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.
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.
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.
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!Posted by
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!Posted by
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.
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!
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.
Our turf cutting exploits have been good so far this season. We have enjoyed largely dry weather since starting work in the bog back at the end of March. Bu there is a long way to go before we get the turf saved and home. Did you know that by the time you burn the turf that there are 13 stages from the bog to fireplace?
Of course, you can get familiar with our turf bog operations and many of these stages by booking one of our Turf Bog Tours!
In today’s hectic world it is good to have real experiences. The world is full of white noise and technology. So our Turf Bog Tours are a great way to escape the “noise” and re-connect with the great outdoors. This year, 2019, will be the third year we have offered Turf Bog Tours. With our new turf bog and cutting season under way there’s never been a better time to book your own Turf Bog Tour. Here are 10 reasons why you should add a Turf Bog Tour to your 2019 itinerary:
This winter has been going on a bit too long now for my liking. Whilst it has not been a particularly stormy or cold winter, it has been very dark. To be honest I would rather have snow, ice and a few storms to experience the full range of the seasons. At least they would be a distraction from the darkness!
I’m encouraged that there is now a bit more light in the mornings and that the evenings are also stretching too. Spring is around the corner.
Of course winter with its dark evenings was made for turf fires and they definitely provide comfort. A turf fire in the hearth is a means of heat of heat and just as importantly, a source of light on dark nights. A turf fire definitely helps me get through the winter. The daily morning routine of cleaning out the ashes from the stove and setting it again are well worth it.
However now I am really looking forward to Spring. The longer evenings and the freedom to spend more time outdoors in daylight cannot come soon enough. Whether it’s doing a bit of gardening, walking Bailey Dog, cycling, and even trips to the turf bog, its the perfect appetiser for all the potential of the summer months to come.
Of course, to complement the outdoors lifestyle of spring and summer, there is nothing better than getting a turf fire going on the patio or a camp fire to finish a day outdoors. Maximising the time spent outdoors is so good for the human condition and fresh air laced with the aroma of turf smoke is a prescription for contentment.
Happy new year and I hope that 2019 is a good one. After the pre-Christmas rush it was good to get some downtime over the festive season. It was an ideal time to take stock of another busy year at The Store. It was not all introspection though, as we also made a key decision with regards to a turf bog.
The turf bog we have rented each season since 2015 has served us well. It enabled us to hone our traditional turf cutting technique and also allowed us to develop our Turf Bog Tours. We have however been looking out for a remoter turf bog to add to the wilderness experience. Therefore we are delighted to have secured a new turf bog that meets all our criteria. It is still in County Donegal, indeed it is less than 1km from our former turf bog. The views from this turf bog are also superior. An ever changing 360 degree panorama takes in no less than 5 counties (Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Sligo and Tyrone) and includes loughs, hills, forests and of course Breesy Mountain. We are sure that future visitors to the turf bog will find this bog an amazing off-grid location.
We are aiming, weather permitting, to commence turf cutting in April. That really is not that far away so training for turf cutting season has already begun. Training consists of a bit of running, cycling, swimming and playing indoor football (badly). Even at this early stage, 2019 is shaping up to be another interesting year here at The Store.