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Nature’s way: how a farm became a haven

Judy Murphy



Mary Bermingham and her husband Ray in the Burren Bubble. “We wanted to be a nature centre, but knew we had to cater for families. Now we have a reputation as a kids’ place,” Mary says. Photos: Hany Marzouk.

Lifestyle  – Judy Murphy meets a couple who have developed a unique sanctuary for young and old in the Burren

Anybody who says you can’t be all things to all people hasn’t been to the Burren Nature Sanctuary, just outside Kinvara. It’s the brainchild of Mary Bermingham, who worked as an engineer during Ireland’s boom. When the recession hit and work dried up, she took a different route, and turned her 50-acre farm into a nature sanctuary so that visitors could learn about the flora and fauna of this landscape, which is unique in the world.

The result is a centre which hosts thousands of people every year from adults to schoolchildren and families.  Pathways through the farm allow people to explore, discovering wild flowers, rock formations and a lake which appears and disappears twice daily. This rich landscape also includes a doline, or collapsed cave, shattered limestone pavements, a pre-Famine village, an ancient round field, and indigenous woodlands. Visitors are welcome to explore all of them.

The Burren Nature Sanctuary has indoor and outdoor play areas for children, which are both fun and educational, while visitors can get up close with farm animals from pigs to goats to sheep and even Peruvian guinea pigs.

There’s also an award-winning café serving home-cooked food – much of it grown in the farm’s polytunnel.

Next weekend a new feature, the Burren Bubble, will be officially opened at the Sanctuary. The Bubble is a gift for anybody who wants to learn about local wildflowers and where to find them.

In this small bio-dome, horticultural expert Edward Dee has carefully planted a selection of flowers and herbs, either native to the farm or donated because they were under threat locally.

They have been replanted in groups as they’d be found in nature.  And so, plants from a limestone pavement area are all together in one section. In another, there’s an orchid-rich grassland. There’s also a wetland area. Another section has hazel and ash woodland, with samples of ash, hazel, oak and spindle. This space been designated the Burren National Botanical Collection by the London-based Botanic Gardens Conservation International, as it’s an invaluable collection of the area’s rare plants, says Mary, while Edward points out the various species.

Carved into the Burren Bubble’s stone floor is a beautiful circular Celtic calendar and sundial. This 13-month calendar offers information about native trees, Celtic festivals and the year’s solstices.

This farm is home to a turlough or a disappearing lake, which vanishes twice a day. A replica model in the Bubble demonstrates how the turlough drains into an underground cave and then into the sea. Mary’s engineering background came in useful for designing this.

Turloughs are common in this limestone region, but the one on this farm is unusual because it’s tidal, which means that it empties and fills twice a day.

It’s fed by the Blackwater River which flows down from Derrybrien on the Galway-Clare border, reaching the sea at Kinvara. When the tide is in, the Blackwater backs up, filling the turlough’s basin twice daily in summer, explains Mary, who did a project on this for her engineering degree. The turlough is there constantly during winter, when it fluctuates in height.

London-born Mary came to Kinvara in her late teens while on summer holidays from college in London and, in her own words, she “got stuck”!

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

The Herbal Academy’s leading course on living a healthy life




There has already been a phenomenal upsurge in the use of holistic treatments to deal with a whole host of common ailments – but a Galway herbalist and educator has now taken this to the next level.

Because Tuam-based Patrick Murphy – owner and founder of the Herbal Academy – believes that that anyone can learn to make and use herbal remedies at home, for their own wellbeing and that of their families and clients.

Which is the ethos behind the Herbal Academy as an institute of alternative medicine for the general public, delivering a variety of courses completely online to allow for remote learning.

The courses offered at the academy, designed by Patrick, were produced during the lockdown months – and now the work is ready to be presented to the public.

The Herbal Academy itself was developed to use a unique blend of Western Herbal Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine to learn how to create a range of holistic treatments for common ailments.

