Downstream Change, Source to Sea Workshop.

The weather is a common concern for the Inishowen Rivers Trust when planning an event. As the day for our Downstream Change, Source to Sea workshop approached, the forecasts had been less than favourable, predicting relentless rain throughout the day. But fear not, for the allure of Glenveagh and the promise of a captivating course facilitator, Mark O’Connor from Field Studies Ireland, had us all eager to discover the secrets of these dynamic and fascinating waterways. On Sunday 16th July, we were blessed with favourable skies and a vibrant rainbow as we set out for an eventful day at the stunning Glenveagh National Park. Rain or shine, enthusiasts from Sligo, Meath, and Inishowen gathered to delve into the wonders of rivers. 

In the company of 14 eager participants, we embarked on an adventure that promised to be both enlightening and enjoyable. Before setting off, Mark, our knowledgeable course facilitator from Field Studies Ireland, provided us with a comprehensive plan for the day’s activities. Patrick also offered a captivating introduction to the wonders of the National Park, and the friendly staff at the visitor centre even provided us with subsidised bus tickets – a gesture that highlighted the warmth of their hospitality.

On the bus towards Glenveagh Castle, our group was a diverse mix of individuals with varied expertise, ranging from environmental engineering, water chemistry, and community development to representatives from LAWPRO and Inland Fisheries Ireland, along with engineering students and even a skilled barber. The wealth of knowledge and passion within our ranks, was ready to be shared.

Strolling along the east side of the picturesque Lough Beagh, Mark took the opportunity to encourage everyone to share their insights. Tales of legends and stories linked to the rowan and hazel, the enchanting bog myrtle, and the intriguing rock formations enriched our experience. Mark also introduced us to the dynamic factors that shape rivers – transportation, erosion, and deposition, laying the groundwork for our day of exploration.

We continued the walk along the lough to the mouth of the Owenveagh River, stopping to admire the Astelleen Waterfall and discussing how the geology of the park created the feature. The hard granite meeting the softer schist creating the waterfall conditions. Readers who were in Glenveagh earlier in the month with the Inishowen Rivers Trust and Dr. Peter Wilson will be nodding knowingly. The heavy rain of the day and weeks before, was evident in the torrent of water running over rocks and down small cascades on the other side of the valley. 

Figure 1 The Astelleen Waterfall demonstrated the impact of geology on river flows in Glenveagh.

The next stop was the Stalking Hut, a bothy that once a resting place for weary hunters returning from the hill, was now our lunch spot and make shift classroom. The spot allowed for a lovely view of the river and the steps or wier which were originally built to provide pools for salmon. To revive us after lunch, Mark introduced us to the different instruments that we’d be using for our fieldwork and measurement – the yard stick, tape measure, flowmeter and turbidity meter. The group, split into three, armed with clipboards, we walked further into the valley to test our downstream change hypotheses.  

Back in the bothy, the different groups relayed their data gathering, how it compared to the original hypothesis. How visual observations can be contradicted by the measured data. Our walk back from the castle to the bus, allowed for different people to meet and chat.  The interesting people on our workshops are an added bonus to the stunning scenery, excellent guide, and Inishowen Rivers Trust offered tea and biscuits.

The feedback from participants was hugely positive – the knowledge and delivery of Mark, the location, and the organisation. One participant said he’d never look at a river in the same way- once you know about the complexity and the forces working on the river, you can’t unknow them.

This day trip was funded as part of the Heritage Council’s Heritage Capacity Fund’s National River Guardians Project. The next events as part of this programme will be on 17th August in Culdaff and 20th August in Sligo Town. More details are in the links below.