'carefully controlled grazing by domestic stock...'

Clare Byrne Report, August 1996

Rathdown fields have been used for settlement and agricultural activity since early periods of human settlement in Ireland. However, unlike most agricultural land in Ireland, several of the fields at Rathdown have suffered minimal disturbance for very considerable periods. The field in which St. Crispin’s Cell stands has not been tilled in living memory. The grassland has never been reseeded or fertilised in living memory. This field is, thus, exceptional for a lowland pasture. The western field ( now St. Crispin’s housing estate) has not been tilled for some 30 years, according to local residents. (Dr. Chris Smal)

In view of the above, the Friends of Historic Rathdown invited Clare Byrne, a grassland specialist (TCD) to assess the grasslands at Rathdown (Aug. 1996).

Conclusions and implications

  • The site is an undisturbed neutral grassland – extremely rare in lowland Ireland.
  • These grasslands merit protection.
  • No landscaping can be allowed.
  • No natural or artificial fertilisers can be permitted.
  • No tree-planting can occur.
  • A programme of carefully controlled grazing by domestic stock should be introduced within an ecologically-based management plan.
  • One very satisfactory solution would be to seasonally graze ancient breeds of cattle or sheep ; some of these breeds are very similar to those stocked in medieval times, so they would be totally appropriate to, and part of, the attraction of Rathdown.

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