Flora and Fauna
Both courses of Headfort Golf Club are on the demesne of The Taylor Family of Headfort House (which is now a private school and visible across the new course). The Headfort family were renowned collectors of trees and plants. In the early years of the 20th century the smog in Dublin was so bad that many plant species had no hope of growing in the Botanical Gardens, and as Lord Headfort was a major patron of the Botanical Society many of the rarest samples were offered to the Estate for planting here.
Additionally the Taylors sponsored several of the renowned plant hunter George Forrest’s seven expeditions to Yunnan province in China. This mountainous yet tropical paradise was largely inaccessible to the outside world and as a result was rich in undiscovered species. George Forrest spent nearly 30 years gathering seeds and samples against a backdrop of incredible danger in his discovery to science of over 1200 different plants as well as numerous birds and mammals.
The Headfort family thus benefitted from access to seeds from the Botanical Society, and directly from George Forrest, making them unrivalled in their ability to gather together a massive collection.
The Rhododendron collection, which hopefully golfers won’t get to see too closely, is a prized and noted one with many of the plants coming from North East India, Burma and South West China.
However, the fame of the Headfort demesne in the plant world comes from the fact that it is one of the most diverse and well established arboretums in the world. Trees from all over the world have found the soil of Kells most welcoming and have thrived.
Amongst the examples of rare trees, perhaps the most prized of all is the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) and can be seen nestled behind the 10th green on the new course. The Dawn Redwood, believed to have been extinct for over six million years and existing only in fossil form, was rediscovered alive and growing in China in 1942. After the war seeds were distributed to various arboreta. Our Dawn Redwood was planted in 1949 and is recognised as one of the finest specimens in the world.
Sam Holt took over the Position of Head Gamekeeper on the Headfort estate from Bill Ireland nearly 40 years ago – thus starting his “love affair” with this gem, the original seat of the Taylour family. Sam was initially employed by the 6th. Marquis of Headfort and thereafter by Bill Kruger, the Canadian industrialist, who agreed to the sale of the original golf course to its members. In his time Sam reared 10,000 pheasants and 4000 duck annually.
Sam worked closely with the club during the construction of the Island (New) Course, planting the canal and lake – originally dug by hand in the 19th. Century – with original estate reared lily species.
One of Sam’s original briefs was to control the Grey Squirrel – but now the delightful arrival of the Pine Marten from West of the Shannon has taken over the task!
North American mink are a continuing problem along all rivers since the 60’s. The Otter is common on the course, as are Stoats and the Red Fox. Hares are abundant. And an occasional Red Deer will appear from the North boundary of the course.
Ravens nest in the Scots Pines to the left of Headfort House and Common Buzzards (4ft. wing span) have taken up residence and can be seen circling in groups high above the course. Long-Eared Owls are common enough but the Barn Owl is under national pressure.
The Blackwater running through the course is a resting and roosting haven from November to February for the Icelandic Whooper Swan – a record number of 420 birds was counted in 2005 and this roost is now classed as one of National importance.