Members Reports and Photos


17 MAY 2014                   

Grantstown Wood & Lake Nature Reserve

LEADERs: mark mcCorry & Fiona MaCgowan

Woodland Flora

Grantstown Nature Reserve is located in the south west of Co. Laois. It covers an area of 58 hectares and is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The reserve includes a lake, which is one of the few natural lakes in County Laois, surrounded by an area of woodland on base rich fen soils.
DNFC members enjoyed a warm and sunny day for their visit to Grantstown.

The outing was led by Mark McCorry and Fiona MacGowan, and an outside broadcast crew from TG4 was also on site to film the reserve and the angling facilities that have been installed at the lake.

There is evidence that the lake previously covered an area of much greater extent, since much of the woodland area is growing on a shallow layer of peat overlying a deposit of shell marl. This marl was precipitated from calcium saturated waters and was laid down under lacustrine conditions in the late- and post-glacial period. The white shell-infused marl can be clearly seen in the drain walls and also attached to the roots of a number of large trees that have been subject to wind throw.

The woodland area is being managed by NPWS as part of their Native Woodland Scheme. Many of the conifers and other exotic species have been removed, leaving a woodland that is dominated by Birch (Betula pubescens and hybrids) and Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), with Willow (Salix spp.) and Alder (Alnus glutinosa) in wetter areas fringing the lake. This removal has opened up the woodland, letting in light and creating a much richer understorey.

The woodland area also contains Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) and Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus), both of which may be indicative of older wooded areas. Other shrubby species present included Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Wild Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) which may have been planted for game cover, and Rhododendron (Rhododendron x superponticum) which will spread and could become problematic if not kept in check.

At the herbaceous layer we found typical wood and wet woodland species including the Wood Speedwell (Veronica montana), Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna), Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea), Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum), Wood Avens / Herb Bennett (Geum urbanum), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and the Greater Tussock Sedge (Carex paniculata).

We also came across Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris), deemed to be the native variety owing to its conspicuously hooked spurs. A plant with unusual foliage was sighted at two locations close to the lake. Some debate took place about whether or not it could be the rare Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina), or a related garden escape. Its true identity will need to be confirmed at a later date when the plant is in flower.

The lake edge contains stands of emergent species such as the Common Reed (Phragmites australis), Bulrush or Reed Mace (Typha latifolia), the Saw Sedge (Cladium mariscus), Reed Canary-grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and, out in the deepest water, the Common Club-rush (Schoenoplectus lacustris).
Some of the ash trees had died, most likely due to fluctuations in the water table, and their peeling bark revealed the galleries created by the Ash Bark Beetle (Leperisinus varius). The main maternal gallery is horizontal, with the galleries created by the larvae stretching out vertically on either side.
During lunch on the shore of the lake we were rewarded by the sight of a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) flying over the water.

Butterflies on the wing in the sunshine included: Green-veined White (Pieris napi), Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).

Overall, a very rewarding outing and it will be interesting to revisit this site in the future to see how the NPWS’ efforts to recreate a native woodland are progressing.

      Charles Shier


Crannog                                                                                                                     Grantstown Castle 


Phragmites australis                              Shell Marl 2                          Shell Marl 1                             Typha latifolia


Lakeside trail                              cf Adoxa moschatellina                     Cornus sanguinea


Ash Beetle Gallery 1                 Euonymus europaeus                  Ash Beetle Gallery 2



Carex flacca                 Hyacinthoides non-scripta         Rhododendron x superponticum


              Aquilegia vulgarìs x2                                                        Participants                                                       Fragaria vesca


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   Photographs © Pat Lenihan