A day visiting some West Wicklow Pure Miles

The Moylisha Pure Mile Group are a new group to the project and they have adopted a number of roads and woodlands in their immediate area.  Local residents have signed up to the project and a recent organised clean-up and litter pick of the area attracted the young, the old, the brave and the bold, proving a huge success, resulting in the removal of over 100 bags of rubbish and discarded litter from the local environment.    

Their second community litter pick/clean-up event of 2022 was my first opportunity to meet with the group.  During our conversation regarding their plans for their Pure Mile, it was obvious that the group were intent on improving the immediate environment, removing historical illegal dumping sites, and conducting regular litter picks.  However, as our conservation continued, it was also evident that were equally eager and committed to creating public awareness of the diverse heritage features that exist on the landscape. 

Photos from Moylisha Pure Mile Group Litter Pick and Clean Up

Moylisha is located in South West Wicklow, bordering the county of Carlow, and rich in both built and natural heritage.   It is a winding country road that traverses the Wicklow Way, with breath-taking views of Lugnaquilla and Eagle Hill, containing a treasure trove of archaeological features.

The group are currently collating information on the numerous points of interest in the locality to create a 5-mile looped trail.  They intend to publish a self-guiding informational leaflet outlining information relating to, the built, social, cultural, and natural heritage features, with an accompany map of the area. 

As I travelled the tranquil country road, lined with native Irish tress, early spring wildflowers, and mountain views, I stopped to admire a Red-Kite hovering in the sky high above.  My first stop-off of the day was to the ecclesiastical settlement of Aghowle, (‘The Field of the Apple Trees’), which has so much to offer the wandering visitor who is willing to venture off the traditional tourist path. 

Located down a narrow country lane lies a hidden monastic settlement with the remains of a 12th century Church.  This impressive rectangular shaped building, with three-foot-thick cut granite walls, is reputed to have been established by St. Finnian in the 6th Century.  The entrance is through a beautiful lintelled doorway with a rare and fine example of ornate Romanesque architectural mouldings.  Although the building is no longer roofed, the east wall section of the building contains two decorative round headed windows which are supported on the exterior by pillars.  In the adjoining graveyard you will find ancient headstones, a water font (which is believed to have curing abilities), and a splendid nine-foot granite Celtic Cross.  The location is secluded, aesthetically pleasing, tranquil and relaxing, and a perfect spot to spend some quite time on a Sunday afternoon.

Photos of 6th Century Aghowle Church, High Cross, and Aghowle Church Entrance Door.

In close proximity to Aghowle Church on Moylisha hill lies ‘Labbanasighe’, which translates to, ‘The Bed of the Fairies’.  Dating from the Bronze Age period, this pre-historic megalithic tomb, of the wedge tomb variety, is a fine example of an ancient form of burial traditions belonging to our ancestors, demonstrating that people inhabited this area for thousands of years.   The continuation of habitation in this area from pre-historic times to modern day, is further evident from the existence of another ancient monument, known locally as the ‘Ring of The Rath’, or ‘Rathgall’.  Although not located on the Moylisha Pure Mile looped trail, this multivallate hillfort is another ancient monument of significance and well worth a visit.   

My route to Moylisha on the day also involved a visit to other Pure Miles in the area and included a drive through Crossbridge and Ballinamanoge, both of whom produced beautiful, informative and interesting, local publications of their respected areas.  As I drove down the road, lined with mature  beech trees on both sides, I was glad to see that remnants of their Pure Mile work were still evident; still in place is the old milk stand, the mass path, the burial ground, the rath (ringfort), an 19th century bench mark, slate signs erected in the road verges continue to provide information on native Irish tress, the interpretative panel complete with a map and history on the local field names remains standing.

Photos of Crossbridge and Ballinamanoge Area.

After my visit to the above sites, and only a few miles away, I drove along The Old Road Pure Mile which incorporates the townlands of Stranakelly, Ballynultagh and Mullinacuffe.  The 19th century church in Mullinacuffe is the starting point and only a few meters ahead are located the old rectory, later becoming the local post office, and close by the old school house, and in the distance, the old church and graveyard.  This area, located on the Wicklow Way, contains a wealth of heritage, both natural and built.  Old stiles, which acted as short cuts for local workers, dot the landscape.  Located a short distance up the road is the Old Hut, restored by the Pure Mile Volunteers, and a perfect resting place.  A small interpretative panel informs the visitor of its past function and the importance it played in the local community when it was utilised as storage facility.  The gate beside the hut is an interesting feature, made from an old wrought iron bed.  As I approached the cross roads The Dying Cow pub comes into view.  People say the pub is over 300 years old, and has been in the same family for generations.  A plaque on the outside white washed wall informs the visitor on the origins of the pubs unusual name (you will have to visit to find out where it gets its name). 

