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02 Jul 2022

This Féile Bríde walk on the Curragh opened my eyes to the history and habitats of Kildare's ancient plains

Journalist Daragh Nolan got a history and ecology lesson as he joined in the Féile Bríde walk around the Curragh on Thursday

Locals and visitors alike explore the rich history the Curragh

Moira Fennell, Theresa McAuliffe, Jacinta Leonard, Mary O'Connor, Ber Carey, Kevin O'Kelly, Emer Prediville, Bríd Leddy and Liz Cullen

I have lived in the Curragh for most of my life but you take for granted what you have such easy access to. I attended the 'Walk and Explore the Secrets of the Curragh' on Thursday - part of the week-long Féile Bríde celebrations in Kildare - in my capacity as a journalist - but the experience was an incredible insight into an amazing place and perhaps one that I never truly appreciated until now.

Roughly halfway through the journey, my granny and I looked at one another in disbelief that we had never known any of the facts we were hearing. Two people who live as close to the Curragh as the sheep do knew less about the place than the visitors we stood between.

The rich history of the Curragh was the topic to be explored in yesterday's celebration of Féile Bríde as patrons walked across the land itself. The consumption of knowledge was made easy by the visual aid of the stunning landscape you were learning so much about. 

Kevin O'Kelly and Emer Prendiville

                               Kevin O'Kelly and Emer Prendiville enjoying the walk. Pictures: Aishling Conway

Ecologist Mary O'Connor led the walk across the Curragh in celebration of the grassland's natural history and in memory of Saint Brigid. But before the walk around just a small part of The Curragh's near 2,000 hectares, the group paid tribute to Kildare's patroness of Ireland with a rendition of 'We Sing A Song To Brigid'. No detail had been forgotten ahead of the performance as group leaders passed around tambourine's and shakers to bring the song to life.

The walker's exited through the gate at Cill Dara Golf Club which opened out onto the vast plains of the Curragh, which has been an uncultivated and unenclosed landscape for at least 2,000 years. The Curragh is thought of as a grassland but a key aspect of this walk was to display all the other forms of life and environment that exist there.

The group were brought to the lowland meadows where frogs hop freely and bees buzz. Our froggy friends have a Féile Bríde routine of their own, on the Curragh frogs will usually spawn each year around February 1, Saint Brigid's day.

But across the Curragh there are more accompanying the amphibians and insects, the grassland plays host to many wild mammals like rabbits, field mice and foxes.

We couldn't forget the most crucial part of the survival and management of the Curragh's habitat, the grazing sheep. The walking clouds could be seen dotted amongst the green as far as your eyes would let you do so. The Curragh plains have grown to be dependent on its woolly grazers as they have to it. 

There was a cool breeze in the air but the afternoon sun was shining on the latest installment in Féile Bríde 2022.

Group leader Mary O'Connor shared what she thinks is walk and the Curragh is special to her: "I believe since lockdown people since have really seen the value of their locality and we're very lucky in Kildare because we have an incredible environment on our doorstep with the Curragh. With this walk we wanted to raise awareness that the curragh is not just a racecourse, military training ground, or for agriculture but that it is also a cultural amenity."

The final leg of the journey was the arrival at the 1995 famine walk commemorative piece with the engraved post and displaying the poignantly relevant 'May peace prevail on earth'.

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