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Wildlife, trees and plants at Monkstown Wood

From grassland to woodland, the habitats of Monkstown Wood are home to a wealth of wildlife. The Three Mile Water marks the wood’s northern boundary, and is an angler’s delight. It writhes with brown trout, salmon and dollaghan, and damselfly and dragonfly waltz above the surface.

The trees lining the river’s flanks reduce bank erosion, and provide much-needed cover for insects. During spring and summer, the canopy is full of voice, with song thrush, chaffinch and willow warbler proclaiming their presence. Wren and blackcap hop through the branches, and chiffchaff call out with their distinctive song. Swift and house martin screech through the summer sky, and now and then the blue flash of a diving kingfisher catches the light.

In winter and early spring, listen for great tit, blackbird and robin piercing the still, cold air with their joyful songs, and watch for them flitting among the bare branches while buzzard hover above the open spaces nearby. Otters sweep through the river, hunting for fish and small birds, while dipper and grey wagtail stay safe in the shallows. On balmy summer nights, turn your eyes skyward to see bats circling after moths and other nocturnal insects.

Speckled wood and small white butterflies make the most of warm spring days, and in the undergrowth, wolf spider lurk after unsuspecting prey.

In 2007 local children helped to sow an area of seed-rich plants on the site to help feed the wild birds under threat and increase the wildlife value of the area. Not only was it a great way of teaching children the importance of habitat for wildlife and ensuring the survival of the birds, it also helped raise awareness of the effects of land use changes in the local area.

Trees and plants

Once a patchwork of grazed fields, Monkstown Wood now boasts a glorious mix of grassland and mature and newly planted woodland.

The mature woodland which largely dates back to the 1800s covers around half the site. Most of it is by the river at the northern edge of the wood, predominated by sycamore and ash, with alder, field maple and oak. The new woodland was planted between 2000 and 2004, on 5ha (12.3 acres) of the former agricultural land. These 8,000 trees comprise a mix of 15 different species including oak, ash, rowan, alder, wild cherry, willow, birch and Scots pine. These young trees will link the existing fragments of mature woodland, creating new habitats for wildlife. Now and then as you wander around the site, you’ll discover the remains of a mature hedgerow – perhaps those once used to mark the field boundaries.

During spring and summer, yellow meadow buttercup lines the verges and welcomes you to the wood, and white greater stitchwort, delicate cow parsley and wood anemone are peppered with blue germander speedwell and purple bush vetch. Lesser celandine glitter yellow beneath the trees, and bluebell paint springtime a hazy shade of blue. In the car park, look out for strange cup fungi – likely to be Peziza.