5th class girls experience the amazing wonders of the River Dodder
Today we (the 5th class girls) went on an interactive walk along the River Dodder. Richenda Garland, an environmental scientist was our guide. Before the walk Richenda gave a talk and a presentation. She talked about how the river starts off in the Kippure mountains and flows out at Dublin Bay, stretching a distance of 26 kilometres. She showed us pictures of the wonderful flora and fauna that can be found along the river. We saw photos of the animals and leaves we might expect to find. Richenda told us about the different leaves we had to collect, such as the laurel, oak, holly, scots pine and beech.
Tír an Iúir is the Irish for Terenure, the direct translation being “The Land of the Yew” (Tree). She showed us a picture of the yew tree and all of the roots visible on the ground. This is to protect the tree from the wind. Richenda also showed us a picture of a stoat and a mink, who looked very similar. However the two don`t get along! The stoat is native and the mink is not. She compared them to the red and the grey squirrel, and how the grey squirrel killed off its weaker counterpart. Richenda explained how, what looked like an injured leg on a swan (native to Bushy Park pond) was actually calcification of the leg, caused by the swan being fed too much white bread!
Our class was the first of the 5th classes to go on the walk. We entered the park and immediately saw a pipe going across the river. Richenda told us it contained sewage from the local apartments. We spotted a heron near the pipe. It suddenly spread its huge wings and flew off. We had three more sightings of one on our trip. We don`t know if it was the same heron. The next thing we discovered was the fig buttercup, but we weren`t allowed to pick it as there were only a few around. We also saw a shopping trolley in the water which Richenda said was very bad for the river as it acted as a barrier and could cause flooding. Next we saw a robin singing in a tree. It was very friendly and didn`t appear to be afraid of us. We got a great photo!
As we continued our exploration, we spied pools of orangey coloured water. We all thought it was pollution, but Richenda explained that it was iron oxide in the water. We then took a sample of water from the river and compared it to water that Richenda had taken from the river source in the Kippure Mountains. This water had a pale brown colour because of the bog land in that area. The water sample we took was a lot clearer. However Richenda was quick to point out that the clearer sample would contain more bacteria and germs that aren`t native to the naked eye.
We saw some herons` nests at the very top of the scots pine trees. These trees grow very high and the top is very flat. They are ideal for the large nests. There are no lower branches for smaller animals to climb up and attack. Those girls donning wellingtons had sieves and entered the water near the bridge. They used them to see what was on the water bed. During the walk each group collected leaves – laurel, oak, holly, scots pine, colt foot, hearts tongue, yew, ivy and some edible flowers. We didn`t eat them because we know how dogs love walking along the river bank and might have been marking their territory!
Finally Richenda asked us to check for something unusual before we headed back. We found a turnip! Richenda explained that people throw their compost along the river and it attracts rats.
When we returned, we looked at the photos and in our groups we did mini projects on the amazing wonders of the River Dodder! Thanks Richenda for a fantastic, fun and educational trip.