And, as Patrick points out, all of this can be safely used alongside medical treatments, if necessary.

His philosophy in his work is to ‘cleanse, nourish and heal’ – and that is woven through the course material, which he has written and which is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

It’s the latest career evolution for Patrick Murphy, who as the Skin Herbalist, provided his first herbal remedies to his patients back in 1995 – with good results.

Then as different ailments emerged in his patients, he would accommodate them by using new herbal formulas, again with marked success. These formulas worked well with subsequent patients that they became standard.

His true philosophy is ‘getting to the root cause of the disorder’, helping him to create healing tonic herbals. These herbs help the body overcome disease by strengthening through cleansing and nourishing.

Patrick’s ultimate vision is to cleanse and nourish so the body can heal, using wild crafted, organic herbs.

The Herbal Academy itself has a comprehensive mission statement.

It aims ‘to empower energy, wellbeing, and confidence, physically and mentally by imparting knowledge of healing, nourishing, and cleansing the body using natural, organic, earth-sourced sustainable herbs and supplements that focus on treating the root causes of ailments rather than just the symptoms’.

The Academy offers three courses – the Foundation Course; Herbal Home Remedies, and Colour Therapy.

Material on the Foundation Course is aimed to provide the basics in herbalism, that students can recognize and devise effective herbal treatments for themselves and others and to educate themselves in how to use herbal remedies for first aid use and how to use alongside mainstream medical treatments.

Participants will also gain the knowledge of distinguishing between supplements and their properties as well as learning to make their own effective herbal treatments for a range of common ailments including common colds, IBS and various skin conditions.

Those studying Herbal Home Remedies will learn of the herbal remedies available to treat an array of situations such as insomnia, infections, rashes, coughs, digestive issues, stings/bites, bruises, and joint problems amongst many others.

Students will learn to prepare these remedies using a range of fruits, spices, oils, and herbs-all ingredients that are completely natural and have been used and relied on for centuries to promote wellbeing and vitality.

Colour Therapy is used as part of medical practice for hundreds of years, colour therapy is an important element in the holistic approach to complimentary health practice.

In this course, people will identify and understand the need for certain colour themes in their lives and how to use it for healing, good health, relaxation and protection as well as learning how to use this therapy to compliment other therapies such as acupuncture, reflexology and aromatherapy.

“The Herbal Academy is delivered completely through online learning. No prior experience is necessary,” says Patrick Murphy.

“The courses can be accessed on the website instantly and offers a payment plan to spread the cost if needed. Upon completion, students will receive accredited certificates for each course.

“We have a special limited time offer in place from now until September 30 – if you order the Foundation Herbal Medicine Course, you get the Colour Therapy and Healing for free.”

Patrick also has his own herbal dispensary, stocking herbal remedies from highly reputable organic herbal suppliers. Mainly organic, bio dynamic and fresh herb tinctures are stocked.

Dried herbs which are always organic where possible, as well as pessaries, capsules and specifically made up creams, are also dispensed, when required.

Patrick helps people with common ailments such as arthritis, asthma, acne, eczema, Fibromyalgia, ME, constipation, digestive problems, heartburn, acid reflux, back pain, menopause and more.

For more information on his online courses, visit the website or contact Patrick via – or phone 093-27033.





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Connacht Tribune

‘Maskne’ flare-ups the latest Covid-19 scourge

Denise McNamara



Yet another symptom of this blasted virus - maskne.

Beauty, Health and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

The vast majority of us are complying with the public health guidelines to wear masks while entering shops, using public transport or in areas where unable to sustain a two metre distance. But it’s not pleasant. The most people I feel sorry for are the kids in secondary schools, particularly the newbies.  It’s very hard to make friends with people you don’t know if you are only seeing their eyes and unable to read expressions while all voices remain muffled beneath the covering.

And how desperately uncomfortable it must be for all those in the health system or in jobs where they deal with the public who often have to wear masks as well as face shields all day.

