Thursday, 31 October 2013

Nire Valley Drop going from strength to strength.

                                 They have done it again and this time it was even better!

Yes the proud people of Ballymacarbry,Nire Valley and Nire G.F.C organised one awesome mountainbike event that will live long in the memory.The organisation of the event was simply top class.It just proves what a mountain community can do when it comes together like this and shows belief by embracing an alternative mountain sport and in turn bringing a different type of tourist to our mountains leading to an even wider appreciation of what our ranges have to offer!
In the days leading up to the event there was a buzz and excitement on Facebook and Twitter and when many status updates including the logistics were revealed;

40 Stewarts
4 course marshalls
3 registration
1 DJ
2 photo quads
1 ambulance & crew
1bike para medic
9 radios
1 base station 
15 catering
1 Garda
1 broom quad
2 quad marshalls
And a whole load of fun.

one could sense something special was in the offing! 
So there was only one thing to do get up to this area of the Comeragh mountains and witness firsthand The Nire Valley Drop! 
On arrival at a thronged Ballymacarbry Community Centre we were very kindly directed by stewards to some of the best vantage spots to see the action.The backwoods of Ballymacarbry high above Clonmel was to be our viewing area and it wasn't long before the action unfolded.We were treated to 190 riders of all abilities making this epic cross country journey through some of the wildest and remote terrain the Comeragh's has to offer.There were accents from all parts of Ireland taking part.The weather also played its part windy,clear and mainly dry.
This event clearly has a future now given the grassroots support from the community and the increasing participation of cyclists.Plans are firmly afoot for next years event scheduled for Sunday 26 October 2014.One lovely remark from the organisers summed up everything in the aftemath.It was a comment about a participants ranking "You enjoyed the day is what is important,not where you finished"
 Now that this has been such a success it will inspire other mountain communities (e.g. Kilrossanty could organise a downhill event from Seefin?) to follow suit with other events as covered here in April 2012.

Thanks once again people of the Nire, Ballymacarbry and surrounds take a bow! 


Friday, 26 April 2013

International weather forecasters covering the Comeragh/Monavullagh and Knockmealdown mountains.

Our mountain ranges are being well served by the following international weather sites;
                                       is a Norwegian website for weather forecasting and other meteorological information. The site is a joint responsibility of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and yes they cover the Knockmealdown and Comeragh mountains.
Comeragh mountains base
Waterford weather=
This local weather service provides up to date information on weather conditions in the foothills of the Monavullagh and Knockmealdown mountains.They are often the first to carry images of severe weather conditions in our 3 mountain ranges.
Monavullagh mountains base
Knockmealdown mountains base
Please visit Waterford Weather

So at a time when Waterford and the South East region is under so much attack on other fronts it is great to have these international services covering our mountain weather so they deserve our help by availing and updating where possible!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Best places for Snow in our mountains.

Year on year when there are snowfalls on our mountains the most common questions thrown about on local media are "Where are the best places to see the snow?"
The most common answer to this is Mahon Falls as a result large numbers of people make for this area only to be left increasingly but not always disappointed.                                                                            
 The Mahon Falls are south facing and also faces the warm Gulf stream of the sea.
Where are the best spots to see the snow so you may ask?
Well you can't drive up on to the Comeragh plateau where there is sometimes a scattering that can't be seen when down below because of the broad flat shape of its summit which pleasantly surprised me the first  time I climbed to the top.

                                                          Summit Knockanaffrin ridge.
The Knockanaffrin ridge is north facing and crucially away from the sea.This spot can be easily seen from Rathgormack and with the rugged peaks a scattering of snow can give the impression of an Alpine resort in all its glory.Also makes for great photographs.The good folk of the Clonmel area have known this for many a year and have introduced generations of their children to sledding on the northern foothills.
Comeragh plateau and Knockanaffrin ridge.
Incidentally it is often spoken among workers in the horticultural industry( the orchards,Kildalton College and Estates of South Tipp/Kilkenny) that a shower corridor exists along the Suir Valley bringing showers along Slievenamon and Knockanaffrin ridge.This was most in evidence in early April 2010 when over a foot of snow fell on Slievenamon through such shower activity.I have had experience of this in the past having been involved in the horticultural scene in the area for a year and a half and can certainly vouch that there is an increased shower activity given the right conditions.

