If you are looking for a peaceful and scenic place to enjoy nature in Galway, you might want to visit the Pollnaknockaun Wood Nature Reserve. This reserve is located near Woodford, about 2 km north-east of the town, and covers an area of 38.85 hectares. It is one of the few remaining examples of a semi-natural oak woodland in Ireland, and it is home to a rich diversity of plants and animals.

Pollnaknockaun Wood was once part of a vast forest that stretched across the region, but it was gradually cleared for agriculture and timber over the centuries. In the 1930s and 1940s, most of the hardwood trees were removed and replaced with commercial conifers, mainly Sitka spruce and Scots pine. However, some patches of native oak trees and their associated ground flora survived the changes, and they were designated as a nature reserve in 1983 by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The reserve is also part of the Natura 2000 network, a European initiative to protect biodiversity, and it is classified as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive.

The main attraction of Pollnaknockaun Wood is its ancient oak woodland, which is dominated by sessile oak (Quercus petraea), a species that is adapted to acidic soils and wet climates. The oak trees provide shelter and food for many other organisms, such as mosses, lichens, fungi, insects, birds and mammals. Some of the notable species that can be found in the reserve are:

– Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), a delicate plant with white flowers and clover-like leaves that fold up at night.
– Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), a spring-flowering bulb that carpets the woodland floor with its blue-violet blooms.
– Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), another spring-flowering plant that has white or pink flowers with yellow centers.
– Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), a low-growing shrub that produces edible berries in summer.
– Holly (Ilex aquifolium), an evergreen tree that has glossy green leaves with spiny margins and red berries in winter.
– Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), a native mammal that feeds on nuts, seeds and fruits, and has a distinctive reddish-brown fur and bushy tail.
– Jay (Garrulus glandarius), a colourful bird that belongs to the crow family and has a loud and harsh call. It is known for its habit of collecting and hiding acorns for later use.
– Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), a bird that uses its strong beak to drill holes in trees and extract insects. It has a black-and-white plumage and a red patch on the back of its head.

Pollnaknockaun Wood Nature Reserve is open to the public all year round, but there are no facilities or amenities on site. Visitors are advised to follow the Leave No Trace principles and respect the wildlife and plants. There is a walking trail that goes through the reserve, which takes about an hour to complete. The trail starts from a car park on the R351 road, near the entrance to the reserve. The trail is marked with wooden posts and signs, but it can be muddy and slippery in places, so sturdy footwear is recommended. The trail offers scenic views of the woodland, as well as some historical features, such as an old lime kiln and a stone bridge.

Pollnaknockaun Wood Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in Galway that showcases the beauty and diversity of Ireland’s natural heritage. It is a perfect place for nature lovers, walkers, photographers and anyone who wants to escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.


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Pollnaknockaun Wood Nature Reserve



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