The lovely aroma of Meadowsweet filled the air as I wandered through McMahon Park in Claremorris on a beautiful July Saturday.
Hidden behind the shops and commercial buildings, off James Street, is a beautiful woodland oasis of biodiversity with a pretty lake as the centerpiece of this urban greenway.
Known as McMahon Park – Clare Lake, the amenity owes its creation to the visionary ideals of local teenagers, members of the local Foroige youth club, and the generosity of the McMahon family whose donation of the land in 1989 made the dream of creating a town park possible.
McMahon Park is popular with walkers, joggers, families, and anglers, as I found out on my leisurely stroll around the magical, forest greenway, hemmed in by native trees, shrubs, and fragrant wildflowers, where young and old can safely wander, protected from the cares of the world.
I was totally enchanted by McMahon Park when I walked the 5km loop that circles the public amenity on the last Saturday in July when the annual Children’s Scarecrow Festival ensured the park was busy with young families there to enjoy a festival of fun events centered at the park’s bandstand overlooking Clare Lake.
On my walk around the Clare Lake Forest Greenway, I admired the varying greens of the juvenile willow, oak, ash, birch, and alder trees so beautifully complemented by the bunches of tall Purple-loosestrife.
The vibrant red berries of the young Rowan or Mountain Ash trees contrasted with the violet hues of the many wildflowers that flourish along the trail.
To cap it all off, fields of eye-catching yellow Rapeseed, located just over the ditch in nearby farmland, added to the delightful profusion of colour that decorates every twist and turn in the park.
Clare Lake with its 4,000-year-old Crannog looked splendid in the bright sunshine. The sun rays glistened off the water and its banks decorated by groups of tall, slender reeds, is home to the lake’s resident ducks. The lake is safely fenced off from the trail for the protection of visitors which has the added benefit of encouraging wild plants and trees to flourish around the lake.
It was lovely to see a local angler cast a line from one of the jetties that are dotted along Clare Lake. Coarse fish such as pike, perch, and eel are plentiful and the fisherman was also hoping to catch small trout for his tea.
The facilities at the lakeside are impressive thanks to the work of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) – and include floating fishing stands, wheelchair access, paths and signage, and disinfection facilities to clean fishing gear and prevent the spread of invasive species.
It is hard to believe that just two decades ago Clare Lake was polluted and held little attraction for anglers or local people.
Along the winding lakeside trail that takes you over four humpbacked wooden bridges, and by adjoining farmland, there is a plaque dedicated to Dr. Noreen Keane that reminds you of the part played by local landowners in the creation of the amenity.
The inscription reads:
Dr. Noreen Keane (1923-2010) was a highly respected GP who served the people of Claremorris and the surrounding area with great dedication and skill for 50 years.
In her memory, the Keane family has kindly permitted access for this greenway through their lands.
What makes McMahon Park so unique is the fact that it is a joint effort involving voluntary, private and public partnership that could never have happened without the support of local landowners, the McMahon, Keane, Boyle and McHugh families, and the good offices of Mayo County Council, and Coillte.
What impressed me most about McMahon Park is that it’s not an amenity that was inherited, but a park to be proud of that was created through the vision, hard work, and goodwill of local people.
A local man, a member of the Claremorris Men’s Shed group, who was helping out at the Children’s Scarecrow Festival, was delighted and proud to fill me in on the park’s origins and development, and particularly the part played by the young students of the town.
Land of the Giants
A feature of McMahon Park is The Land of the Giants trail for children with its huge red chair, and a geometry set that wouldn’t fit in any classroom in Claremorris!
The installations were made by local craftsmen, and feature attractions such as a giant yellow door and an enormous guitar, the latter made by the students of the local secondary school.
Dotted all along the trail The Land of Giants installations are imaginative, colourful, and, no doubt, a big attraction for the little people of Claremorris.
It was also wonderful to hear that Inland Fisheries Ireland is developing nearby Lough Nanannagh on the Knock Road, Claremorris, as a managed stocked trout fishery complete with a recreation hub located around the lake.
The lake will provide a perfect location for young people and novice anglers to learn and develop skills in the art of fly fishing, boat handling, and water safety.
Among the amenities planned are a scenic looped walk around Lough Nanannagh and nature observation and picnic points.
As we completed our loop around the Clare Lake, the Scarecrow Festival was winding down; the Men’s Shed volunteers were helping to take down the props and amusements and silence fell over McMahon Park except for the sounds of nature.
So the next time you are in Claremorris with an hour to spare make sure you visit McMahon Park – the town’s very own Central Park, located off Lower James Street on the R331.