                                             Playing on the slopes of Slievenamon April 2010.
A snowy Comeragh plateau and Knockanaffrin ridge from the slopes of Slievenamon on the other side of the Suir Valley.
Nire Valley.
Probably the best spots for holding snow are the north facing cliffs and Coums of the Nire valley via Ballymacarbry.3 years ago there was still snow on these cliff tops in early May.

Knockmealdowns between Knockmealdown and Knockmoylan. 
The Knockmealdown mountains can sometimes attract light snow from a westerly direction and being more inland it may not extend as far east as the Comeragh's.Snow on the Knockmealdowns on occasion forms deep drifts along the boundary wall especially between Knockmealdown and Knockmoylan.

On the rare occasions our mountains hold sufficient snow to lower levels the following slopes are worth a try for the more adventurous ski/snowboard enthusiast.
Comeragh skiing video.
Knockanaffrin south facing slope,
Coumfea West slope-Comeraghs
Seefin west facing slope-Monavullaghs
Knockmealdown west slope,
Knocknafallia south-facing-Knockmealdowns.
All listed as Ireland's skiing and snowsports destinations on;
So the next time the snow arrives on the mountains and it will, don't just automatically head for the Mahon falls area there's much more choice so get out there and enjoy our beautiful varied mountain ranges.Don't be afraid to drop in to the local shop or pub in the numerous mountain villages on your travels also talk to the locals as there are no greater sources of information  regarding the best locations and great knowledge of the miriad of roads leading to the best slopes.Enjoy!

Note in this view of the Comeragh/Monavullagh range from Ballygunner Waterford City,the marked difference in snow cover between the side facing the sea and the north facing inland Knockanaffrin ridge!
*Always be prepared for winter conditions when visiting the mountains drive safely,wear adequate clothing,always tell others where you are going and remember most mountain roads will "not" be gritted.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Anthems for our mountain ranges.

Here are three songs that could be used as anthems for 3 of our mountain areas:

1)The Comeragh's
                                           A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn O (Sweet Comeragh's)

Lyrics to song and also available as ringtone for your mobile;

2)The Knockmealdown's
     A Canadian song about our Knockmealdown's;                                                        
                                                             Kitty Bawn O'Brien 
Lyrics and more information;

Lyrics and ringtone for mobile phone;

Wherever you are you can take a song from your favourite mountain range with you and sing it with pride!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Reintroduction and rewilding the Comeragh/Knockmealdowns.

Re-introduction programmes like those already being carried out with the Red Kite in Wicklow mountains,White tailed Sea Eagle in Co.Kerry and Golden Eagle in Co.Donegal should be seriously considered for our rich and varied mountain ranges of the South East from the sub-alpine plateau of the Comeraghs to the high lying forests of the Knockanaffrin ridge,Monavullaghs and Knockmealdowns.

The bleak and remote Comeragh plateau viewed from the Nire valley ;

Possible candidates for re-introduction.
 The Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus)
These grouse live in regions usually on Tundra and  high elevations where natural cover  is scarce.They undergo a stunning transformation in appearance through the year.Summer plumage is mottled brown while Winter plumage is white enabling them to merge into the snowy landscape.When snow is on the ground ptarmigans feed on buds and twigs of shrubs such as willow,which somehow manage to grow in this area above the treeline,in normal snowfree conditions their diet consists of leaves,berries and other plant matter.The nest is a scrape in the ground lined with vegetation.Their current distribution is in polar regions,Iceland,Scottish Highlands,northern Scandinavia,the Alps,Pyrenees,far north Asia,North America and Greenland.The Comeragh plateau(pictured above and below) could possibly be a suitable habitat for this bird which is thought by some to have once dwelled on Irish mountain tops.
The Comeragh plateau.
Capercaillie (Tetras urogallus)
Once native to Ireland it also became extinct from Scotland but has since been re-introduced from the Swedish population.They dwell in coniferous and deciduous areas with a shallow scrape on the ground for a nest.They feed on buds and shoots.Recent evidence from Scotland suggests this beautiful bird is breeding successfully and increasing in forestry managed for timber production, so this adds to the case for a similar re-introduction programme in Coillte managed forestry of which our mountains have plenty!

