Major step forward in Doon Fort conservation
By Siobhan McNamara 13:39 Friday 11th of August 2017
Ministerial consent has been granted for the removal of ivy from the historic Doon Fort near Portnoo in Ireland.
This is a major step forward in the preservation and restoration of the historically significant local structure. Ivy is growing over much of the fort and people are concerned about the extent of the damage being caused as a result.
Paula Harvey of Ardara GAP Heritage and History Group told the Donegal Post: “An expert from the Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland said if the ivy isn’t cut there simply won’t be a monument.”
Cutting the ivy is , however, a very delicate process. One on hand, it is damaging the structure. But because it has grown in through the walls, killing it off could in turn cause the fort to collapse.
“We have to do it under strict guidelines,” said Ms Harvey. “It is not a case of heading out there with secateurs and snipping away at it. We have to be very careful and do it in a controlled way.”
It is Ms Harvey herself who has been appointed to ensure that the work is carried out under those conservation guidelines. She will be at the Ardara Show this weekend where the Ardara GAP History and Heritage Group have a stand.
“Anyone who would like to get involved on a voluntary basis with the work on Doon Fort can come along and fill out a form,” she said.
Even with the major challenge of dealing with the ivy problem, Ms Harvey is feeling very optimistic about the future of Doon Fort.
“This is the first physical piece of work that we are allowed to do,” she said. “I am delighted that we have got this far.”
Of course, getting to the stage of being able to begin this work involves a huge amount of preparation. There are painstaking studies, detailed conservation plans and seemingly endless application forms.
Ms Harvey said: “There is so much behind the scenes work going on. It looks like you’re not making progress when really you are doing a lot. This is finally something that people can see. It is a major step.
Last year the group received a major boost when Doon Fort was selected in the national Adopt a Monument Scheme. This project was one of only five chosen from 90 applicants nationwide.
The Adopt A Monument scheme provides expertise, mentoring and support to community groups in order to help them to care for their local heritage.
Doon Fort is considered an important example of the western stone forts that can be found from Kerry to Donegal. While it is not known without excavation how old Doon Fort is, other similar forts have been dated at the early medieval period.
The fast spreading ivy and partial collapse of the stone fortification were highlighted as the main issues to be addressed.
The group believe that the work will have a positive impact on local tourism development. Doon Fort is a hidden gem in the truest sense. It is situated on a lake island central to Portnoo, Rosbeg, Glenties and Ardara, an area steeped in history
With Heritage Week just around corner, people will have the opportunity get a closer look at Doon Fort as well as other points of interest in the area.
On Sunday, August 20 there will be a bus tour leaving from the Kilclooney Dolmen Centre. Even people who think they know the area might be surprised at just how important this corner of Donegal is in terms of history and heritage.
Ms Harvey said: “Last year, more than half the people on the tour were local. A lot of them didn’t know about the dolmen and other features in the area. This bus trip will take in Doon Fort as well as the archaeology of Ardara.”
Ms Harvey would like to acknowledge the support of the Doon Fort landowners.
“We are indebted to the McHugh family for their support for the restoration of the monument,” she said.
More information on Heritage Week events being run by the group can be found on the Ardara GAP History and Heritage Group Facebook page.