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The Rocky Road: Flora and Wildlife of the Rocky Road

The Rocky Road and adjacent Carteagh are botanical wonderlands alive with many species of trees, native to the county which have lain in a pristine state for centuries. One will find in abundance Hazel, Whitethorn and Blackthorn, Oak, Sally, Bay, and many other natural hardwoods.

The area is rich in natural calcerous grassland habitat and this area is considered to be of high botanical and entomological value and is the best example available outside of the Burren in north Clare.

Wildlife resident in the area is varied and in plenty. Wild Goat with a herd of some 38 on my last count is thriving.

Foxes, Pine Martens, Lizards, Stoats, Hedgehogs I have encountered in my travels through the woodland. It is also the habitat of a huge variety of birdlife and is the breeding ground for the Cuckoo on its annual sojourn in the country. In the late 1970's I reported the sighting of a Corncrake to the Wildlife Department, on a hayfield adjacent to the area, but sadly I have not heard or seen one since then.

Wild Aquelegia growing on the Carteagh
Wild Aquelegia growing on the Carteagh

Wild Goats on the Rocky Road
Wild Goats on the Rocky Road

Karst describes a unique type of topography where limestone bedrock is widely exposed and where surface drainage is nearly absent and replaced by underground drainage features such as turloughs, swallow holes and springs. The Burren represents modern karst where infiltrating acid rainfall is continuing to dissolve the limestone bedrock and to widen the subterranean channels. However, many parts of Ireland have undergone similar weathering in the past when the sea level was much lower than it is today. Therefore, even where karst features appear to be absent due to the covering of the bedrock with a layer of glacial deposits, equally well developed karst may exist at depth especially where the limestone bedrock has been prone to dissolution in the past.

Limestone on the Rocky Road
Limestone on the Rocky Road

In general, the lower units of the Carboniferous, namely the ABL and the Waulsortian limestones, display a much lower level of karstification than the overlying Burren limestones. This distinction arises from composition and structural differences between the different formations.

Applying this regional observation to the proposed road route it is clear that karst features can be expected from Newmarket-on-Fergus northward to Dromoland. This picture is consistent with the occurrence of extensive karst at Ennis and in particular in the vicinity of the Rocky Road where the Burren type limestone occurs to a large degree.

It is important to note that the karst features found along the route were developed when the sea level was much lower than it is today. Therefore, while the bedrock dips below the estuarine deposits the bedrock here will contain similar karst features and be in hydraulic continuity with the bedrock along the proposed route. The estuarine deposits simply overlie the ancient karst system and represent the modern drainage base level.



Rocky Road, Ennis