If you are looking for a totally relaxed couple of hours, I have just the place for you. Mountallen Farm isn’t your average farm, it’s something very special, and a must visit for nature and wildlife lovers. You can enjoy a biodiversity and ecology farm tour in North Roscommon, overlooking Lough Allen and Sliabh an Iarainn. The farm is a short drive from Drumshanbo and Carrick on Shannon, it’s just off the main Drumshanbo to Manorhamilton Road, so it’s very easy to find.
When I arrived I was greeted by Tommy Earley who runs Mount Allen Organic Farm. Tommy is warm and witty, he has a gentle way about him, and was friendly and welcoming to all the guests. He’s also a font of knowledge, I learnt more in those two hours than I would have done spending weeks googling information.
We started our tour by meeting the suckler cows, Tommy said he was told previously that a farm isn’t a farm without animals. So he has a small herd of cows. But he does have animals – an abundance of them! There are foxes, pine martens, all varieties of birds and insects, but anyway back to the cows. Tommy came up with an idea to uses rushes as bedding, it’s a great alternative to straw – and it works a treat, the used bedding can be used back on the land, so it’s a win win.
Tommy then showed us some of his farm machinery, including a tractor which is being restored by one of the people who is taking part in the Social Farming scheme. I love the idea of this, Social Farming Ireland explains: ‘Social Farming offers people who are socially, physically, mentally or intellectually disadvantaged the opportunity to spend time on a family farm in a healthy, supportive and inclusive environment.’ You can read more about it on their website: https://www.socialfarmingireland.ie/about-us/what-is-social-farming/
Tommy told us the history of Mount Allen House, which dates back to the 1800s, there is huge historical importance connected to the house and the area but I don’t want to tell you everything because you really need to go for a visit yourself.
Our next stop was the Sweathouse, these date back to the 19th century and were used to cure a number of illnesses by sweating it out of a person. There’s a really interesting project taking place about sweathouses in Leitrim – and they are looking for volunteers too, so if you are interested you can find out more here: http://www.leitrimcoco.ie/eng/Community-Culture/Heritage/Archaelogical-Heritage/Sweat-House-Project/
We walked along the old Manorhamilton Road, it’s hard to think that the photo above was a main road many years ago, it’s also fascinating seeing how nature has reclaimed it.
We walked through woodland, with Tommy telling us all about the trees, and Bob telling us all about the birds we could hear. We heard Blackcaps, Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Blackbirds, Robins, and so many more.
Bob was saying that birds pick one tree as their home and they visit there every day to sing and let the other birds know that it’s taken. That would account for the blackbird who sings every morning across from my house.
The wildflower meadows were just beautiful, fields of golden buttercups dotted with clover, orchids, soft green grasses, and all manor of other flowers. When we stopped to take a closer look we saw spiders, moths, honey bees and butterflies, all going about their work in this perfect habitat.
Tommy has been busy restoring a bog on his land, this was just something else, I had yellow wellies on and squelched around in the moss, checking out the beautiful bog cotton. The RTE programme Ear to the Ground visited a couple of years ago and you can watch the video here.
We walked down towards Lough Allen and watched the birds, Tommy was also telling us about a Curlew which is nesting in a field close by. It’s great to see these birds making a comeback. I could have stayed near lough for hours, I spotted crickets and ended up slightly obsessed by them.
As we walked back towards the farm we saw a frog, it moved to quickly for me to take a photo but it was lovely to see. We also saw Tommy’s organic vegetables that he’s growing and heard all about his organic farming practices.
When we got back to what I thought was the end of the tour, we had the pleasure of seeing two moth traps opened, I didn’t realise there were so many kinds of moths, I had a Hawk Moth on my hand, which was very cool. We also saw peppered moths, scorched wings, and so many more. It was absolutely fascinating.
So there you have it, that was my two hours of bliss at Mountallen Eco Tours, I can’t recommend it highly enough, the perfect day out for nature lovers. You can find out more about the tours here: https://www.mountallenecotours.com/