Designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
(Site code 000396)
A Unique Resource on the Outskirts of Newbridge
Located in an area just 5 km north-west of Newbridge, and just off the northern margin of the Curragh Plains. Pollardstown Fen is a spring fed, postglacial fen and covers an area of approximately 220 hectares encompassing parts of the townlands of Pollardstown, Scarletstown, Roseberry, and Rathbride. The Fen is a precious part of our Natural Heritage however like all fens in Ireland Pollardstown Fen could be in danger of disappearing as a result of drainage and development.
Visitors to the Fen will notice that the http://www.npws.ie National Parks & Wildlife Service have provided an attractive entry point to the Fen, including car parking, and created a boardwalk along the Fen making it easier for everyone to access this important local amenity.
Pollardstown Fen is a National Nature Reserve since 1986. It is also a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive. This means that all flora and fauna on the fen are protected by law. Because of the rarity of the habitat and the number of rare plant and animal species, Pollardstown Fen is rated as of international importance.
When visiting Pollardstown Fen please obey the warning signs erected by National Parks & Wildlife Service, only enter the Fen by the main entrance, stick to the walking track, do not pick or unduly disturb plants and vegetation, it’s somewhat swampy – so take care, watch where you walk, and supervise your children. Try not to disturb the animals in the fen, and make your visit a positive interaction with environment.
The fen is highly respected by many people in Newbridge, and its surrounding townlands, it provides an interesting place to visit for individuals, family groups, bird-watchers, teachers and their pupils and is the subject of much scientific study. Botanists regard Pollardstown Fen as one of the most important in the country.
What is a Fen:
Pollardstown Fen is a large wetland or marshy area with a permanently high water level at or just below the surface. It lies in a shallow depression, running in a north-west/south-east direction. The Fen at Pollardstown covers an area of some 220 hectares, and its principal source of water are the approximately 40 springs which provide a continuous supply of water to the fen (in the main the springs rise at the margins of the fen), and carry calcium rich water from the Curragh Aquifer, creating waterlogged conditions which lead to peat formation. It’s these alkaline rich springs which give Pollardstown Fen its unique character, and ensures that the Fen’s alkaline to acidy peat soil will continue to support the diverse species of vegetation which exists on the Fen.
Pollardstown Fen would have formed at the end of the last ice-age, as the ice melted, a lake would have formed in the natural basin or hollow which now comprises the Fen and its lake. As plants grew and died back, the peaty soil formed, and the lake became more shallow, over the intervening years the fen as we know it today was formed. Unlike nearby bog lands, the peaty fen did not become a typical bog land because the fresh alkaline waters of the Curragh prevented the growth of bog mosses. The rarest fens in Ireland are valley fens like Pollardstown. Fens act as a natural water purification system.
What’s to see on the Fen?
Pollardstown fen’s slow, undisturbed development has given rise to a relatively unique ecology with many rare species of flora & fauna. This has resulted in Pollardstown Fen being one of the best examples of its type in Europe.
The vegetation is quite varied and species-rich with numerous well-defined plant communities and several rare or scarce species. Some of the taller species of grasses which grow up to 2 metres tall in the fen are the:-
Saw Sedge which has a brown flower, and is fairly dominant in the Fen;
Bulrush is to be found along the sides of the lake;
Common Reed whose flower is purple in summer, brown in autumn and off white in winter;
There are attractive displays of orchids such as the following examples:
- Early Marsh Orchid;
- Common Spotted Orchid;
- Heath Spotted Orchid;
- Fragrant Orchid;
In addition you will find flowering plants such as the following examples:
- Bog Thistle;
- Fen Bedstraw;
- Marsh Bedstraw;
- Common Butterwort;
- Yellow Rattle;
- Devil’s Bit Scabious;
The Fen also supports a number of Sedges, Rushes, and Mosses.
A number of invertebrates, including Molluscs, Hoverflies, Moths and Butterflies are on the Fen, with Mammals such as Otters, Pygmy Shrews and Bats. There are Frogs in abundance, and some rare Snails within the curtilage of Pollardstown Fen.
The fen has ornithological importance for both breeding and wintering birds, some of which are rare breeding species in Ireland, and birdlife includes such species as:
- Mute Swan;
- Little Grebe;
- Grey Heron;
- Sedge warbler;
What threatens the existence of the Fen?
Owing to the rarity of this habitat and the numbers of rare organisms found there, the site is rated as of international importance. Pollardstown fen is the largest spring-fed fen in Ireland and maybe under increasing threat as a result of drainage, land reclamation and the rapid urban and infrastructure development, the intensification of agriculture and arterial drainage schemes has also had a detrimental effect on fens throughout the country.
Careless visitors to the Fen can also have a detrimental effect in the special environment which is Pollardstown Fen.
Where does the Fen water go?
An area of reclaimed land was re-flooded in 1983 and has now reverted to open water, swamp and regenerating fen, and a shallow lake has developed. Excess water from the Fen flows into the Grand Canal via what’s known as the Milltown Feeder. The Fen water is probably the greatest source of water to the Grand Canal. Indeed it has been suggested that the very existence of the Grand Canal depends on the uninterrupted flow of water from the Curragh Aquifer via Pollardstown Fen.
For more Information on Pollardstown Fen
National Parks & Wildlife Service- Pollardstown Fen SAC
National Parks & Wildlife Service Website
Irish Peatland Conservation Council Website