It is proving increasingly problematic for those of us with sensitive or problem-prone skin as wearing a mask brings with it bacteria, which grows in warm, moist environments, making the skin underneath our face masks the prime area for bacteria and perfect environment for congestion causing blemishes and blackheads.

Maskne is the new term for the scourge. Technically it is a form of acne mechanica and mainly effects people who have an inherited tendency to acne.

According to Bernie Fahy, owner of the Terryland clinic The Skin Specialist, wearing the mask whilst under acne treatment will be particularly difficult.

She advises to wear cotton material masks only. While they may cost a bit more – Brown Thomas have very nice patterned ones from €7 – they will be easier for your skin to bear.

If spots start sprouting, or you already have acne, use Caldesene powder to dry spots out and prevent fungal infections.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

A look back at the old house as we move into the new one

Francis Farragher



START SPREADING THE NEWS . . . A scene from c. 1960, outside what were then the old offices of the Connacht Tribune on 15 Market Street, as paper boys pick up copies of the Tribune, hot off the presses, for local deliveries around the town. Pictured on the extreme right, with the paper under his arm is Seán Duignan, a young reporter with the Tribune and later of RTE. The man in the centre with the newspaper in his hand is Joe Fahy, also a Tribune reporter, and later to be the first political correspondent with RTE. The other gentleman on the left with the ‘trendy coat’, we do not know the identity of – probably just a passerby at the time. From next week, the Tribune’s new home is Unit 21, Liosbán Business Park, Tuam Road, Galway.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

A lot of the nostalgia buttons are being pressed these days from our look back to Galway’s hurling success of 1980s to a more localised one for those of us who have spent the biggest chunk of our working lives at 15 Market Street in the heart of the city. This week marks the last editions of the Connacht Tribune newspapers to be produced from our current location as we move out to a new and more compact premises in the Liosbán Business Park just off the Tuam Road.

Like the 1980 hurling final, it does seem just like yesterday since I worked my first day in Market Street – the Monday after Galway had lost the 1986 All-Ireland hurling final to Cork. Galway had destroyed Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final at Thurles when they employed the then revolutionary tactic of playing a two-man full-forward line clearing the way for Noel Lane to strike for a hat-trick of goals.

Cork though were a lot wilier for the final leaving Johnny Crowley back as a sweeper . . . and he did just that . . . cleaning up across the Munster champions’ full backline and landing the man-of-the-match accolade in the process, as Galway eventually went down on a 4-13 to 2-15 scoreline.

All week that old rhyme about Cork hurling and Christy Ring kept creeping through my head: ‘Now Cork is bet; the hay is saved; the thousands wildly sing. They speak too soon, my sweet garsun, for here comes Christy Ring’. That day in Croker, Tomás Mulcahy was Cork’s Christy Ring when he scored one of the great All-Ireland final goals after a 50-yard second-half run to swing the match their way.

Those days in the late 1980s, the printing presses of the Connacht Tribune, as well as rolling out their own three titles – The Sentinel, Connacht Tribune and City Tribune – also produced thousands of copies of other titles every week including the Tuam Herald, Clare Champion and Connaught Telegraph. Like a lot of other industries, with the passing of time, the physical production of papers moved to just a handful of locations around the country and the rumble of the printing presses in Market Street grew silent as we went through the noughties.

While 1986 was one of desperate disappointment for Galway hurlers, the next two years – ’87 and ’88 – represented the most glorious ever period for the game in the county with Cyril Farrell’s charges winning back-to-back All-Ireland titles. From a Tribune coverage point-of-view, they were also very special weekends for those of us involved, often booked into the same hotel as the team – invariably The Ashling – with Turloughmore’s, Phelim Murphy, in charge of proceedings. There was a lot more informality about the ‘mixing’ between the team, reporters and supporters in those days, and while Cyril Farrell, did like to create his own little bubble with the squad, access and contact never seemed to be a problem.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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