KILMICHAEL AMBUSH SITE
KILMICHAEL AMBUSH SITE
As we approach the centenary of the birth of the Irish state, a myriad of meaningful events and sites present themselves as having played a role in attaining this goal. One important landmark is the Kilmichael Ambush Site in rural West Cork. A week after Bloody Sunday, a column of local volunteers were convincingly victorious over a troop of elite British Auxiliaries. The event had a profound effect on the psyche and the actions of rural IRA. In collaboration with The Kilmichael Historical Society, The Crossbarry Commemoration Committee and West Cork Development Partnership (rural development), a scheme was developed for the 3000m² site to provide a respectful educational setting to honour the men and the events that took place. The project was completed in Spring 2014.
From a landscape planning perspective, many battlefield sites related to this historical period have no statutory protection. There are often no structures and land use has altered the 1920 setting. Nonetheless, responsibility for accommodating the thousands of visitors must be taken. When considering road safety, universal access, historic habitat restoration and visitor facilities, development must outline stringent parameters or alteration of the site could be irreparable. The methodology to achieve the desired aim involved identifying the disturbed and undisturbed areas (since 1920) in order to provide interpretive facilities and a sense of the site as it would have appeared on the day. Despite the desire to visit all parts of the site, access and development was generally limited to the areas previously disturbed by 20th century commercial forestry practice. A central interpretive area was needed (for newcomer orientation, school groups, events, etc.) and disabled accessibility to this and the previously installed 1966 Monument were deemed essential. A compacted gravel loop path allows the site to be experienced from multiple vantage points (with additional stories). Clusters of 3-5m tall timber poles act as guideposts and provide their own artistic interpretation. The poles represent the men of the flying column as they laid in wait and are arranged by Section. Larger than life, they create their own sense of space. A large part of the site dealt with habitat restoration, from reinstatement of native heath to regeneration of the boggy meadow areas with native seed. In just one year, the site is alive again and can tell its’ story for generations to come.