Discover the Beautiful Hidden Green Spaces of Galway City
The Terryland Forest Park Alliance is joining with the HSE and the Galway City Partnership in calling on the people of Galway city to take part in a ‘Reclaim the City’s Green Spaces’ walk to increase public awareness of the wonderful rich mix of natural landscapes that exist in the heart of the city. The walk will begin at 10am on Saturday May 13th at the Plots hurling/football playing pitches on the Dyke Road.
Galway is unique amongst Irish cities in possessing a diverse range of natural green spaces so close to its urban centre. This is particularly true of the Dyke Road catchment area that connects the wetlands of the River Corrib to the grasslands and woodlands of the Terryland Forest Park as well as to the rural farmlands of Menlo and Castlegar.
These habitats abound with a rich biodiversity comprising thousands of wildlife species from meadow flowers such as the ragged robin to raptor birds such as kestrel, mammals such as bats, fresh water creatures such as shrimps to tiny arthropods with delightful names such as the devil’s coach horse.
Unfortunately these beautiful ‘green jewels of the city’ have not been experienced at first hand by the majority of the city’s population. So we want citizens of all ages to join us on an exciting journey of discovery into the wonderful nature that exists on our doorstep. This will include the mosaic of waterways from streams, rivers to canals that could make the city the ‘Venice of Ireland’, to the bee friendly wildflower meadows, grasslands and the woods of Terryland Forest Park with its 90,000 native Irish trees planted by the ordinary people of Galway working with council staff since March 2000, a green zone that covers approximately 70 hectares and stretches from Woodquay to as far as the village of Castlegar.
In the year of the European Green Leaf status for Galway, we have to give due recognition to the fundamental importance of green space particularly forests to human wellbeing and health, a fact that is being increasingly borne out by science as Earth becomes an Urban Planet with more and more people living in crowded cities covered with concrete and tarmac. Scientific research shows the beneficial impact that walking in natural landscapes and amongst trees has on lowering stress, inducing calmness and improving physical health. The Japanese have long known this and practice ‘Shirin-yoku’ which is about taking in the forest atmosphere or ‘forest bathing’ to alleviate fatigue, aggression and feelings of depression. But trees also have another health bonus; they are the most effective way to tackle air pollution by filtering out the toxic particles that emanate from motorised vehicle traffic which can contribute to cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous illness and death. This is most critical in Galway city which has one of the highest levels of air pollution in Ireland.
Sadly though our young people are experiencing an alarming disconnect with nature with only 5% of children having ever climbed a tree compared to 74% of their parents’ generation With 20% of teenagers experiencing some form of mental health illness and with 25% overweight or obese, we need to get out and enjoy the natural environment more so than ever before in order to counteract the hectic fast pace lives that so many of us find ourselves in. By so doing we are implement low cost enjoyable preventive health rather than expensive reactive medicine.
By taking part in this walk, we hope that the citizens of Galway will start to become cognisant of the health, social, and environmental benefits in protecting and connecting the city’s areas of natural beauty and biodiversity. We need to convince central and local government to follow the examples of other cities from New York to Dublin in investing the resources required to set up park wardens-guide staff unit as well as a Terryland Forest –Dyke Road visitor centre compelte with café, toilets and gallery.