The mists of time have once again briefly lifted on beautiful Doohoma beach to reveal the preserved remnants of a prehistoric forest that once covered Mayo.
The ancient forest of giant oak, yew and pine trees that grew over 5,000 years ago has been exposed by a succession of severe winter storms that have battered the Mayo coastline throughout the winter.
Similar tree stumps and roots, discovered in South Mayo and Galway in the past decade after storms, were identified as dating from the mid-Holocene period from 7,000 to 5,000 years ago.
This is not the first time that the pounding surf from stormy seas has washed away the peat, sand, and stones that normally hide the remains of the ancient forest that lies beneath Doohoma beach.
I can recall a similar event happening about 20 years ago when even more of the tree trunks were uncovered to reveal this ancient Mayo landscape.
When I visited the scene on a calm and sunny Sunday, February 4th, 2018, the conditions could not have been more different to the stormy days of January that drove high tides and massive waves onto the beach, stripping away the forest’s shroud of peat and sand that helped preserve the wood.
Doohoma’s prehistoric forest
Doohoma’s prehistoric forest is likely to have been populated by wild animals such as bears, and wolves and other mammals long since extinct.
The huge birds of prey flying overhead would have looked down on a lush green forest at a time when Ireland enjoyed a warmer climate and sea levels were considerably lower than today.
The gnarled stumps of the trees of various sizes are mostly upright and in good condition indicating that they came to a quick end possibly caused by a sudden rise in sea levels or a massive wave.
Although now only the skeletal stumps remain the trees still look magnificent.
And to my lively imagination, some even look like the mummified remains of some prehistoric sea creatures. Other stumps appear as if they had been carved and shaped by human hands.
The trees are similar to a 7,500-year-old ‘drowned forest’ that was exposed at Spiddel in Co Galway by storms in 2014.
In an interview at that time with the Irish Times, geologist Prof Mike Williams RIP (1947-2015) said he had located tree stumps in south Mayo and Clare, along with Galway, which had been carbon dated to between 5,200 and 7,400 years ago at the chrono centre at Queen’s University, Belfast. Some of the trees were nearly 100 years old when they perished.
Doohoma’s ancient forest is likely to have been part of extensive forests dating back 7,500 years that once marked Ireland’s Atlantic rim.