In­creased vol­umes of hik­ers putting 5,000-year-old Sligo cairn at risk

Sligo County Coun­cil urges pro­tec­tion of land­mark re­puted to be Queen Maeve’s grave OPW con­firms it has con­cerns for the long-term preser­va­tion of the Ne­olithic tomb

The Irish Times - - Home News - MARESE McDON­AGH

One of Sligo’s best-known land­marks, re­puted to be Queen’s Maeve’s grave, on the sum­mit of Knocknarea, is be­ing put at risk by in­creased vol­umes of walk­ers who climb the cairn, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal ar­chae­ol­o­gists.

The Of­fice of Pub­lic Works has con­firmed it has con­cerns for the long-term pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion of the Ne­olithic pas­sage tomb, a na­tional mon­u­ment. A mo­tion be­fore Sligo County Coun­cil on Mon­day is urg­ing that mea­sures be taken to pro­tect the site.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have warned the cairn is erod­ing be­cause many peo­ple climb­ing the moun­tain pro­ceed to climb it as well, de­spite signs urg­ing them not to do so. Some climbers also re­move stones from the cairn which is ex­ac­er­bat­ing the prob­lem. Arche­ol­o­gist Dr Ste­fan Bergh who lives at the foot of Knocknarea, and who has been re­search­ing sites on the moun­tain for more than 30 years, said the prob­lem was wors­en­ing be­cause of in­creased traf­fic. In 2015 Sligo County Coun­cil con­structed a new route to the sum­mit, the 2.4k Queen Maeve Trail, which com­ple­mented a tra­di­tion­ally shorter trail.

Last year the trail was ex­tended to form a loop, which is ex­pected to at­tract up to 100,000 walk­ers an­nu­ally.

Main prob­lem

Dr Bergh, di­rec­tor of the post­grad­u­ate pro­gramme in Land­scape Ar­chae­ol­ogy at NUIG, said the main prob­lem was that many peo­ple us­ing the old route go straight up onto the cairn but they don’t walk down the same way. “They walk all over the place. That cre­ates ero­sion on all sides”. He said while it was good news that ac­cess to the moun­tain had im­proved, more in­for­ma­tion must be pro­vided for those vis­it­ing the cairn. “I have been con­cerned for a very, very long time. Some­thing has to be done,” he said.

He said some signs had been erected on the sum­mit warn­ing peo­ple not to climb the cairn but these said “dan­ger” which was “send­ing out the wrong mes­sage” as the dan­ger was to the mon­u­ment rather than to walk­ers. Dr Bergh said a sim­ple so­lu­tion such as a rope around the cairn would prob­a­bly de­ter 90 per cent of those who climb to the top of the cairn.

He said more in­for­ma­tion boards should also be erected to let peo­ple know about the sig­nif­i­cance of the 5,000-year-old cairn which “has no match in Ire­land”. “There are still peo­ple go­ing up there who don’t re­alise that it is a man-made cairn,” he said. “It is one of the most enig­matic state­ments from pre­his­toric Ire­land. It’s vis­i­bil­ity makes it mind-blow­ing.”

IT Sligo ar­chae­ol­o­gist Dr Mar­ion Dowd echoed his con­cern and said the prob­lem had wors­ened con­sid­er­ably in the last 10 to 15 years.

“It is get­ting smaller. Peo­ple have been re­mov­ing stones. And then peo­ple climb to the top of the cairn to get a bet­ter view”. She said this was desta­bil­is­ing the mon­u­ment and caus­ing ero­sion.

A mo­tion from Sinn Féin coun­cil­lor Chris MacManus for to­day’s coun­cil meet­ing urges the lo­cal au­thor­ity to en­gage with the OPW to pro­vide long-term mea­sures to pro­tect the mon­u­ment and “main­tain its in­tegrity as a place of sig­nif­i­cant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal and tourist sig­nif­i­cance.”

The OPW said pic­togram signs in­di­cat­ing “no climb­ing” and “no re­moval of stones” had been erected at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions on the Na­tional Mon­u­ment site. “Un­for­tu­nately a num­ber of these signs are reg­u­larly dam­aged, van­dalised and in some in­stances re­moved to­tally”.

The agency said it had con­cerns for the long-term pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion of the cairn which was “widely pro­moted in the press and print me­dia as a site to visit and climb, with­out any caveats to the im­pact on site”.

‘‘ I have been con­cerned for a very, very long time. Some­thing has to be done

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.