Supporting info for Notice Nature Competition

Abbeyleix Tidy Towns: Abbeyleix Biodiversity Project

Entry for Notice Nature Biodiversity Award, 2014

News Just In!

Abbeyleix Bog profiled in April 2014 publication: 'Global Peatland Restoration - Demonstrating Success' (p.30-31) published by the IUCN UK National Committee

To view extract click here

To view full report, click here...

1. Name of Project:

Abbeyleix Biodiversity Project

2. Where was the project located - please include a map:

Within the town and surrounding area of Abbeyleix – map showing the surrounding area, and the broad habitat types within our biodiversity project.

3. Please give a brief description of your project (50 words or less):

Abbeyleix, a heritage town, is known for its green credentials. Central to our community is the protection and enhancement of habitats, and the interpretation of the biodiversity within our town. Abbeyleix Bog is our key biodiversity feature within our Biodiversity Project; its conservation is integrated within our tidy town plans.

4. What was the aim of your project:

The aims of our project are to:

  • Protect and enhance the existing habitats which occur in and around the town.
  • Tackle invasive species.
  • Develop new habitats within the town through the encouragement and establishment of native species.
  • Record and catalogue our habitats and species and make all this information available to the public through print, web and social media platforms.
  • Interpret our habitats and wildlife and encourage increased engagement – particularly with children.
  • Improve access to our more inaccessible habits particularly on Abbeyleix Bog.
  • Develop a structured biodiversity action plan (BAP) to put a formal structure to our activities.

5. Please outline any public awareness initiatives on biodiversity undertaken as part of this project

· We have collated all existing survey reports and data relating to Abbeyleix and published them on relevant websites – ( and They will be included in and redirected to the new website at where the Tidy Towns group and the Abbeyleix Bog Project have their own minisites, where biodiversity will be explained and promoted.

· Abbeyleix was surveyed as part of the Laois habitat survey and the relevant excerpts of this report are included with our plans to assist the community to manage the sites.

· There is a considerable body of data relating to Abbeyleix Bog and this data will be published on the website site

· We have also developed a children’s section on our bog website which offers will be further updated this summer as part of the website upgrade.

· We have commissioned a local ecologist (Dr Fiona McGowan) to survey our town and to present the data in non technical form in as an easy to read leaflet.

· We engage in National Tree week on an annual basis and use this opportunity to plant native trees and also to engage with the local primary schools.

· The Abbeyleix Bog Project facebook page ( has increased its traffic and is now a very effective forum for visitors to the bog to post photos, compare notes and discuss identification of species. We are fortunate that there are a number of expert subscribers to the site who are on hand to offer advice on identification of plant and insect species. The standard of photography on site is wonderful – please check it out. We feel that this is an excellent example of social media being used in a very positive way to interactively exchange with the community.

· In May, 2014 we launched an Abbeyleix Bog Project Twitter page (#abbeyleixbog) also and it is in the early stage of building a profile that highlights and follows biodiversity initiatives, experts and community groups.

A National Bioblitz Challenge took place on June 8, 2013 - Abbeyleix Bog was one of 7 national sites taking part under the auspices of the National Biodiversity Data Centre - all bog partners were involved – Irish Peatlands Conservation Council, Bord na Mona, Laois County Council and National Parks and Wildlife Service. The poster with our guided public events is above. Leaflets to all households, schools were distributed in Abbeyleix. – See attached report on this with more detail of event.

· The Tidy Towns group in Abbeyleix is committed to enhancing local biodiversity and to planning for integrated and sustainable community management; a recent submission to our funding partners outlined the plans for management of the southern gateway of the town for pollinator species linking theory to the actual management of our community. Managing for pollinators will benefit our GYI allotments, local farmers, brown field sites, and gardens, bogs, fringing woodlands, walkways, streams and verges simultaneously.

We worked with the Abbeyleix Bog Project to deliver their draft conservation management plan which in conjunction with their business management plan will integrate and coordinate the branded management of our heritage town further.

