mark Saint Brigid’s Day. The walk starts at noon at the Merlin Woods Community Garden and the Friends of Merlin Woods would like to invite anyone who wishes to join to come along to see the first signs of spring, meet new people and learn about the local wildlife and historic sites.