Geological Survey Ireland’s Audit of Geological Heritage sites in County Galway.
This summer, 2017, saw the completion of the first stage of Geological Survey Ireland’s Audit of Geological Heritage sites in County Galway. The county is widely known for its geological heritage, but this is understood or expressed for most people as the landscape or the scenery. Since it is one of the largest of Irish counties, and because bedrock is in many parts generally well exposed, it has an extensive range of geological heritage sites. However, it also has some of the most complex geodiversity in the country leading to many significant geological sites. The County Council’s support for this audit is critical in raising the profile of geological heritage in County Galway and for maximising its potential for foreign and domestic tourism and for Galwegians.
Irish Geological Heritage Programme (IGH)
The report which was completed documents what are currently understood by the Irish Geological Heritage Programme (IGH) of the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) to be the most important geological sites within the western portion of County Galway, west of Lough Corrib and north of Galway City. It proposes them as County Geological Sites (CGS), for inclusion within the County Development Plan (CDP). The audit provides a reliable study of sites to replace a provisional listing based on desk study which was adopted in the current 2015-2021 CDP.
Natural Heritage Areas (NHA)
County Geological Sites do not receive statutory protection like Natural Heritage Areas (NHA) but receive an effective protection from their inclusion in the planning system. Some of the sites described in this report are considered to be of national importance as a best representative example of a particular geological formation or feature. They will be provisionally notified to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) by the GSI for designation as a Natural Heritage Area (NHA) once due survey and consultation with landowners is complete. In parts of the county, many of the sites fall within existing pNHAs and SACs where the ecological interest is actually founded upon the underlying geodiversity.
The commission of the audit and adoption of the sites within the CDP ensure that County Galway follows a now established and effective methodology for ensuring that geological heritage is not overlooked in the general absence of allocated resources for progress at national level. It brings County Galway to the forefront of geological conservation in Ireland.
Geological heritage of County Galway
The report is written in non-technical language (with a glossary for unavoidable geological terminology) as a working document for use by the Heritage Officer and the Planning department of County Galway Council. It will also be made available via the Council website for the people of County Galway. A chapter of the report includes recommendations on how to best present and promote the geological heritage of County Galway to the people of the county. It will also inform the work of the IGH Programme and be made available through the GSI website. In tiotal, forty-four nsites were surveyed and mapped in detail, with five being rejected, thirty nine County Geological Sites have therefore been thus far designated in County Galway.
The preliminary sections of the report, the summary geological history and accompanying map, timescale and stratigraphical column particularly may be used as they stand to preface a booklet or as website information in the development of this work, and for information, as seen fit by the Heritage Officer, and as funding permits. The contents also provide the essential ingredients for a public-oriented book or other publications on the geological heritage of County Galway, if the funding can be found to produce them. The audit also contributes to the knowledge base and definition of geological heritage sites within the area of the aspirant UNESCO Global Geopark in Joyce’s Country.