High Bog Walk, Abbeyleix Bog, Co. Laois.

· A High Bog Walk is under construction within Abbeyleix Bog. This ambitious project which being built by volunteers from a number of local and voluntary partnership organisations is becoming the talk of the town and is bringing people together who never previously crossed paths. We originally applied for funding to commission a contractor to deliver the entire project but this was not possible on account of reduced funding availability. In retrospect we are happy that it has now gone the voluntary labour route as it has brought with it an unexpected dividend of cooperation and communication between disparate groups that previously didn’t work together e.g. local tradesmen, Mens Shed Groups, Rural Social Scheme Workers.

· Another unique point about this project is the unique design. In an effort to keep costs down and to minimise impacts on the bog our committee researched and trialled an innovative method of distributing the load on plastic piping laid on the bog. This has resulted in a cheaper build which involves less digging for support posts – note that it is all certified by an engineer.

Please visit this project if you are visiting to evaluating our application - it is well worth the walk!

The boardwalk will allow safe access into the high bog area, this is especially important, as the public is protected in tandem with the bog habitat. Phase 1 of the High Bog Walk is nearly complete and will extend to 300 metres – the public launch dates August 2014. Abbeyleix Bog continues to be our key habitat feature but we are keen to ensure that wildlife is considered within our more built up areas as we increase access.

· We have implemented a draft invasive species management plan on Abbeyleix bog and have already worked with the local Rural Social Scheme team to clear a significant area of invasive Rhododendron ponticum from the bog in 2013 plans are afoot for June 2014 also. We have consulted with NPWS experts in formulating our plan and have applied herbicides as advised to prevent re-growth. The focus of this work to date has been to tackle isolated stands of Rhododendron within the open bog areas which have the potential to encroach further.

· We have established a significant number of native trees in and around the town. (Balladine and Market Square). We also participated in the one million trees initiative and planted 100 native trees within the Abbeyleix Bog site (April 2013).

· Heritage apple tree planting has also occurred throughout the town.

· Our community garden continues to flourish with its native and mixed planting that encourages wildlife.

We have successfully applied Laois Partnership to participate in a programme of Innovative tree identification tagging – will be completed in line with the Biodiversity Action Plan for Abbeyleix. Roll out of tree identification tags will continue, some specialist advice was sought from University of Oxford Harcourt Arboretum, Kevin Hutchinson (Tree Council of Ireland) and others.

· We are in touch with Portlaosise Men’s Shed Group who have agreed to construct Bird/ Bat Boxes and Insect hotels around the town in appropriate locations with the help of IWT.

Engagement with press.

Self Press through our many online systems.

Paddy Woodworth's article in the Irish Times (see connection on Facebook page)

Formal Press

· From May 2014 the Abbeyleix Bog Project will be featured with the Laois Nationalist as a partner for exposure in the “Get Involved” promotion to “make a difference in your community”. We hope to receive dedicated help with press, reporting funding and identifying local expertise for the Abbeyleix Bog Project, Tidy Towns and our initiatives to manage biodiversity related issues and community planning.

Summary of projects undertaken for this year 2013/2014

Enacting our 5 year business Plan 2012-2017 for the Abbeyleix Bog project with support from Laois Partnership

Conservation Management Plan August 2014 complied by Tim Ryle, PhD, Ecologist is in preparation with support from the Heritage Council. A follow up from the feasibility commissioned as part of the development of Abbeyleix Bog.

Butterfly Transects by Annemarieke & Clare now in its 3rd year and in partnership with the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Bumblebee Transects by Eugene O'Brien as from 2013 in partnership with the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Linking the Collins Bog and Killamuck Bog Loop walks in partnership with ABC to the High Bog Boardwalk.

Launching Twitter account #abbeyleixbog

Race Night, December to raise funds for the biodiversity initiatives

6th classes of both North and South Schools in Abbeyleix taken on 5 x guided walk on the bog with Dr. Fiona MacGowan and Dr Mark McCorry

6th Class of South School were on the bog again in April 2013

Contact made with Corlea Bog group from Longford and Cabbragh Wetlands in Tipperary to start a network of similar community groups.

