The Gearagh Nature Reserve - A Bird Watchers Paradise!
The Gearagh near the Castle Hotel Macroom is the remains of the only ancient post glacial alluvial forest in Western Europe. It was formed at the end of the last Ice Age and consists of a vast area of submerged islands that once supported a rich woodland flora. It gets its name from "An Gaoire", the wooden river. In 1987 the area was declared a statutory nature reserve.
Only 3 miles from Macroom, this area is of immense interest to bird watchers with both summer and winter migrants - from October onwards migratory birds arrive in large flocks. The Gearagh is a haven of peace and tranquility and provides ideal opportunities for off road walking.
The Gearagh, is an old Irish name for a wooded river.This site is located on the River Lee in County Cork, extending westwards and southwards from the Lee Bridge, which is about 1.5km south of Macroom. It extends for about 7km of river, to Dromcarra Bridge. The Gearagh occupies a wide, flat valley of the River Lee, on a bed of limestone overlain with sand and gravel. The adjacent valley walls are of Old Red Sandstone.
This unusual area has formed where the River Lee breaks into a complex network of channels (2 to 6m wide) weaving through a series of wooded islands. It is the only extensive remains of Alluvial Forest found in western Europe. It was described by a 17th historian as " an immense plain covered with trees and divided by the River Lee into 1,000 islands". It is a unique place of streams, narrow channels and small islands. Here are found some very rare plant and insect specimens which have been investigated and recorded by famous naturalists and scientists since the 19th century. There are 100's of species of flowers, plants and ferns.
During the autumn and winter months migratory birds arrive in vast numbers and flocks of wild duck, snipe, woodcock, curlew, lapwing and swans can be seen on the islands. With foxes, stoats and otters in abundance the area is a treasure trove of wildlife. It is said that a thousand people could spend a week in the Gearagh without meeting each other.