                                   Forest and lochan on Knockmealdown northern slopes.

A middle sized wild cat that was once native to much of Europe and has been re-introduced to some areas in the last thirty years.Feeds mainly on small prey like rodents,rabbits,hares and fish.Its preferred habitat is woods on rocky ground mainly in mountains.
 European Wild Cat
Stouter,longer body and longer limbs than normal domestic cat with a squarish robust head,a thick bushy tailwith black rings and a blunt black end.Fur generally long,soft and thick,yellowish-grey and always with black vertical stripes.Range includes much of Europe including a small population in Scotland.Preys on mainly small mammals,rabbits and hare.Birds and occasionally fish and insects also eaten.Its habitat includes thick woodlands and rocky mountainsides where its den will be located among rocks or in a hollow tree.
 Wild Boar
  A large hog with bristly,pale grey to blackish hair,muzzle ending in mobile snout,canines curve outwards and upwards to project as defensive tusks.Open deciduous woodland is its preferred habitat.Has been found to be beneficial in cultivation of ground for forestry and in tests carried out in Scotland( it has helped with the control of Rhododendron which despite having a lovely flower for three weeks evey year can take over entire hillsides killing all native plant species under its evergreen canopy of leaves.For a look at Rhododendron in action one need go no further then the banks and slopes surrounding Bay Lough in the Vee Pass in the Knockmealdowns.
Scottish rewilding

Trees for life who are a group working to restore the Caledonian forests in Scotland to some of their former glory advocate the reintroduction of some of these  species and larger ones too in due course, as they each play an essential role in the ecosystem, and there will never be a healthy self-sustaining forest in the Highlands until all the constituent species, especially the large mammals, are back again.         Forest on northern slopes Knockanaffrin ridge;
 Now it is important to point out that we have nowhere near the amount of wilderness to play with that they have in Scotland however it could still be possible to introduce some of the species who feed on smaller prey.

Deer over-population in Comeragh's;There have been recent newspaper reports regarding a problem with deer over-population in the Comeragh mountains area and calls have been made for a cull.Seen as most of our politicians want to be seen as the good boys in Europe and act on everything they say perhaps those same people making the calls for a cull should also take note of this recent study on the matter.
A recent study carried out by the European Commission states "Hunting is not an effective tool for reducing damage caused by deer to managed forests in Europe, according to a recent assessment. Forests will be better protected through 'close-to-nature' management techniques, says the study, which evaluated the effects of different control mechanisms on deer populations and behaviour, including the influence of wild predators, such as wolves, and forest structures."
 English rewilding;
 The Wild Ennerdale project in the Lake District are currently using Galloway Cattle to prepare the ground for tree seedlings in replanting programmes.Cattle are also less selective in grazing and help control Bracken.
Galloway cattle already in the Knockmealdowns; 
We already have a farmer with a herd of Galloway in the Knockmealdowns and this gives us a head start in that regard if any rewilding project is to happen in the area.To contact the farmer for more information on the cattle,what they graze?,or if you have an interest in rewilding our own mountains and are looking for advice and assistance:
Coillte can also be contacted with regard to re-wilding the Comeragh/Knockmealdown area;
Golden Eagle Trust;
The organisation responsible for re-introductions of Red Kite,White Tailed Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle in Ireland can be contacted here;
Why not leave them a comment like we have urging them to consider Ptarmigan and Capercaillie re-introductions in the Comeragh and Knockmealdowns. 
                                         Loch Mohra,Knockanaffrin ridge,Comeragh mts.
The above mentioned are just another alternative view that in most cases excluding the boar haven't been tried out so far in Ireland so the Knockmealdowns and Comeragh's could be a first. It is also worth pointing out that where re-introductions programmes have taken place in Ireland the local areas have benefitted from tourism B&B's,Hotels,Pubs etc. as birdwatchers came from all corners of Ireland to catch a glimpse of the subjects!
 Find more on Waterford's Mountains on Facebook;
Join Waterford's Mountains on Twitter;

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The need for webcams to promote the Knockmealdowns,Comeragh/Monavullagh ranges.

