A TRAIL leading to the historic Tony's Hill on Clara Bog is being developed as part of the Living Bog project.
The work will see the installation of one-kilometre long walkway through a birch forest on the bog, leading to Tony's Hill, a unique mound where the ruins of a cottage can still be seen and which overlooks the preserved peatland.
The history of Tony's Hill and the isolated residence on it is unclear, Ronan Casey, public awareness officer with the Living Bog, said last week, but local folklore recalls the existence of a man named 'Tony' who lived there before the present day road through Clara Bog was constructed.
The hill can be seen on maps dating from the 1840s and is located on the eastern half of Clara Bog, across the road from the better known expanse of peatland which is already home to what Casey says is “the best bog boardwalk in the country”.
A boreen, apparently first laid down by people going into the bog to cut turf, leads to the hill, a small elevated section of the 840-hectare bog.
Turfcutting took place around the hill and about 30 years ago the cutaway was planted with silver birch trees by Coillte, forming the forest which is there today.
The amenity which will be developed by the Living Bog is part of the project's commitment to community involvement.
“As well as our project restoring bogs, we're trying to work with communities on providing amenities or trying to do something else with the bog,” said Casey.
The amenities will open up parts of the bogs to the public and attempt to give an appreciation of local history, folklore and previous land use.
Tony's Hill on Clara Bog fitted the criteria perfectly and it, along with Ferbane Bog, was chosen for inclusion.
Brian Sheridan was one of a number of Clara people who mapped out a potential walking route.
“The local group came up with a brilliant overall plan but it would have cost millions,” said Casey.
However, a shorter route with a focus on Tony's Hill and its ancient cottage ruins was feasible and will be completed.
The existing turfcutting road will bring visitors onto the bog to a facebank where turfcutting took place and people will then be able to access the hill and ruins through the forest trail.
“It'll give the visitor a real look at how the uses of the bog has affected the bog, moreso than the existing boardwalk which shows the beauty of the bog,” explained Casey.
“Uniquely it will tell the story of a man who lived here on the bog. He probably had the best view of Clara Bog of anyone.”
Last Thursday, during a tour of the bog arranged for Heritage Week, Brian Sheridan told stories of cutting turf in Clara and he brought a group to Tony's Hill and the site of the two-room cottage.
At the bog, where cutting no longer takes place, he recalled how people with turfcutting rights guarded their banks jealously.
“You had your bank and if you were cutting the bank next to it and you went out a bit, you'd be ate,” he said. “It used to be gas on the bog. Pantomime.”
Enda Molloy, the education guide on Clara Bog, also took part in Thursday's walk.
Clara Bog is continuing to attract a steady stream of visitors and the Visitor Centre is in the Clara Library building.
Last Tuesday week a group of about 30 children visited the bog, despite the bad weather on the day.
They took part in a “detective walk” on the bog, which brought them up close to the plants and wildlife on it.
The Living Bog project, which is overseen by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has appealed to anyone with any further information about Tony's Hill or the man who lived there to contact them through any of the local people or by the website www.raisedbogs.ie