Tuesday 25 April 2017

Protect our oldest bog road, plead historians

Under threat: A section of Bronze Age timber trackway in the Mayne Bog, Co Westmeath, which was exposed during a test excavation in May 2015
Under threat: A section of Bronze Age timber trackway in the Mayne Bog, Co Westmeath, which was exposed during a test excavation in May 2015

Jim Gallagher

An ancient bog road dating back 3,000 years is being left to rot away, furious historians have claimed.

Much of the 657 metre wooden track in Mayne, Co Westmeath, has already been dug up by workmen cutting peat.

The road, which dates back to the late Bronze Age, was discovered by a man walking his dog in 2005.

But historians claim little has been done to protect it and huge sections have already been lost.

A similar bog road in Longford, which is "only" 2,000 years old, attracts 6,000 tourists a year to a display at the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre.

Archaeologists claim the Mayne bog could do the same for rural Westmeath but the authorities have failed to act.

Archaeologist Aidan Walsh said in the Celtic Tiger years State agencies did order a "very small dig" of just three metres by six metres. "They got a report on that and they knew how important it was," he told RTE's Ear to the Ground programme, which visited the site.

"They got it dated and then they just let it sit," he added. "I only heard about it in 2014. We have been campaigning since to make them do something more.

"It is not just another piece of archaeology, it is virtually unique."

Archaeologists at Galway University have issued a warning that the bog road is hugely significant and it would be an international calamity if it were lost.

The Department of Arts and Heritage said: "Considering the nature of the monument, the circumstances of its discovery, its already compromised condition, together with the co-operation of the landowner, it is not evident that the conditions that would normally give rise to the need for the making of a preservation order are present in this case."

Landowner Westland Horticulture, which owns the bog, said it had "complied fully with all requirements of the National Monuments Service". It added: "We've enlisted the services of some of the country's leading archaeological experts who have carried out an extensive archaeological record of this site which we have fully funded."

Ear to the Ground, RTE One, Tuesday, 8.30pm.

Sunday Independent

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