Keeping Busy

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Since our last blog in April we have had a heatwave which enabled us to get the turf dried and home before the end of May. Unfortunately in early June the weather broke and it has returned to something like normal with a Atlantic influence bringing us wind and rain.

That said the spell of good weather which began in early April was very welcome during Lockdown. It enabled those of us who love the outdoor life to escape into nature or in my case the turf bog.

Incredibly the turf was cut, spread, footed, bagged and brought home by the end of May. That is a record for the McAndrew clan. Some locals suggested that we cut another batch of turf but my instinct correctly said no. Not only has there been a lot of rain since then but I don’t think my “workforce” would have appreciated more work in the bog.

The weather was also conducive to cycling. In May I clocked up 300miles/480km and I went a bit further in June racking up 500miles/800km. This was only possible because we had got the turf home in record time!

However we did have a tough decision to take and that was to suspend Turf Bog Tours for season 2020. It is the right decision we believe in these strange times. We hope to be back in time for season 2021. Fear not though as we will continue to provide regular updates on bog life via our social media channels over the coming months.

In the meantime we we have looked at other revenue streams. We will be making our 2020 vintage turf available for sale. This will be sold in batches over the coming months and to be notified of when these will go on sale, please subscribe to our mailing list on our website

We have also developed our Irish Log Torches which we are now selling. These are perfect for providing heat and light whilst camping or for evenings on the patio. You can even boil a kettle on them! If you are interested drop us an e-mail for a quote.

All in all its been a busy start to summer, long may that continue!

Adapting & Turf Cutting

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It has been a while since our last blog post back in February and it feels like everything has changed since then.

The Coronavirus situation and resulting lockdown has curtailed our plans for Turf Bog Tours for the foreseeable future. It has come as a blow to our plans to grow the business but it is much more important that everyone gets safely through these difficult times.

Homeschooling, homeworking, online meetings and social distancing are the new norms. Whilst adapting to this new world order we have still been able to work out on the bog, in line with Irish government direction I may add! The great weather in April enabled us to get this years turf cut in record time, we started on a Thursday and had all cut and spread by the Sunday. Within a week we even had it turned thanks to sunshine and an Easterly breeze.


As to when we will be operating Turf Bog Tours again all depends on the lifting of restrictions on people’s movements and activities. To be honest, I am expecting that it will be 2021 before we can operate tours again.


In the meantime we will feature our turf bog endeavours on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter & Instagram) and in this blog – ensuring that we can provide a virtual Turf Bog Tour of sorts!

Turf Bog Tours – Good for your Health

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I was at a conference recently. The theme was all about health and wellbeing. One presentation that really struck a chord was about what to do to keep your brain healthy in order to avoid dementia. Alongside not smoking, reading plenty, eating the recommended daily 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, the odd (small) glass of wine and keeping your BMI below 25, was the concept of walking and talking.

This was music to my ears. Being in the great outdoors is definitely a de-stresser. With the right company, a combination of exercise and a blether is all good. From my own viewpoint, add in the company of a canine (Bailey Dog) and your walking experience is further enhanced!

A Turf Bog Tour has all these ingredients and more. Fantastic scenery, the freshest of air, a sense of peacefulness missing from today’s technology driven world and the opportunity to chat and learn about bygone days. Proof if ever it was needed that it is good to walk and talk. Order your prescription today at www.mcandrewstore.com

Striking a Balance

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Welcome to our first blog post of 2020. We are currently doing a lot of work behind the scenes in anticipation of season 2020 including marketing and practical preparations. As we near the end of January we are aware that it wont be too long before we are back out working on the turf bog.


We have always been mindful of the environmental pressures on the turf bog, hence we have always cut our turf by spade rather than by machine. This awareness played a part in the decision that we took in summer 2019 to stop selling turf online and to concentrate fully on Turf Bog Tours.
Therefore in 2020 we will cut a smaller area of turf bank than in previous years. Our aim is to still show visitors the process and tradition of turf cutting by spade. All turf produced will be for our own domestic use during the winter months.


In effect out turf bog will become a demonstration turf bank. We strongly believe that the art and tradition of turf cutting should be preserved. We are never failed to be amazed at our visitors enthusiasm for the turf bog and the chance to wield a slean (turf spade) for themselves. It evokes memories and provides a connection to the Ireland of yesteryear. The opportunity for reminiscing and nostalgia are always greatly appreciated by our visitors.
At the same time we will continue to share our knowledge of the turf bog landscape including wildlife, flora and fauna with visitors. We show our visitors that this wilderness is a landscape teeming with life. Moreover we provide an insight in to how our ancient ancestors, the first farmers in Ireland played a huge role in shaping the boglands of Ireland when they cleared the land of forests.


Then there are the positive health benefits of the turf bog, fresh pure air, the sound of nature and a sense of tranquility all under a big sky. If nothing else, a visit to the turf bog including the trek in to the turf bank will confirm that you are closer to nature and is a genuine opportunity to escape today’s increasingly digital world.
Taking everything into consideration, we firmly believe that our Turf Bog Tours strike the perfect balance between tradition and conservation. Here’s to a brilliant season 2020!

