Campaign group pleased with GoFundMe drive to safeguard West Cork woodland walk

A fundraising drive has been launched to safeguard a woodland walk in a popular coastal retreat in West Cork.

A community-based group, Castlefreke Our Woods Our Walks, raised almost €8,000 within a week of launching its drive to aid the provision of new walkways in Castlefreke Woods close to Rathbarry village.

A|djacent to the Long Strand at Ownahincha and off the main N71 Clonakilty-Rosscarbery road, the woodland circuit is mainly a gentle 6km walk and suitable for families.

The local campaign group had been set up amid fears, earlier this year, that a local landowner had been involved in talks with state forestry body Coillte to secure the 65-acre site.

The landowner Stephen Evans Freke, who is restoring the once-magnificent Castle Freke, had not engaged with locals.

But he strongly indicated what while he had been in a three-way negotiation with Cork Council and Coilte in relation to the woods, he never had any intention of limiting public access to walkways.

Mr Evans Freke had also emphasised he wanted to replant the woods so it would become a model in terms of sustaining and preserving an area of natural beauty.

In the meantime, Cork County Council has earmarked a grant under the Community Involvement Scheme to provide footpaths in the woodland area.

However, locals are obliged under the scheme to done €15% of the total cost of €105,000.

Castlefreke Our Woods Our Walks (COWOW) which campaigns to keep the woods in public ownership undertook to raise half of the community contribution, while Rathbarry Tidy Towns committed to raising the other half.

Dominic Carroll, chairperson of COWOW, said the group was "overwhelmed" by the response of its members and supporters to its GoFundMe online appeal and also collected an equal amount in cash donations.

Expressing gratitude, he said:

The response has been fantastic and shows the power of a community pulling together.

Under the scheme, the local authority will build a footpath along the “Avenue” (L8025) in Castlefreke Woods and another footpath adjacent to Long Strand (R598).

The second footpath will connect with the Coillte footpath leading to Kilkeran Lake, thereby creating a continuous path around Castlefreke Woods, Long Strand and Kilkeran Lake.

“The new footpaths along the ‘Avenue’ and Long Strand will be an enormous improvement to this superb public recreation area and, as importantly, will enhance the safety of walkers," Mr Carroll said.

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