Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

04 November 2022

The red squirrels in Ballina’s Belleek Woods and the wildlife in Moygownagh and Swinford will reap the rewards after Irish Water sowed more than 1,000 trees at three of its Mayo plants. 

Irish Water recognises the urgent need to accelerate efforts to halt the decline of biodiversity and has developed an action plan to help conserve, enhance and work with the natural environment.  

Ballina’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is only a stone’s throw away from Belleek Woods where red squirrels call home, so it was only fitting that their favourite hazel trees were planted there. In the other two sites, one in East Mayo’s Swinford and the other in North Mayo’s Moygownagh, 600 new trees are thriving. 

Irish Water’s Biodiversity Officer David Fallon is proud to be part of the initiative. 

Trees are the lungs of our planet and without them we wouldn’t survive. Irish Water delivers clean drinking water across the country and returns treated wastewater safely to the environment. This means our sites cross a range of natural habitats. Nature is in everything that we do so without nature Irish Water wouldn’t function.

After surveying the treatment plants in Mayo, David was happy to recommend Ballina, Swinford and Moygownagh for the biodiversity opportunity. 

Belleek is a lovely site for biodiversity with an important population of red squirrels in the adjoining woods. Red squirrel numbers were dropping a few years ago but there was a population established in westerly Belleek and today our native red squirrels are doing much better in the country. 

At our plants in Moygownagh and Swinford, grassy areas were planted with trees putting a stop to the regular mowing of the grass. Now we have small native woodlands on those sites.” 

In fact, David encourages all garden owners to reduce the number of times they cut their lawns. 

Irish Water’s sites, like our gardens, don’t have to be like bowling greens. Mow the grass less. It might seem like the lazy option but with regular mowing you’re never giving a plant the chance to put out a flower and that flower is vital for pollinators. We’ve 99 species of bees and lots more pollinator insects like moths and butterflies. They are the foundations of our food chains and environment and if we don’t have them there’s no life for us.

When I was driving my very first car, I remember having to stop in the summer and clean the insects stuck to my windscreen, but I don’t have to do that anymore. We don’t see the same level of insects we did 20 years ago; the pollinators are missing in our environment. We’ve lost vast numbers of insect species and if we think we can survive without them we’re mistaken. Every little pocket you plant is ensuring that you do your bit for biodiversity.

There are novel ways of getting around things and helping nature. People might say their garden is small but if we all took action, we would have a national park size area very quickly.” 

The Mayo planting initiative is just one of many Irish Water projects supporting biodiversity across the country.

Find out more about our Biodiversity Action Plan.