Photos of The Old Road Pure Mile Areas

Leaving The Dying Cow and heading North West on the Wicklow Way I drive along Laragh Hill Pure Mile.  This drive has stunning views of Lugnaquilla, and because of the local Pure Mile Volunteers, the road is completely rubbish and litter free – clean and pristine, the way it should be. I arrive in Kilquiggin, which is located only a few miles north east of Moylisha. 

This small village, or hamlet, was once part of the Fitzwilliam Estate of Cooaltin, and in the past this was a bustling village with shops, a pub, post office, bakery, a tailor, forge and a resident blacksmith.  The Kilquiggin Pure Mile Volunteers have transformed a green space into a wildflower meadow, decorated the pathways with flower planters, and a restored raised bed is now full of native Irish flowers.  They have organised numerous village clean-ups, and they are continually improving and enhancing the village area.

Photos of Kilquiggin Pure Mile.

When I started the Pure Mile back in 2010, it was as a small project with just 5 miles.  Over the years the numbers have grown and grown, and there are now over 800 miles of road, mountains, woodlands, valleys, forestries and uplands amenities.  The Pure Mile is an environmental, community, heritage initiative, that encourages communities and groups living in rural areas of Wicklow, South Dublin and Dun-Laoghaire, to adopt a mile of road, or miles of road, in their local area, or in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands and organise litter picks, clean-ups, anti-dumping campaigns, research information about their local wildflowers, plants, trees, animals, and the built, cultural, and social heritage of an area.   This year the Pure Mile Project attracted a huge number of communities, groups, individuals, primary schools, secondary schools, scouts, beavers, walking groups, cycling clubs, running groups, mountaineering groups, businesses and organisations.  Recent clean-ups have resulted in the removal of tonnes of illegal dumping and litter from the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands, with over 200 groups now involved in this years project, with thousands of volunteers assisting Pure to clean up the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands.

In 2021, Pure Mile groups organised thousands of clean ups and litter picks of the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands, which resulted in a visible decrease of litter and rubbish in upland areas.  These clean-up events carried out by Pure Mile Groups resulted in the removal of over 4,000 bags of litter and rubbish, and it further demonstrates the necessity and importance of The Pure Mile Project, and the need for continued collaboration and engagement to protect the Wicklow/Dublin upland environment. 

The commitment of the Pure Mile groups demonstrate that the majority of people do care about their environment, and when assisted, they are capable of becoming the custodians of our natural and built heritage, ensuring the survival for future generations. 

Over the years Pure Mile Groups in Shillelagh, Glenmalure, Ballinabarney, Ballinatombay, Ballyteige, Wheeler’s Lane, Butter Hill, Woodend, Lugnagun, Beech Road, Baltynanima Green Road, Glen Heste, Golden Hill, Manor Kilbride, Oldcourt, Blessington, and many, many, more, have created informational leaflets, local heritage publications and books, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Blogs, and Websites.   Their intention and objective is to educate the public on the importance and significance of their local landscape.  There are a number of Pure Mile Groups currently collating and researching information about their local areas with the intention of creating similar self-guiding informational leaflets, and all going to plan, all will be completed and published by the end of 2022.

The Pure Mile is the perfect opportunity for communities and groups who want to positively contribute to their locality.  It enables people to improve and enhance the place they live in, or recreate in.  The Pure Mile strengthens community spirt in the area.  It provides a focus.  Young and old working together.  A shared experience. 

I meet with all groups involved in the project, and also assist with advice, promotion of events, and creating public awareness of their Pure Mile.  I also provide advice and assistance in the creation of informational leaflets, photography, video production, design, layout, printing, and publication, and in the creation of social media campaigns.  

All Pure Mile groups are provided with Pure Mile signs, Pure Mile bags, Pure Mile high-vis jackets, litter pickers, gloves, and the Pure Truck removes all of rubbish gathered by groups.  All of the Pure Mile groups make a huge difference to the appearance of our environment and I would like to congratulate and thank all Pure Mile Volunteers.

There is over €5,000 in prize money and all groups who enter the project are invited to the Pure Mile Gala Evening Awards Night.  All groups receive a Certificate of Participation, a selection of Native Irish Trees, and all are included in the Pure Mile Calendar. 

There are hundreds of more events, talks, litter picks, anti-dumping campaigns, clean-up the upland events, heritage and environment projects, organised throughout 2022 and I look forward to working with all of the Pure Mile Volunteers and groups.

If any groups, communities, individuals, schools, walking groups, cycling groups, scouts, businesses, ANYONE, wants to get involved in the Pure Mile, they can contact Pure at info@pureproject.ie or download and application from www.pureproject.ie/what-we-do/the-pure-mile/.  You can also write to; Pure Project, Wicklow Mountains, National Park, Kilafin, Laragh, Bray, Co. Wicklow and I will post out all and information pack and application form, or request an application form and information pack by phoning Pure on 0404 45547.

Further information on Pure can be found on www.pureproject.ie