Belleek Woods is in a very historic area of Co. Mayo. Belleek or Beal-Leice in Irish, the mouth of the Flagstones, indicates an early crossing of the river Moy and there was probably a settlement at this location which predates the town of Ballina.
The lands in this area formerly belonged to the Knox Gore family who acquired almost 750 hectares in 1701. Today, the 200 acre forest is one of Europe’s largest urban woodlands.
Belleek Woods are an ideal place to experience Irish woodlands, and their native wildlife. Along the many pathways you can discover an abundance of flowers including Bluebells, Iris, Foxglove, Primroses, Summer Snow, Wild Garlic and Cuckoo Pint. The woodland is home to Foxes, Hares, Pine Martins, Red Squirrels, Herons, Ducks, Wagtails and Robins.
The woods is managed by Coillte in partnership with the local Belleek Woods Enhancement Group who have worked tirelessly and successfully to reintroduce the native red squirrel to North Mayo.
Walking and cycling trails are extensively used here, in particular by Ballina Park Run. Belleek Woods is also the starting point for the Monasteries of the Moy Greenway.
Our Native Woodlands
Native woodlands are an important part of Ireland’s natural heritage, history and culture, and are unique in terms of their biodiversity. They are home to specialised woodland animals, birds, insects and plants, including red squirrel, pine marten, great spotted woodpecker, narrow-leaved helleborine and wood millet, to name but a few. They also provide numerous ecosystem services such as the protection and enhancement of water quality (a function that benefits rivers, streams and lakes and their many inhabitants), the conservation of our indigenous woodland genetic resource, quality native wood production, climate change mitigation (including flood control and carbon storage), social, recreational and educational opportunities, and the creation of corridors between semi-natural habitats at a landscape scale.
Carbon Capture by Trees
Trees are the ultimate carbon capture and storage machines. They take carbon dioxide from the air when their leaves carry out photosynthesis and store it as carbon in the timber, so big trees are carbon sinks.
Ireland annually emits around 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - on average 12 tonnes per person. We can mitigate some of this by planting trees.
A ten-year-old evergreen tree absorbs 14 kg of carbon dioxide per year, so it takes 178 evergreen trees to absorb 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Broadleaf trees like our native oak, ash, birch etc grow slower than this so it would take more broadleaved trees to achieve the same result. However, while a broadleaf woodland sequesters carbon more slowly although it may store more carbon long term. It also has more biodiversity. Therefore, both types of tree planting very much have their place in Ireland depending on which is appropriate to the area being planted.
The entire woodland ecosystem plays a huge role in locking up carbon, including the living wood, roots, leaves, deadwood, surrounding soils and its associated vegetation.
The bottom line is, we need more trees and we need to protect the ones we already have.