Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Also available in: fr el ie it lt pt ro en fb yt

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Geographical Areas

Homepage > Learning Science through Nature > Geographical Areas


Tolka River and adjacent banks at Glasnevin Dublin
Geography, Biology, Geology
The River Tolka is one of Dublin's three main rivers, flowing from County Meath to Fingal, within the old County Dublin, and through the north of Dublin city (the other main rivers are the Liffey and the Dodder).
By flow of water, the Tolka is the second largest river in Dublin. The river flows past the tree-lined recreational areas adjacent to Glasnevin Woods and Violet Hill, and forms the northern boundary of Glasnevin (Prospect) Cemetery before meeting the National Botanic Gardens. The river forms the northern border of the Botanic Gardens except for the beautiful Rose Gardens situated on the northern side and accessed via a bridge. Thereafter it passes Glasnevin village and flows into Griffith Park where it forms a major feature of the park.
In November 2002, flooding caused extensive damage to residential areas along the Tolka banks. After this, much work was done to strengthen the river's flood defences, and following heavy flooding in 2005, major works to deepen and widen the river were carried out on a number of stretches most notably at Glasnevin Woods and at Drumcondra Bridge. Controversially, the small natural waterfall at Glasnevin Woods was replaced by an artificial stepped fall.
This partner school has extensive grounds at the back the school that back down to the Tolka River - immediately across the river are the Botanic Gardens - there might be scope to involve river water [the Tolka was subject to pollution a couple of years ago in 2012 and after there had been a big re-stock at considerable expense - it led to a huge fish-kill and made the national news], woodland or fields of grass.


