12 o’Clock Hills soaring to new heights

As the New Year gets underway, the voluntary community group behind the 12 O’Clock Hills Project in Kilkishen have reminisced on a very successful year as the venture continues to go from strength to strength. David Byrne spoke to project chairman, Patsy Neville.

Dawn at the 12 o’Clock Hills on the Dawn walk during the year.

According to the Kilkishen-based group, 2018 was another good year for the further development and promotion of the 12 O’Clock Hills facility, which officially got underway in September 2014.

In November last, the 12 O’Clock Hills project volunteers were rewarded with a special commendation at the Ennis Chamber Clare Business Excellence Awards, described as “the highlight of the past 12 months” by chairman of the project’s committee, Patsy Neville. 

Those behind the ambitious project in Kilkishen took significant pride winning the best voluntary community group category at the prestigious local business awards.

One of the bigger challenges presented to us during the year was the provision of parking spaces to cater for our increasing visitors.”

According to 12 O’Clock Hills project chairman, Patsy Neville, another momentous highlight was the mounting of a Sundial Compass back in January that attracted “our biggest attendance to the hills since the facility opened to the public in September 2014”.

“We are very indebted to the Fitzgerald family, Tulla for sponsoring this,” he said. “Our promotional events continued during the past year with our annual Dawn Walk, Summer Solstice walk, 6K Mountain Run and 30k East Clare Challenge which were very well supported.”

In September the hard-working committee organised a charity climb of Carrauntoohil in conjunction with the Elevate Foundation. 

The well-supported fundraiser attracted participants from all over the county and generated revenue in excess of €7k. 

“This was a fairly big undertaking and we are very indebted to all who helped out on a cold and wet day on the Kerry Reeks,” said Mr Neville. 

“A word of thanks to our mountain guides and especially Mike Murphy and his fellow mountain guide comrades from the Clare Outdoor club for their great work on the day.

“Then just before Christmas we had our Winter Solstice walk which attracted in excess of 90 participants. 

“Here we wish to express our gratitude to the staff of the local Sunyata Buddhist Centre for facilitating us with car parking spaces for families,” he added.

According to the project’s committee, development work on the trails is paramount and in late 2017 with the aid of Leader funding under the auspices of CLDC in Ennis the group hard cored the trails to the upper hills and also extended the boardwalk and installed signage. 

During the past year two footbridges installed which were sponsored by J Mullane Financial Services and an Irish group living in Singapore. 

“We had seating benches installed sponsored by Kilmurry Sixmilebridge ICA, Shannon Trekkers to the memory of Jim Rocks and Ray Condron to the memory of his dad,” explained Patsy Neville.

“One of the bigger challenges presented to us during the year was the provision of parking spaces to cater for our increasing visitors. 

“We have now doubled our parking capacity at our Snaty Trailhead and are currently working on the development of a new parking facility for our Belvoir Trailhead. 

 “All this costs money and we are very grateful for the significant amount of personal donations we have received. 

“This has been mostly done via our crowdfunding site IFundraise.ie. 

“We also acknowledge the proceeds of a table quiz from Sixmilebridge Golf Society. 

“We now acknowledge these personal donations and funding on our new website 12oclockhills.com,” added Mr Neville.

The Snaty Trailhead which has parking capacity for 16 cars will continue the starting point for walks for the present. 

“Our expectation is to have a second parking option at our Belvoir Trailhead available in April.

“Work on this began in November but had to be halted due to heavy rain. 

“It’s a very expensive development and we are very mindful of the fact that our supporters have already provided financial support with the matched funding for our Leader Grant of 12 months ago.

“For this reason we will be directing our fundraising efforts more towards companies or the corporate sector. 

“January is the time of year when companies provide funding to charities of their choice. 

“This is often done by linking up with the employees to identify projects in their localities that need funding. 

“We will be asking our supporters working in organisations if they would put forward the 12 O’Clock Hills Project as deserving a donation to complete the new car park facility. 

“For this we offer the following: naming rights for a designated period, company name and logo display, guided walks and or events followed by a social gathering in a local hostelry where required,” concluded Patsy Neville.

The hill Knockanuarha [12 O’Clock Hills] is located five kilometres southeast of Kilkishen village and is part of the Slieve Bearnagh Mountain range in East Clare.

 It is thought that the name 12 O’Clock Hills comes from the local tradition of telling the time by noting the position of the sun against these peaks and after many exploratory walks a ‘Twelve O’Clock’ committee was formed with the idea of developing the area as a local amenity.

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