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Wildness on our doorstep

Nature is taking advantage of the absence of human activity during lockdown; left unchecked by the hand of man there is an explosion of wildness even in urban areas like Ballina.

Drab roadside verges and muddy riverbanks are being transformed into wildflower meadows and the dawn chorus, even in my near-town-centre setting, has never sounded so loud and intense.

We have more time right now to notice the beauty of the natural world around us and even the birds seem more at ease in a less noisy and noxious environment that is giving oxygen to the biodiversity of our verdant roadside verges blooming with grasses, buttercups, Oxeye Daisies and Red Clover.

Just before sunrise, a symphony of joyous birdsong fills the town, uninterrupted by the usual background drone of traffic; a glorious earful of the Dawn Chorus ecstatically celebrating the arrival of a new day.

The Wonderful World of Daisyland - Ballina Town Park during lockdown. Photo: Anthony Hickey
The Wonderful World of Daisyland – Ballina Town Park during lockdown. Photo: Anthony Hickey

My walk along the banks of Ballina’s River Moy to the Quay Village reveals the beauty of our natural world that during these lockdown weeks is bursting into life with renewed colour and vivacity.

On a sun-filled Monday, the Sligo Road riverbank was a jumble of grasses, reeds and buttercups swaying in the breeze as a pair of playful goldfinches moved at lightning speed to feast on fluffy dandelion seedheads.

Opposite St. Muredach’s College, the Moy’s resident swans lolled about in the still water while the blue-green flash of a kingfisher sliced the air as it disappeared into the wildness on the Moy’s western bank.

A sea of daisies beneath a chestnut grove in Ballina Town Park. Photo: Anthony Hickey
A sea of daisies beneath a chestnut grove in Ballina Town Park. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Biodiversity

Galaxies of daisies left uncut for once in the unmown grass transformed Ballina Town Park into a starry floral universe beneath towers of fluffy cumulous in a blindingly blue sky. A white tablecloth of daisies beneath a veil of clouds – a perfect frame to show off the park’s wonderful groves of chestnut, purple maple, willow and splendid weeping beech.

It’s hard to believe that this riparian oasis of parkland and playground was the Ballina town dump up until the late 1960’s; its smokey stench and the wailing clouds of scavenging gulls a childhood memory from walks to the old outdoor swimming pool on the Downhill Road.

Hopefully, the far-sightedness of those visionary town planners in the late sixties who helped to create this wonderful park can now be renewed to meet today’s needs of environmental conservation and biodiversity.

Above the tangled briars along Ballina's Quay Road yellow blooms of wintercress and white cow parsley frame the River Moy. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Above the tangled briars along Ballina’s Quay Road yellow blooms of wintercress and white cow parsley frame the River Moy. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Could a section of the park be returned to nature in the form of a wildflower meadow – a home for bees, butterflies, insects and birds?

Such a wildflower meadow would only need to be cut once a year in the Autumn to give flowers time to be pollinated, produce fruit and seeds, for new growth the following year. It would also provide a safe haven for pollinators and a wonderful place for children to experience nature.

As I crossed Bunree Bridge, a grey heron was taking shelter from the intense sun under a willow on the gravelly bank of the Brusna River. Further on I stopped to admire the tangled briars along the Quay Road’s elevated riverbank decorated by yellow blooms of wintercress and white cow parsley which framed a lovely river bank scene.

guitar lessons in ballina

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.