Nire Valley,Comeragh Mts.

The concept of being able to view your favourite mountain range from your desktop or i-phone to see what local conditions are like before setting out on a trip.
This is already happening on many mountain ranges in the U.K. exmples;Aonach Mhor,Ben Nevis,Buachaille Etive Mor,Cairngorms,Coniston,Galloway,Knoydart,Langdale,Peak District,Scafell Pike,Tryfan,Snowdon to name some and other countries around the world however not as of yet in Ireland that we are aware of.
While a webcam on top of a mountain can destroy a summits charm,sense of isolation and spirituality a webcam looking at a mountain from a distance could be an extremely beneficial and effective tool in encouraging tourists from a far greater national and international audience to at least take our mountains into consideration while planning their next mountain adventure.Some of the larger websites based in the U.K. and Europe would only be too glad to share a link to a webcam on an Irish range thus exposing our mountain ranges to unique opportunity of an audience of mountain lovers from all over the world.
A couple of examples of websites that host mountain webcam images:

Mountain Weather Information Service;;

An environmentally friendly solution?
At present Coillte have been delivered a totally green CCTV camera solution by security experts Niscayah a "camera powered by a wind turbine and a solar panel".The development of this type of technology operating in remote rural locations with no fixed power source or telecommunications is amazing and will no doubt be very beneficial in preventing and detecting anti-social behaviour on forestry plantations.Perhaps this is also the solution to theft and rubbish dumping in our mountain carparks? Local Authorities take note.Benefits in stopping vandals and exposing a tourist destination to a major audience all in one!

Coillte cctv;

Much larger target audience.
To have such a tool working for our mountains would place us firmly in the shop window with the ever increasing international outdoor tourism market.As the old saying goes "if you are not in ,you can't win".
The exposure that this could bring our mountains with a massive audience (many times the population of Ireland) in the South of England for instance where there are no major mountain ranges and where our mountain ranges in the South East of Ireland are closer then most of the mountain ranges in Scotland,Northern England and Wales thanks in no small way to connections to Waterford Airport are too great an opportunity to be ignored!

Waterford Airport ;

Finally in some promotions of our mountains we are compared to  Ireland's answer to the Lake District in England.As for walking and guesthouses,pubs and hotels we are second to none,however we will never be fully comparable until we up our game and offer the variety of facilities and infrastucture that are offered elsewhere.If we get these right maybe areas like the Lake District will then be compared to England's answer to the Comeraghs or Knockmealdowns!

Ireland's answer to the Lake District?

It is heartening to hear of the current County Mayors plans to implement CCTV in some areas of our mountains before the end of his term.!/DungarvanLeader/status/193248930635587584
If you agree with webcams and cctv for mountains please contact the County Mayor;

                                         Knockmealdown and Knockmoylan from the East.

For more ideas and discussions regarding improving our mountains;!/pages/Waterfords-Mountains/133275260073399?sk=info

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Alternative sports for Comeraghs/Monavullaghs&Knockmealdowns.

