00:00 Saturday 09 April 2011  Written by Leo McMAHON

Tourism boost for Courceys

A FAMILY fun day will be held on Easter Monday, April 25th next, to celebrate the official opening of what is set to become 'a huge amenity,' not just for Courceys country but for all of West Cork, the Ballinspittle-Garrettstown Woods Waymarked Trails.

Details were outlined before a widely representative attendance on Monday night at the Blue Horizon, Garrettstown, organised by Courceys Integrated Rural Development Association, who have developed the 1.5 and 5.2-kilometre circuit national trails in association with Coillte, both starting and finishing across the road from Kilmore estate, near Ballinspittle village. World coastal rowing champion John Keohane, will perform the official opening on 'Monday Funday' at 1.30pm, but this will be preceded, said committee member Mary McCarthy, by a family orienteering event from 10am, entertainment from Comhaltas Ceoiltoiri Eireann, and a unique 'oar versus hurley' sporting challenge, featuring teams led by John Keohane of Kilmacsimon Rowing Club and Suremen GAA Skills Challenge champion Vincent Hurley of Courcey Rovers. Following the official opening, there will be an opportunity for children to walk the nature trail and adults to hear about its many interesting historical landmarks from Raymond White.

Not utilised

Mary recalled how, arising out of a discussion at a parish forum organised by the rural development association, it became apparent that hundreds of acres of local woodland were not utilised nor were many people aware of its amenity value. A small committee was formed to establish waymarked routes which met with a very positive response from Mary O'Brien of Coillte who furnished the requirements and a costing of €5,000 after which she, along with the committee local historian Raymond White and walked the route to identify important historical points of interest such as a deer walls, spa wells and remains of a mansion house and rabbit warren.

'A fundraising walk held last June raised €4,700', said Mary who thanked everyone who supported the project to date and stressed that it was not only for the benefit of the people of Ballinspittle, but for a huge area beyond to enjoy for free and she invited everyone to attend the official opening on Easter Monday.

Ballinspittle, with three new retail outlets opened in the past 12 months was thriving, she said and predicted that the woodland trial, less than an hour from the city, would become a huge amenity and tourism attraction. It could be also used for 5K runs, Hallowe'en and other fun and fund raising events, all of which would boost the local economy.

A fascinating brief history of the woodland was given by Raymond White. It once comprised 1,865 acres but only 15 of these were planted, mainly around the big house. No more trees were planted at Kilmore until 1750 when the Kearneys, who had eearlier displaced the Cores (many with the name Garrett), who were family owners and in 1844, shortly after the Franks became its last owners, there were 40 dwellings in the wood.

After the estate was divided in the early 1950s, the Dept of Forestry planted 512 acres, mainly conifers covering a wide variety of flora and fauna. From elevated ground along the new Coillte national waymarked trails, there were excellent views of Garrettstown beach, the Old Head of Kinsale and much more. Raymond will have much more to tell on official opening day.

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Mayor of Cork County, Kevin Murphy, Kinsale said the new amenity was for everyone's enjoyment offering healthy exercise, was a most worthwhile project and springtime was the ideal time for its opening. Along with other speakers, he paid a glowing tribute to and congratulated Mary McCarthy and all the development committee, adding that Courceys had so much to offer and deserved to benefit greatly.

Mayor of Bandon, Margaret Murphy-O'Mahony said she felt honoured to be associated with 'a fantastic amenity,' which was ideal at a time of great stress. It didn't happen by magic, so great credit was due to the development committee

'God bless all who walk in it', she added. Bandon town councillor Gillian Coughlan was also in attendance.

A fine example

Michael McCarthy, TD, Dunmanway, said the project was a fine example of a local community putting a structure in place for visitors and local alike and for developing the potential of West Cork's finest resource, tourism which in turn would boost spending in the area.

Tony Lane, chairman of Kinsale Harbour Commissioners and a keen walker, expressed his delight and in also paying tribute to the committee, welcomed the fact that historical facts were recorded because this was important. It was fantastic in recessionary times and with so much negative talk to see local people getting together and doing some positive develop such a marvellous amenity in a seaside resort with a fine tourism tradition and he also praised Coillte for its 100% support.

Looking forward to 'walking the walk' he added: 'we have it all in West Cork, let's use it!'

Guests, who included Mary O'Brien of Coillte, Fr Tom Kelleher PP and Canon David Williams, Kinsale, were welcomed by development committee chairman Igan Gillan, who acknowledged the great support of various groups in what was 'a fantastic community' and thanked hosts Jimmy and Mary McCarthy and staff of The Blue Horizon who provided refreshments,.

Other officers of Courceys Rural Development Committee include JJ Hayes, vice chairman; Carthach McCarthy, secretary; Ray Martin, treasurer and Noreen Quinn, PRO;.

Enquiries regarding the Ballinspittle-Garrettstown Woods Coillte National Waymarked Trails Fun Day are welcome are 087-9097477 and 087-6778728.

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