Pádraig Moran is a farmer based in west Offaly, south of Banagher, near the River Little Brosna. The story of the esker on Pádraig’s farm is a remarkable one. It had been quarried, and the gravel provided a good source of income. Once designated as an SAC however, for the important and rare semi-natural grassland that the esker supported, quarrying had to stop. And not only that – the grassland on the esker ridge now needed help in order to be restored. And so began an incredible effort, some of which is illustrated by the attached photos. Between them, the farmers (a father and son pair at the time, Pádraig being the son), their farm planner (Michael Martyn), the NPWS, and staff at the National Botanic Gardens, devised and undertook an exciting, innovative and difficult project. Using horses to till the land, and seed collected nearby on-site, they rehabilitated the grassland on the esker ridge in the area nearest the quarry face. The site supports a range of specialised and uncommon plants, including the Red-Listed Green-winged Orchid, and through the efforts made, it continues to do so. Over the years Pádraig has welcomed all manner of students and researchers to the farm, including studies of butterflies and plants. Pádraig continues to liaise with and facilitate anyone who has an interest in the nature conservation of the site and the works carried out.
1. Seeds collected nearby and on-site in summer/autumn of 2007 and stored over the winter. Photo provided by Michael Martyn.
2. Seán Martyn (brother of farm planner) and his team the horses Duke and Pepper preparing the ground for seed dispersal (which was done using a custom-made hand-held fiddle seed disperser). Photo provided by Michael Martyn, taken 29th May 2008.
3. Working near quarry face of the esker. Photo provided by Michael Martyn, taken 29th May 2008.
4. The restored grassland just one year later. Photo provided by Michael Martyn, taken 1st June 2009.
5. Cattle grazing below the esker ridge in summer 2019. Photo taken by Padraig Moran.
6. The rare green-winged orchid in summer 2019. Photo taken by Padraig Moran.
Nominator: Maria Long, Grassland Ecologist, NPWS