It is well known within the walking community that the Comeragh,Monavullagh and Knockmealdown mountains offer some fantastic trails and walks for all levels of fitness.It's less well known that other sporting interests like Paragliding,Rock climbing,Quading,Scrambling,Fell running,Orienteering,Whitewater kayaking,Road cycling etc. also use these mountains.It's even less well known again that the mountains could be opened up to an altogether larger audience among the younger and older generations by the introduction of sports on a more organised basis like mountainbiking,mountainboarding and grass skiing.
Above:XC mountainbikers in Monavullagh mountains Seefin summit in background.
Below;Hillwalkers meet mountainbikers.
According to "there are not enough trails" in Ireland.There are only four purpose built  mountain bike trails.With the exception of Ballyhoura there are no facilities.No first aid,no bike repair centre,no toilets and no showers.As the crow flies you have Balinastoe in Wicklow and the next nearest trail is actually in Wales!.The other trails in Ireland being two in Co.Galway Derroura, Portumna Forest Park and Ballyhoura on the Cork-Limerick Border.There is a clear vacancy for such a trail in the South East region  in one of our mountain ranges.
Mountainbiking can be broken  down into these categories:Cross country (XC),Trail riding,all mountain,downhill,freeride,dirt jumping and trials.
Cross country xc mountainbiking pictured above in the Monavullagh mountains requires a different range of skills and a higher level of fitness then other types of mountainbiking.Advanced riders pursue steep technical descents and in the case of freeriding downhilling and dirtjumping,ariel maneuvers off of specially constructed jumps and ramps.The majority of mountainbikers ride off-road trails whether country back roads,fire roads or single track narrow trails that wind through forests, and mountains of which we have no shortage.
Road from Seefin.
In downhill mountainbiking the biker is usually dropped at the top of a mountain to where descent starts and off they go.This has been tried out from the summit of Seefin 726m in the Monavullagh mountains as there is a gravel road/track leading right up to the summit of this mountain.The two downsides to this venue is the the track has three gates on route one at start which isn't an issue but there are two along the route up and are more often then not closed.Second being the lack of a ski-lift.You have to rely on your own fitness to reach summit.Full body armour is worn with full face helmets.Specifically using DH bikes.The frame geometry of these bikes lends itself to descending and definitely not hill climbing.Courses include huge drop-offs of tens of feet and extreme inclines.
Typically this event is used at off-season ski resorts.
Seefin summit at 2,387feet highest point of Monavullagh mountains.

Downhill Mountainbiking Slievenamon summit to foot in under 7 minutes.

This is a well established if little known extreme sport derived from snowboarding.Began in U.K,the U.S.A. and Austrailia in 1992.Riders from different boardsports (unknown to each other began designing and developing boards that could be ridden off-road.The sport of mountainboarding was created by the desire to expand the possible terrain that a boarder can ride.This sport is the perfect off-season alternative surfing and snowboarding.With Co.Waterford's seaside towns and villages having a vibrant surf and bodyboard scene our mountains are perfectly situated to offer an alternative sport to compliment their skills.
There are different disciplines Downhill(DH),Boardercross(Boarder X,BX),Freestyle(FS);(slopestyle,big air,skatepark/jib),Freeriding(FR).
Mountainboarding centre in Mourne mountains,Northern Ireland.

  Ballymacarbry,Clogheen,Rathgormack,Newcastle,Kilbrien,Cappoquin,Kilrossanty take note; At present there are no mountainboard centres in the 26 counties so there is a big opportunity for one of our mountain regions to grasp the nettle on this and bring badly needed tourism and income to the locality and introduce a totally different generation to visit and for youth of these areas to stay in the area.
A mountainboard is made up of components including a deck,bindings to secure the rider to the deck,four wheels with pneumatic tyres and two steering mechanisms known as trucks.There is also the option of a hand-operated disc brake.
Grass skiing.
Invented in Germany in 1966 with the idea of giving ski racers a method of training during the Summer months.With the proliferation of outdoor sports,grass skiing has caught on in places as disperate as Taiwan,Iran and Japan.
Caterpillar-like threads are used in place of skis,and the rolling contact between the skier and the slope seems to cause little damage or erosion to the grass slope.It surely gives skiers a way to hold their edge during the Summer months.
There are no grass skiing runs in Ireland at this present time.
Below is an article on why Britains hills would be perfect for this sport:
The above are just some ideas on how our mountain areas can move forward and help to halt rural isolation and emigration by possibly creating some badly needed alternative jobs.Securing tomorrow,Waterford's Mountains seeking solutions.
Even more ideas are often discussed and offered on the following links;!/WaterfordsMount
Important update;
In this original article the call was put out there among the mountain villages and communities to take note of the potential and opportunity of alternative sports and their under utilisation in Ireland and especially in the South East region.Well it is with great satisfaction that the people of Ballymacarbry,Nire GAA,Ballymac Cycle,Ballymacarbry Community Centre in co-operation with Coillte organised a mountainbike event "The Nire Drop" which from all reports and publicity in local and national newspaper and magazine media was a terrific success with over 100 entrants for a maiden event.Congratulations to all involved and may you all be inspired to make this an even greater success in future.