Contact made with Seamus Boland, Chairperson of the Peatland Council of Ireland - Abbeyleix Bog Project invited to speak about the model used in Abbeyleix

Technical Advisory Group of the Abbeyleix Bog Project meets every 3 months and attended by National parks and Wildlife Service, IPCC, Bord na Mona and Laois Co Co representatives, together with 4 representatives of the community.

Conservation Management Plan for 2014-2017 was is in preparation by Dr Tim Ryle

Posters for the information boards completed and erected along the pathway to the bog.

Book on 'The Story of the Abbeyleix Bog' is currently in write up/draft stage- old maps, photographs, stories are collected. De Vesci Papers in the NLI, as well as the documents in the Military Archives have been researched. To be published in 2014.

Heritage Week programme in conjunction with the Abbeyleix Heritage House are planned for August 5th to 30th 2014 - photographs and exhibits by Tina Claffey with photographs/postacrds of our biodiversity taken at Abbeyleix Bog.

Rhododendron removal has started over the winter months 2012/13 as part of the Conservation Management Plan 2013

Abbeyleix Bog is included in a two-year hydrology study on 52 SAC bogs in Ireland, currently been undertaken by NPWS. Funding for a Hydrological survey will be sought.

The inserts for New Information Boards on Abbeyleix Bog are on site along our linear (old railway line) pathway.

· We are in the early stages of developing a smartphone app which we will pilot on Abbeyleix bog. This will be available free to users and will utilize the Everytrail platform. It will offer a guided tour of the site with GPS capability and audio visual content. It will be invaluable to visitors and also as an educational resource for teachers. Please watch out for details of this on our website and let us know if you want an explanation of how it works when you come to visit.

6. How did your project benefit:

(a) Habitats


Direct action by the town people and the wider community of Abbeyleix over the past decade has protected 500 acres of raised bog from destruction. The site was scheduled for exploitation for peat moss which would have largely destroyed the habitat. An adversarial situation was turned from one of conflict to partnership and community management without legacy issues. In a combined aim to preserve, protect, explain and develop the site as an amenity and reserve, the community have worked with Bord na mona, IPCC and NPWS to block drains, rewetting the site and preserving the disturbed bog from further effects of drainage.

Street and “urban” areas:

· We worked with the County Council to retain the tree lined tree scape. Although the lime trees are not strictly native they are appropriate for our heritage town and work well as a streetside tree.

· The Tidy towns group recently responsible for replacing inappropriate exotic trees in market square with Hornbeam.


· Our playground is supplied with native species and includes a living willow hedge, maintenance of hedges is sympathetic to that requires for wild areas and bird nesting areas.

Other public area

· Planting of two circular groves of native trees in Balladine. These circular groves are designed to replicate and mirror existing circular groves of trees – this was a recommendation of our Sustainable Environment Plan.

(b) species

Our planning had benefitted pollinator species in the main, bees, butterflies, flying insects, hoverflies, moths, beetles and terrestrial invertebrates, a bug hotel will be placed in the Bog reserve in summer 2014.

· Ecological surveys were carried out in 2013 and 2014, with a range equipment to encourage biodiversity monitoring. The equipment used included field guides, bat detectors, nets and identification book, no unlicensed activity was undertaken with protected species and all volunteers were made aware of the sensitive management of our town’s habitats.

· Local volunteers are now involved in our national butterfly monitoring and bumblebee monitoring schemes. All records will be collated and sent to the National Biodiversity Recording Centre with whom we have an excellent working relationship.

· Tomas Murray (PhD) from the National Biodiversity Recording Centre will run a butterfly and bee monitoring workshop in mid August 2014 in collaboration with Emma Seale (PhD) (at Heritage House and Abbeyleix Bog) to train and involve the community further in biodiversity recording.

