The Caol Stream Then and Now

Five years ago I wrote a piece about the incredible biodiversity that flourished along the Caol Stream, right in the middle of Skibbereen. At the time, the flood relief project was underway, and it wasn’t totally clear how much clearance of the vegetation would take place. I was optimistic, given the resilience of nature, that once things settled down, the wildflowers would once again creep in to populate the banks of the stream.

I am no longer optimistic that this will happen anytime soon, if at all. The photo above shows you what the same area is like now. So this post is an elegy for the missed opportunity that this project represented – the opportunity to balance the needs of the people of Skibbereen not to be flooded repeatedly, with the need to conserve our biodiversity.

Please click on this link to see the riches we have lost:

Down By The Old Caol Stream

16 thoughts

  1. As an aside, this is an interesting example of a tautological placename. Caol is a local word for a narrow stream (it also means narrow or slender) and I am aware of a number of different small streams locally being referred to as “The Caol”.
    While nowadays, this one in Skibbereen is know as The Caol Stream. I suspect originally it was simply An Caol.
    The fact that the word stream was added to the placename is an interesting example of language shift from Irish to English in this area. As speakers of a new language don’t understand the meaning of the placename they add a standard descriptor from the new language. So the placename could be interpreted as the (narrow) stream, stream.


  2. It reminds me of the work on the Waterford “Greenway” which is very close to us. Never was so many trees, plants, wildlife etc cleared to make way for tarmacadam so that people could walk, run and cycle in a “green” environment.


  3. The OPW and their agents (Engineers) are bent on draining the country, while caring nothing about biodiversity. Many countries (the Netherlands included) have realised that slowing down the rivers and holding back floodwater in the upper catchment is a better solution than speeding it up and passing on the problem downstream (see environmental destruction linked to the flood relief scheme at Bandon where the contractors, I think, were subsequently fined). The Caol Stream now looks like an open sewer, and last summer, it smelt like an open sewer. Also, some of the previous river flooding episodes in Skibbereen were associated with blocked culverts and drains, which could have been dealt with much more cheaply and easily.


    • Right you are, Anthony. Mind you, to be fair, it was not a pristine steam to begin with, being choked with rubbish. Overall, though, it seems like a complete lack of any sense that it was important to keep a balance.


  4. I am truly shocked and dismayed that clearly, nothing had been done despite the blatant facts !
    Please can someone get a volunteer groüp going to make a start.
    If I Level there I’d be first in to help try to püt things right.
    Good Luck ! Xx


    • As another commentator has said, the Caol Stream may have been full of wildflowers but it was also polluted and neglected and full of rubbish. Hard to know what is more tragic.


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