A Look Back at 2019

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As we near the end of December, we take a look back at the year that was 2019. We have selected our favourite photos from each month from January through to December.

January – A new bog for season 2019 was secured and amongst other features it has a mighty fine view of Breesy Mountain
February – Some of the white stuff and a spot of sledging up in the North Leitrim Glens
March – A Turf Bog Tour for some visitors from Scotland and Canada
April – Turf cutting operations got under way
May – The lengthening of the days made for some great sunsets from Cliffs of Magho overlooking Lower Lough Erne
June – A spot of wild camping near Gortahork in North West County Donegal
July – The turf was all bagged up and loaded for home
August – Juan Manuel came all the way from Argentina for a Turf Bog Tour
September – Some visitors from Irish Gap Year got very competitive with a sack race!
October – Ed from California USA got hands on with the turf spade under the watchful eye of Callum
November – The holly berries made for a spectacular show
December – Dark evenings, a turf fire and a drink of the black stuff!

Hello Winter

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The first spell of wintry weather is here. The stove is on nightly now at Turf Bog Tours HQ as we warm ourselves burning the turf cut earlier this year.
In the past week the temperatures have dropped. Whilst it is still technically Autumn, we have had wind and rain from the north followed by hard overnight frosts.


Just last Sunday, Callum and I decided it was the right time to retrieve the turf barrow and turf spades from the bog. We soon realised that it was not the right time! With daylight fast fading as we reached the bog, the heavens truly opened up and we were drenched in no time. Needless to say the form was not good with either of us as we returned home. But at least the turf barrow and spades are now safely stored away until next Spring.
As stated earlier it is at this time of year that we can now sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labours in the form of a turf fire as it burns in the stove. Trips to the turf bog will be few and far between now and the Spring. If truth be told I will miss the turf bog. As you can probably tell I am not one for being cooped up indoors and I suffer from cabin fever. Thankfully Bailey Dog will still require her walks so I have a good reason to get outdoors.


However, it is good to have the time to promote and market Turf Bog Tours. Planning for Season 2020 is well underway. I am currently implementing our marketing plan as spread the word far and wide about Turf Bog Tours. To date we have had folk from Ireland, Scotland, England, USA, Canada, Spain, France and Argentina join us for tours. We are looking forward to welcoming more Turf Bog Tourists from around the world in 2020.

Discover Turf Country

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In our previous blog we gave you some recommendations for places to visit in County Donegal. In this blog we provide a snapshot of 5 places near our base here in Belleek that are amazing places to visit.

Probably one of the finest viewpoints in NW Ireland is from Cliffs of Magho. Located above Lower Lough Erne you can see Donegal Bay, the Bluestack Mountains, Sliab Liag and even Breesy Mountain. Feeling energetic? Hike up the 1km path from the Lough shore for a good workout.
Little Dog is lovely hike near Derrygonnelly. It provides great views over Lough Melvin, towards Cuilcagh Mooutain (the highest point in Co. Fermanagh), the Leitrim and Sligo Mountains plus Donegal Bay.
Only 5 miles from Belleek is Castle Caldwell. With a ruined castle set in a broad leafed forest on a promontory on Lower Lough Erne this is a great place for a woodland walk following one of the waymarked trails.
The village of Garrison sits on the eastern shore of Lough Melvin. The views across the Lough are breathtaking anytime of year.
Also close to Garrison are the Roogagh Falls. The River Roogagh cascades down the falls en route to Lough Melvin. Especially spectacular after heavy rainfall in the nearby hills which swell the waters, making for a terrific display of hydro power!

When in Donegal….

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If you are coming to this part of Ireland to take a Turf Bog Tour you are probably wondering what else there is to see. Wonder no more and go explore these amazing spots in County Donegal which we highly recommend. All of them are within 2 hours of our turf bog!


First up is Port. A deserted fishing village in South West Donegal. A place where time has stood still and you can stand on the edge of a continent!

Second is Glenlough Bay. Only accessible on foot from Port village along a cliff top walk. This place is one of the most remote locations in Ireland. A great place to escape to.
Sticking with South West Donegal and next up ss Sliab Liag sea cliffs, amongst the highest in Europe. A windy spot with truly amazing views across Donegal Bay when the sky clears.
Almost in the centre of Donegal is the famous Barnesmore Gap. The main north-south route in County Donegal is remote and beautiful. Look out for the signs of the former County Donegal railway which closed in 1959.
Finally, my favourite location. Cloghaneely is a parish/district in North West Donegal. Featuring the spectacular Ballyness Bay flanked by the Derryveagh Mountains and with fabulous beaches at Magheroarty and Falcarragh. One word – perfect!

Go Wild in the Turf Bog

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The turf bog is not just a unique landscape to admire. It is also home to many animals and birds.
Join us on a Turf Bog Tour and you might spy, hear or see the signs of some of the following wildlife:

Frogs – the damp nature of the bog is ideal for our amphibian friends. From late winter the frog spawn can be found around the bog. By late spring the place is full of frog life.

Lizards – similar to frogs they like the cool damp conditions. Harder to spot but with a bit of luck and knowing where to look you might just spot a turf bog dinosaur.

