Patsy Neville and the 12 O’ Clock Hills Committee have industriously engineered a number of environmentally friendly tourist attractions within the Kilkishen area.
The committee consists of a dozen members from Kilkishen, Kilmurry and Sixmilebridge. The group originally formed in 2014, following the opening of two trails to the public: one 5km heritage trail and a second 8km trail on the upper hills. Since then, through arduous efforts and effective funding, the 12 O’ Clock Hills has become an immensely popular tourist destination, particularly during Covid-19.
“When we started off first, we didn’t really have a scrap. It started off with church gate collections. What we do regularly now is we organise hill walking events. The biggest one would be the 30k we organised from Killaloe onto Broadford and then the 12 O’ Clock Hills. One of our regular walker’s family sponsored the sundial compass. Going back into olden times, there were no clocks and when the sun came between the 12 O’ Clock Hills at a point in day around noon time, they could set their sundial using that mark,” Patsy tells.
Some of the other undertakings carried out by the committee were the installation of boardwalks on the muddy sections of the trails in order to reduce surface erosion. Funding here was provided by CLDC. Further along, in conjunction with the Heritage Council, funding was secured for restoring stonework on Crag Bridge.
A fairy trail was developed 2km from a car park, allowing for families and children to walk to the facilities. Funding here was provided by St. Francis Credit Union in Ennis. A 13km trail was developed on an additional hill to accommodate long distance walkers and Patsy admits that this trail has had an excellent uptake from the local and wider communities.
Patsy states, “At the moment now, we are after qualifying for a second Heritage grant from the Heritage Council. We are going to restore a place we call Mary-Anne’s Old Stone House. We always ask our walkers did they pop down to Mary-Anne’s for a cup of tea. Mary-Anne is long since gone out of there. She was there up until 1955 or so. It was in about 2011 when a tree fell on top of the house. We are in the process of restoring it and bringing it back to what it looked like back then. We have a contractor, and we have an architect. We have a stonemason too who is currently on that job and hopefully that will be finished by the end of November in order to qualify for Covid-19 funding.”
Patsy points to a number of salient issues that have come to the committee’s attention at the 12 O’ Clock Hills. The first, is the use of scramblers along the trails which is having a negative impact on the trails. “After all our hard work, these bikers come along, and they root up the track and it’s not very nice. We would hope that these scramblers would find different places to go rather than the 12 O’ Clock Hills,” Patsy concedes.
The second issue felt by the committee is that of dogs being led along the trail off their leads. Patsy alludes to the serious nature of this carelessness, which resulted in the death of three sheep on landowner’s farms adjacent to one of the walkways. “The message going out here, is that anyone bringing dogs to the facility would be in control of their dog at all times by having them on a lead,” Patsy states. The final issue is that of environmental waste. Dumping on the hills has been evidenced by the committee.
On a final note, Patsy offers some advice on visiting the 12 O’ Clock Hills throughout the lockdown, “We would like to ask people visiting to adhere to social distancing. Be aware that we are getting increased numbers now. It can be a bit testing. The best time to come is Monday to Friday. Saturdays and Sundays as well as Bank Holidays can be crazy busy.”