Tools for study This book was used to help identify wildflowers on the river bank and to compare their distribution in the intervention and non-intervention areas. Josephine Treacy has also produced study guides to help students focus on different parts of the areas of interest. A useful handbook is Collins Complete Guide to Irish Wildlife ISBN: 978-0-00-734951-7 Partners were also given links to RSPB Nature Watch by Marianne Taylor ISBN: 978-1-4081-3974-5
Students surveying the area where no intervention has taken place The area of study has been prone to flooding in the past and an intervention has taken place to try to prevent this occurrence. The students were given some focus questions to inform their comparison of the two areas. Does Human intervention affect Animal/Plant Life? Your group will identify and give details about one plant and one animal in two areas [field and river-bank]. Area 1 = Animal Describe what it looks like – name three places you saw it – did it hide – where is it? – was it feeding? – what was it feeding on? – was anything trying to eat it? Do you think it is a predator or is it prey?- is it a carnivore or an omnivore? – is it competing? ? – is it competing? – is it a vertebrate or invertebrate? – does it make a distinct sound or noise? Plant Describe what it looks like – name three places you saw it – was something feeding on it? - What? – What other plants were near it? Is it in competition? For what?- How are other plants affecting it? Area 2 = Can you find the same plant? If no – try to explain why not / If yes – what is different about it? Can you find the same animal? If no – try to explain why not / If yes – what is different about it?
Non intervention area - ground cover The picture shows some of the wild plant growth covering the ground of the non intervention area. Contrast it with the manicured grass of the intervention area. There is a mixture of dock leaves, wood sorrel and ivy that would be typically of a wooded area. The dock leaves are of interest from a toxicology and medicinal viewpoint. Leaves of the plant can be used as salad, to prepare a vegetable broth or to be cooked like spinach. They contain oxalic acid which can be hazardous if consumed in larger quantities. Dried seeds are used as a spice. The \'milk\' of the dock leaf is known to contain tannins and oxalic acid, which is an astringent. Broad-leaved dock leaves have been used to soothe burns, blisters, and nettle stings.
Non intervention area - wild flower path. This shows again the non-intervention area by the River Tolka in Dublin. The narrow pathway is flanked by wild borders and is tree-lined. The amount of light getting through is encouraging the growth of the wild plants in the border. At this time of year cow parsley is beginning to emerge and some white umbrels can be seen in the foreground of the picture. Anthriscus sylvestris, known as cow parsley, wild chervil,wild beaked parsley, keck, or Queen Anne\'s lace is a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant in the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae. It is also sometimes called mother-die (especially in the UK), a name that is also applied to the common hawthorn. It is native to Europe, western Asia and northwestern Africa; in the south of its range in the Mediterranean region, it is limited to higher altitudes. It is related to other diverse members of Apiaceae, such as parsley, carrot, hemlock and hogweed.
entering the intervention area The students about to start the study of the intervention area. The intervention resulted from an incident in Summer 2014 where DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL and Inland Fisheries Ireland had to carry out an emergency response following an “extensive fish kill” along the city’s Tolka River, in the stretch between Finglas Road Bridge and Drumcondra. Locals in the area reported seeing ‘hundreds’ of dead fish following what looks like a detergent dump in waterway.
Dandelion plants in intervention area As the picture shows, the planting in the intervention area is managed to maintain a formal cut grass situation. However, it also shows growth of wild flower dandelions. The dandelions grow widely in Ireland as their seeds are wind dispersed. They are commonly found by roadsides and ditches, but also disperse through cultivated areas like lawns. Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae and consists of species commonly known as dandelion. They are native to Eurasia and North America, but the two commonplace species worldwide, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum, were imports from Europe that now propagate as wildflowers. Both species are edible in their entirety. The common name dandelion, from French dent-de-lion, meaning \"lion\'s tooth\") is given to members of the genus. Like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.
Pigeon egg shell in intervention area The students observed a number of birds including pigeons, in the area but also found remnants of pigeon egg shell. The wood pigeon is mostly grey with a pink-tinged breast. It has a white, green and purple patch on its neck. It builds its nests from twigs in trees or on buildings. The task of incubating the eggs is shared by adults. The wood pigeon\'s eggs are glossy white and smooth to the touch. They are elliptical in shape and measure 1 1/5 inches by 1 3/5 inches.
towards the intervention area this is the edge of the intervention area as the students approached it for the study
National Botanic Gardens The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland is situated across the River Tolka from where the students completed their study. This is a facility that is maintained by the Office of Public Works and this information has been taken from their website. The activities and role of the Gardens is a great deal more varied than meets the eye. It\'s purpose is to explore, understand, conserve, and share the importance of plants and it aims to make the National Botanic Gardens a place where leisure, recreation and education are all compatible for the enjoyment of our visitors. •Conservation: Within the living collections at the National Botanic Gardens we have over 300 endangered species from around the world, and 6 species already extinct in the wild. These are a vital resource, like a Noah\'s Ark for the future. •Education is a fundamental role of the National Botanic Gardens: through our collections and activities we aim to increase public awareness of plants and their importance to people globally. We now have Audio tours which enable visitors to take self-guiding tours through their own MP3 player, mobile phone or souvenir player. •Science: staff at the Gardens are actively describing new species; increasing our knowledge of the Irish flora; conducting collecting expeditions; and investigating the needs of our most threatened native species. The National Herbarium is based within the National Botanic Gardens, and has a collection of nearly ¾ million dried plant specimens. We also have an active DNA research lab. •Reference: By holding a wide range of named and labelled collections and keeping an up-to-date catalogue of the collections, the collection provides a unique reference source for Irish Gardeners, Horticulturists and Botanists. •Demonstration: Cultivating a wide range of plants from the diverse climatic regions of the world, and displaying these under good horticultural practice allows our visitors to see what they too can achieve in their own gardens. We run training courses in gardening and hold practical workshops throughout the year - see our events page for details. •Recreation: The overall design and contents of the Garden creates an environment that is stimulating, whether a visitor is here for instruction or pleasure. However it should be remembered that the primary role of the Gardens is as a scientific collection and therefore we do not allow dogs, picnics, bicycles, fishing, ball games, jogging or running, nor the playing of musical instruments or recorded music. Entry is free and we are open every day of the year besides Christmas Day. Opening times vary depending on the season.