While the social and fitness aspects are a very important part of Out and About, a third and equally important aspect is the environment. Dublin is very fortunately placed with natural wilderness only 30 minute drive away from its city centre.
Each Sunday we are wowed by stunning vistas of natural beauty. Glaciated valleys, corrie lakes, waterfalls, granite and schist rocks, and blanket bog all tell us about the natural history. Living here are well camouflaged animals including sika hybrid deer, Irish hare, feral goats, frogs and lizard. Birdlife includes cuckoo, skylark, merlin, raven and red grouse. Plantlife includes Sphagnum mosses, bog cotton and the insectivorous sundew (pictured) - to name but a few.
We must be aware that all land in Ireland is either owned privately or by the State. The majority of mountain landowners grant us access to mountains. It is of paramount importance to minimise our impact (such as damaging fences or letting dogs chase after livestock) and respect owners of the land.
Mountaineering Ireland has a policy on “reasonable access for responsible users”. It represents the views of its members at government level and liaises with landowners on members' behalf. More information on access is available at: http://www.mountaineering.ie/accessandconservation/viewdetails.asp?ID=12
Growing numbers of recreational users of the mountains, including our hillwalking group, are having an impact on the mountains. Typical terrain is peaty bog, which is very prone to erosion. When hiking along paths it is recommended that you walk in the middle of the path - even if it is wet and muddy. This helps prevent path widening. In more remote areas, where there is no path it is better to spread out.
To give something back, Out and About participate in trail maintenance work days under the guidance of Mountain Meitheal. These projects have the goal of protecting and conserving our mountain environment. No particular skills are required. Participants will learn lots and have fun at the same time. For more information visit Mountain Meitheal’s website mountainmeitheal.ie/ and keep an eye on our schedule for upcoming work days.
In order to minimise the social and environmental impacts on the outdoors, members are encouraged to follow the principles of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is an outdoor ethics educational programme designed to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. It is based on 7 principles which encourage people to make better decisions when using the outdoors such as encouraging people to do things like picking up their litter, keeping their dog under control to preventing the creation of new trails. A common misconception is that is okay to throw away biodegradable items such banana skins and teabags. These in fact take years to disappear and interfere with wildlife - so be sure take home all litter.
Out and About also organised a National Spring Clean litter pick-up event on the Wicklow Way in the Crone Woods area, making the area noticably cleaner. It is hoped that this clean up will make littering in the area less likely.