· A Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) check and Devils Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) survey will be carried out in late August, 2014 at the optimum time to detect this threatened and protected species of butterfly. The survey will be carried out by E. Seale (PhD) who is a specialist on the butterfly and its associate community of parasitoid wasps (Cotesia and Gelis) and food plant, should it be required a habitat management plan will be drafted for marsh fritillary and its associated species communities.

· The Bioblitz will be held every alternate year, next one spring planned for 2015.

· The IWT Laois/Offaly branch will place some bat boxes within the confines of the Bog in summer 2014 to support summer roosting habitat for local protected bat species which live in the attic spaces of our communities many historic and landmark buildings. Bird boxes will be installed to encourage bird nesting. These nest boxes must be checked by licenced workers only and the Tidy Towns are working towards the sensitive habitat management for the bat and bird species our town.

· With the increased surveys on the bog we are finding new species. E.g. we recently confirmed brook lamprey in a stream and found Large Marsh Grasshopper on the site, they will be considered in our conservation management plans.

(c) Public awareness of biodiversity

We welcome the changing focus of the Tidy Towns competition towards sustainability and continue to focus on non-showy projects which yield long term gains. For example, we favour spending our scare resources on native tree/ shrub planting over transient displays of annual flowers.

In keeping with this philosophy we are pleased to report that one of our most exciting projects was the replacement of the failed exotic trees in market square with more appropriate hornbeam trees. Following consultation with Mary Keenan (Tree Council of Ireland) and Maeve Flynn (Co Council horticulturalist) we elected to establish Carpinus betulus which will be well suited to the location. The trees have an underground anchoring system to hold them in place and there is also provision for irrigation in the establishment phase.

Following on from a recommendation of the sustainable communities plan we have also established two circular groves of native trees in Balladine to mirror other established circular groves of trees elsewhere in the town including Casserly’s Hill and Lady’s Hill.

7. Did the project focus on a protected or threatened species?

· Yes, actively engaged in Rhododendron ponticum management on the bog. We have been working with the Laois Rural Social Scheme to eradicate Rhododendron ponticum from the bog, which is a threatened habitat. We have developed an invasive species management plan on Abbeyleix Bog. One winters work is now complete, many years of continuous and repeated management are likely into the future as this is a particularly invasive species of plant that is very difficult to eradicate. We have consulted with experts in formulating our plan and have applied herbicides as advised to prevent re-growth. The focus of this work to date has been to tackle isolated clumps of rhododendron within the open bog areas which have the potential to encroach further. We will be monitoring some cut stems for re-growth.

· Our volunteers are currently monitoring coniferous trees (Scots pine) which have encroached on the bog – we are hopeful that the wetter conditions will cause these trees to fail, the Conservation Management plan, that is in preparation, will assist us in a longer term plan to reduce nutrient rich biomass entering the high bog ecosystem. A low nutrient input is required of peat land ecosystem in the main.

· As part of an invasive species management plan we identified and tackled a small area of Japanese knotweed to north of town.

· Worked with residents associations in housing estates to protect biodiversity. E.g. ashbrook has planted native trees, erected bird and bat boxes.

8. Was your project located in a special Area of conservation (sAc), special Protection Area (sPA), or a natural Heritage Area

(nHA) - if so, please give details.

· There are no statutorily designated sites in Abbeyleix, although we have been informed by NPWS that the Abbeyleix Bog site of regional importance because of the intact lagg habitat, which includes wet woodlands and pool and pond areas that are of immense ecological importance foe native species

9. Contact details for lead person responsible for application:

- Name: Mary White

- Address: Blarigowrie, Main Street, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois

- Mobile number:

- email Address:

10. Has this project been previously submitted for this award? if so, in what year(s).

· An incomplete application on the same project was submitted last year just after the application deadline. It was prepared at the last minute and we assume it was not assessed as it was late.

· A submission from the Abbeyleix Bog committee was entered for the Notice Nature Bio-Diverstity Award for the Midlands East Region in 2010.