There are few sights on the Western seaboard quite as breath taking as the Connemara National Park in Co. Galway. Nestled in the north-west corner of this natural national treasure is Diamond Hill, a clearly identifiable landmark in the region due to its pyramidal profile. To quote the Irish Independent’s Christopher Somerville, ‘Diamond Hill is, first and last, a proper mountain’. The weather-stubborn quartzite rock on its ancient hill face is highly reflective and, unsurprisingly, gives the mountain its name.
Gaining both national and, indeed, substantial international prominence as a key tourism location throughout the years meant that, at its peak, more than 10,000 tourists were visiting and climbing Diamond Hill annually. Considering these huge numbers, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) decided to close off access to the Hill. The decision, as difficult as it was to take, was a necessary conservation measure.
Falling victim to its own popularity, Diamond Hill had suffered the inevitable damage to vegetation caused by so many walkers, resulting in the loss of topsoil, which was in turn accelerating the erosion of underlying peat layers. It was clear that both a focused and structured access plan for the hill would be necessary to secure its long term environmental and economic sustainability.
Due to our expertise and experience in the design and supervision of environmentally sensitive engineering projects, the NPWS appointed TOBIN Consulting Engineers as the lead consultants over this work. TOBIN assumed responsibility for detailed design, specification of materials, preparation of contract documents, tender and award of contract and supervision of construction.
The relationship and mutual understanding established between the NPWS and TOBIN was apparent from the outset. Following the recommendations of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) carried out early in the process, it was decided that a select number of pathways were to be constructed on the slopes of Diamond Hill comprising of natural materials including gravel surfaces, hand spalled stone and raised timber boardwalks, many of which were airlifted into place by helicopter during construction.
The overarching objective here was to concentrate walkers into a select number of corridors, thus protecting the fabric of the slopes and thus allowing the eroded areas to revegetate and recover to their former state. Following the completion of the project and its opening to the public, it is evident by a further increase in numbers that the project has been a huge success in the realisation of its original principal objectives.
TOBIN is immensely proud to have been involved in this project which provides such a beneficial amenity while respecting the sensitive environment of its location.