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07 Jun 2016

CAIRDE Teo’s monthly hill walking group ‘SIÚIL’ teamed up with fellow ramblers from Monaghan, Fermanagh and Tyrone last week as part of the popular Sliabh Beatha Irish Language Festival. The 3 day festival featured lectures, Irish language classes, family events, hill walking, barbeques and concerts. Festival participants were bathed in warm, glorious sunshine throughout the weekend and the festivities climaxed with a victory for the host county, Monaghan, in the Ulster GAA Championship.

Slieve Beatha is a mountainous area straddling the border between County Monaghan, County Fermanagh and County Tyrone. It includes the highest point in County Monaghan. The point where the three counties meet, which is also in the Sliabh Beatha, is referred to as “Three County Hollow”. The Sliabh Beatha Way is a 25-mile walk starting at St Patrick’s Chair and Well in County Tyrone, passing through County Monaghan and ending at Donagh in southeast Fermanagh. There are a further 31 loop walks throughout the Sliabh Beatha ranging from 2.5 miles to 12 miles. The Armagh group were guided on their walk by Éanna Ní Lamhna and Paddy Sherry. Éanna Ní Lamhna is an Irish biologist, environmental consultant, radio and television presenter, author and educator. She is one of the best-known public figures in Ireland in the area of nature and the environment, and was listed as one of Ireland’s “Influential 100” in 2012. She was president of the national environmental charity An Taisce (which has a statutory role in the planning process in Ireland) for five years in the 2000s. She was also President of the Tree Council of Ireland from 2012 to 2014.

Slieve Beatha has many low, smooth summits. The highest is at 380 metres (1,250 ft) and lies just inside County Fermanagh. The area is mainly blanket bog, with many small lakes and streams throughout. On the northern side of the border, much of Slieve Beatha has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation. According to Irish mythology, the name refers to the mythological figure Bith, who was buried in a cairn on top of the mountain. Although the summit is in fact marked by a cairn, called Doocarn, it is likely that the name’s original meaning is “mountain of birch”. In County Monaghan, the locals typically refer to the Slieve Beatha as the “Bragan Mountains”, taking the name from a townland within the Slieve Beatha.

Slieve Beatha is an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. The peatland features include occasional well developed hummock and lawn complexes, a few small pool complexes, as well as soakways and flushes. Vegetation is characterized by sphagnum mosses and ericoid dwarf-shrubs. The peatland flora includes a number of rare and unusual species including cowberry and the mosses Sphagnum fuscum and Sphagnum imbricatum. There are several upland, base-poor lakes occur with aquatic mosses. The area supports a breeding population of red grouse, as well as Eurasian golden plover and hen harrier.

CAIRDE Teo representative Gearóid Ó Machail congratulated the organisers of the successful weekend festival:
“ Sliabh Beatha is a fabulous resource just half an hour down the road from Armagh City. Aside from the wonderful natural resources in the area, the community facilities in Cnoc a’ tSalainn are an inspiration to small rural communities everywhere. The fabulous Sliabh Beatha Hotel serves as a focal point for the local community and is more akin to a thriving community centre than simply a residential facility. The weekend Irish language festival brings many outsiders to this small rural area and it is a credit to the organisers. We would particularly like to thank Seán Ó Murchadha, Éanna Ní Lamha, Paddy Sherry and the organisers for their wonderful hospitality and we look forward to joining them again next year”.