Physical Environment

The Shannon
The Shannon is the longest river in Ireland measuring 344 km in length. The catchment area is over 15,000 sq. km, representing one fifth of the area of Ireland. The source of the river is ascribed to as the Shannon Pot on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain in County Cavan and it meets the Atlantic Ocean at Loop Head in County Limerick. The Shannon meets up with the river Suck just below the jetty in Shannonbridge. A project is being undertaken to make the river Suck navigable for cruisers, thus enabling access to Ballinasloe - the nearest major town.

The Callows
During the winter months the Shannon bursts its banks flooding the surrounding fields which are called callows. This vegetation is considered by scientists to be the richest of its kind in Europe. Botanists such as David Bellamy and Eamonn de Butlear have visited the area on a number of occasions. They helped in the setting up of the "save the corncrake" campaign. Silt-laden floods can submerge the callows for up to four months of the year, it dries out sufficiently in summer to allow hay cutting and grazing. As the callows have never been drained, ploughed and only recently been artificially fertilised, the vegetation is the same as that used by farmers 1000 years ago.

The Bogland
Offaly has 34% of its land area covered by peatlands in contrast to Ireland where 17% of the land area is covered by peatland. Bord na Mona owns Seven percent of the bogland in Ireland. There are two types of bog evident in Ireland; raised bog and blanket bog. Shannonbridge is surrounded by raised bogland, which is found mainly in the midlands where moderate amounts of rainfall occur annually. The raised bogs of Ireland are ten thousand years old and were formed at the end of the last Ice Age. As the ice melted it settled into lakes and pools in the midlands and over thousands of years, the vegetation that settled in these pools partially decayed to form bogs. Raised bogs have a dome-shaped surface and the average depth is 7.5 metres, though in some areas depths of up to 13m have been recorded. Raised bogs are used for many different purposes:
Production of milled peat - which is supplied to power stations for electricity generation. It is also supplied to briquette factories where it is artificially dried to form peat briquettes.

Production of sod peat (turf) which is used for domestic purposes

Production of moss peat for horticultural purposes.

Raised bogs are important in their natural state as they are unique environments and most bogs have been cut away in other European countries.

Educational purposes for studying flora, fauna, ecology etc.

The Esker Riada
Shannonbridge is located beside an esker called the Esker Riada. In the past it was know as the "Kings Road" or "Pilgrims Path". It is a ridge that is almost continuous from Galway to Dublin. Eskers are hills or ridges, often 15m high, of sand and gravel, which chart the course of former subglacial streams. They follow in the direction of the former retreating ice-front. Because of their porous nature they are dry and consequently they have provided a firm foundation for people who traversed the countryside in the past.

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