Forest Walk - Balrath Wood
Balrath can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, the ideal time to visit Balrath is in late summer/early autumn when there are plenty of leaves and some fruits/nuts on the trees, some wildflowers still in bloom and also some insect life to be seen. Spring and summer are also good times, especially to see woodland wildflowers in their natural habitat.
Woodlands are the natural state of Ireland’s landscape. Left alone, trees would eventually cover much of the country as they did thousands of years ago. Native species would have included oak, ash and yew, for example. As trees were cleared for farming and later, industry, our ancient woodlands vanished. Today we have the lowest percentage of wooded area in Europe.Much of Ireland’s landscape and the plants and animals (flora and fauna) that live here only arrived in the last 10,000years, at the end of the last Ice Age. Because of this, Ireland does not have a huge diversity of species compared to Britain or the rest of Europe.There are many different types of woodland in Ireland. What we think of as a typical wooded area may be a relatively recent plantation. It may include several species such as beech, chestnut and sycamore that are not considered native trees, even though they have been with us for centuries.
There are three defined pathways in Balrath/Knockcomra:
1 Long Walk – White on map – Circles the perimeter of the woods.
2 Nature Walk Blue on map.
3 Easy Walk – Yellow on map (suitable for wheelchairs and buggies).
The Long Walk and the Nature Walk both begin shortly after leaving the car park. Follow the path from the main entrance into the woods until you see a sign for these pathways. Take a right into the woods and follow the path around. It is sign-posted. The Nature Walk is shorter than the Long Walk.
THE NATURE WALK
As Balrath has been designed as an outdoor classroom, this walk has been specially chosen to demonstrate some aspects of the woodlands to school-goers. Numbered marker posts will show the visitor certain features. (Teachers Notes)
The Easy Walk goes straight up the tarmac path, past the pond, swing and play ponies, and then loops around to the left to return the same route.
There are four Play areas. To reach the ‘Shaky Bridge’ go along the Wheelchair Path and turn left just before the Pond. The Swing, suitable for children with disabilities, is situated straight ahead past the pond. (This swing is for children, and not intended for Adults) Further along the Wheelchair Path you will find two‘Play Ponies’ suitable for small children. Turn right here, off Wheelchair Path, and continue until you come to the Climbing Web.
Balrath Wood is located just off the N2 from Ashbourne (only approx. 35 km from Dublin). Take a left turn off the N2 for Navan and Balrath Wood is situated on your left. Alternatively, take the Kentstown Road for Ashbourne/ Duleek and Balrath Wood is situated approx. 10 km from Navan.
Brief History of Balrath
Balrath Wood (also known locally as Knockcomra) was once part of the larger Somerville estate. It was a fine example of mixed broadleaf woodland. Some of the original trees still remain but most of this 50 acre (20 hectare) wood was replanted in 1969 with a number of species including oak, beech, ash and spruce. Currently it can be described asmixed conifer/broadleaf woodland. The Tree Council of Ireland and Meath County Council are now responsible for the woodland management and the upkeep of the wood as a place that everyone can learn from and enjoy.
There is a nature walk developed as an outdoor classroom for teachers. Download the teachers pack developed by Meath County Council and The Tree Council which is designed for teachers, however families could also follow the information for the nature walk.
Please do not leave valuables in your car.