Here are some landscape images from a March visit to Mayo which I’ve been posting a bit of recently. This landscape fascinates me in many ways: the cultural history (of which my family has links), the ecology and geology.
My family’s cottage is located near a mountain range that would probably be classified as hills in the UK, but their Irish name translates as Wintry Mountain (Slieve Gamph). The English version is the Ox Mountains. It was said that people once lived in these hills – granite, heather and peat bog – in simple stone cottages until the famine. I haven’t managed to locate anything resembling a disused cottage there as yet, but the wider landscape is littered with megalithic tombs, stone circles and other significant archaeology.
We arrived in Mayo to find the mountain burnt across a mile or more. This beautiful landscape with its rare plants, bog habitats, feral goats and moorland nesting birds, was decimated. We asked local people – who started it? One man said it could have been a farmer who just wanted a bit more grass, another woman said it was someone just “lighting a match”. Whoever it was, the authorities are not happy and it made plenty of news out this way. It was also an issue in Wicklow and Kerry.
The mountains had not been completely charred by the fire, with plenty of plants having survived, though it had spread to areas I had never seen affected before. Our local neighbour said she had never seen so many fires as in recent years. Climate change is no doubt making these moorlands and their mountains of bracken more vulnerable to wildfires (or otherwise) but the issue still remains one of misguided land management, as well as pure arson.
Having worked in the management of publicly accessible green spaces I can tell you there is a minority everywhere who want to just burn stuff for the fun of it.
In 2013 I wrote a piece about visiting Mayo while my grandfather was in a nursing home. He passed away 2 years later from dementia. Back then we arrived to fires burning close to the cottage, like something from a movie. I remember a radio report saying there were gorse fires simply caused by direct sunlight and dry weather. You can read that here.
Thanks for reading.