Deer – harder to spot, ideally you would want to take a dawn or dusk tour. Failing that we can show you deer tracks and signs of where they have eaten the bark from young trees.

Hares – in March the local hare population go a bit mad with the mating season. The turf bog is a great place to spot these speedy mammals.


Cuckoo – the migratory cuckoo bird comes to Ireland in late Spring from Africa and it’s unique call is a sure sign of summer. I have never spotted one but from late April onwards from first light to last you cannot help but hear its distinct call.

Grouse – a game bird that was low in numbers in these parts is making a comeback. I have been given a fright by a grouse or two, mainly caused by Bailey Dog springing them up from the undergrowth. They lie in the heather and take off with a loud call.

Geese – another migratory bird, this time they come to Ireland for the Winter. From October onwards you can hear them flying overhead in V formation The noise of their wingbeat and that distinctive call is an amazing spectacle.

The above are just a taster of the wildlife you can encounter on the turf bog. No matter what time of year you take a Turf Bog Tour there is wildlife to see!

The Big Country

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The turf bog is a wilderness admittedly shaped by an element of human activity over the centuries but nonetheless it is still a vast natural space. For example looking out from our turf bog there is a seam of this bogland that stretches from here on the edge of Belleek all the way to Pettigo. That’s a distance of 12 miles and counting.

It is an upland area with spectacular views and big skies, not always clear skies it must be said! It can be easy to take all this for granted but taking folks out on Turf Bog Tours and showing them around gives us a new found appreciation for this landscape.


Visitors coming from urban settings are blown away by the sense of space of this landscape and the sky. They are also amazed by the quality of the fresh air and its purity. Testimony to this is the presence of lichens growing on the bog. Lichen only grows and thrives where the air is unpolluted. Needless to say we have lots of lichen growing here!
The combination of space, big skies and fresh air helps get visitors closer to nature and the chance to marvel at nature. It is the perfect opportunity to escape modern life with all its confinements and experience the big country.

Choose Turf Bog Tours

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It has been a while since our last blog, in fact it was all the way back in June. There have been some changes since then here at McAndrew’s Store. The big change is that in August we took the decision to stop selling turf online and to concentrate totally on Turf Bog Tours. Reaching this decision was one we considered very carefully and was not an overnight decision. After all we have been selling turf online since 2009. So apologies to friends and family who we discussed this option at length with! We are also appreciative of all the orders over the years from our loyal customers, we hope to see many of them on a Turf Bog Tour in the future.


Since introducing Turf Bog Tours in 2017 we have become aware of the huge potential in offering this niche visitor experience. Our Turf Bog Tours have proven to be popular with visitors and numbers are growing year on year. Since 2017 we have had visitors from the UK, France, USA, Canada, Spain and Argentina demonstrating the international appeal of Turf Bog Tours. We are convinced that if we concentrate fully on Turf Bog Tours we can develop it even further.


So we now find ourselves moving from retail in to tourism, but one thing that will remain consistent is that customer care will still be a cornerstone of Turf Bog Tours.


The format of Turf Bog Tours is a great blend, even if I do say so myself, with it combining the tradition of turf cutting, a bit of social history, environmental awareness and a chance to discover the wilderness.


We will still continue to cut a portion of the turf bog with a spade as we feel strongly that this most Irish of traditions should not be lost. Visitors will still be able to wield the turf spade and get that hands on experience.
Find out more at www.mcandrewstore.com and choose turf!

Seven Days in The Bog

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I am glad to report that all our turf is now cut. Having started to prepare the turf bank back on 30th March we managed to complete the cutting process on Sunday 26th May.  Generally speaking I don’t like to work on a Sunday, there is no religious reason, it’s just that I would rather have a free day to catch up on a bit gardening, odd jobs or head off cycling, kayaking or to the coast.  However between family commitments and Callum’s studying for exams eating in to our availability we had no choice but to work on the Sabbath.

It worked in our favour, we had a bit of drainage work to do before we could extract the final section of the third floor of turf.  With some expert guidance from seasoned turf cutter, Sean O’Loughlin we solved the drainage issue and got the final section of the turf cut.  We even listened to the Fermanagh – Donegal football match in the Ulster Championship on the radio whilst working.  Although peak productivity in my case is more likely to be achieved whilst listening to 80’s music!

The weather since 26th May has been unpredictable to say the least, cold one minute, sunny the next, raining the next, windy the next – you get the (very wet) picture I am sure!  Now that we are into June we really need some high pressure with warm sunshine and a easterly airflow to bake the turf.
Fortunately, a good bit of the turf is already footed.  Some of it remains to be turned before being footed but all being well we should have the turf dried, bagged and off the bog by July.


At this stage we have already started to assess our turf bog operations, particularly this first season on our new bog.  Our conclusion is that we need to speed up the cutting process and complete cutting earlier in the Spring.  Easier said than done,  as everything depends on the weather, so watch this space in 2020.  But for now we will concentrate on this years turf and keep watching the long range weather forecast, waiting to hear news of a heatwave.  Either way, we are sure to put in another Sunday shift at some stage.

 

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