Take a break in the wild oasis of a Mayo bog

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The road through Clogher Bog. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

COUNTRYVIEW

WITH more and more people strolling, walking, hiking and biking, many favorite haunts are becoming overcrowded, so those seeking a bit of seclusion find themselves surrounded on all sides, even by those who share the same ideas.

The Lough Lannagh circuit has never been busier. It is extremely pretty and a local walk almost as beautiful as any town in the country.

We look forward to further expansions, as the potential there is huge.

Rehins Wood is another popular location. In good weather, we find an almost endless stream of human traffic that makes time alone almost impossible.

It’s good to offer a cheerful greeting to your neighbors. In fact, it’s borderline rude not to.

But sometimes we need a break from the chorus of “Good Morning!”. We need space to pause, meditate, contemplate, look around and break away from the whirlwind that life has become.

Enter the Clogher Bog loop walks.

The Clogher Bog is a wild oasis surrounded by farmland. Located just five miles from the town of Castlebar, it is easily accessible, with free parking available at Clogher Community Center and the nearby Heritage Centre.

You have the choice between many looped walks, each one bringing you back to your starting point, without having to retrace your steps.

The shortest is around 3km and can be done in an easy half hour, while the longest, at 8km, can keep you busy for two hours or more.

But why rush? The whole bog complex is filled with interesting things.

At present, dragonflies and damselflies compete for attention with sand martens which have shortly left their nests in the peat banks. Again today, a female Hen Harrier was spotted nearby.

These large and rare birds of prey are spectacular hunters of other birds and small mammals and spotting one above the bog is a rare treat.

One thing that caught my eye as I walked around was the amount of wild carrots growing along the well maintained trails.

The wild carrot is considered the ancestor of our cultivated carrot varieties. Indeed, the smell is similar, and the stems and flower heads taste like carrots.

There is a potential problem with eating wild carrots, in that it resembles the deadly poisonous hemlock. However, there are enough differences to help us differentiate the two safely.

For one thing, the smooth-stemmed hemlock grows to a height of six feet or more, while our hairy-stemmed wild carrot reaches a maximum height of just three feet.

And the flowers of the wild carrot differ from those of its deadly look-alike, in that they have a few darker central flowers in the middle of each cluster, or panicle of white flowers, unlike the hemlock.

The carrot even has a rather small and woody carrot-shaped root, which is tender enough to be eaten if harvested from a young plant.

On more mature plants, it becomes woody and inedible. Because it still has a fine flavor, it was once added to soups and stews before being discarded after cooking.

Another name for wild carrot is bird’s nest plant. It comes from the shape the seed clusters take on as they ripen – when you see them, you’ll understand why.

The seeds have long been used to treat just about every ailment plaguing the human family. They have a strong medicinal taste. Save them for the winter and enjoy them as a tea.

There is much more to enjoy in Clogher. Best of all, there’s still plenty of room left in a world that most have forgotten.

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