Fortlawn ringfort is located at the top of a rise in the undulating landscape, giving a clear view of lower land to all but the southwest.
This is a univallate ringfort, with just a single earthen bank. A few large stones appear to be incorporated in the bank, but whether these are original or later placed is hard to tell. Excavation would tell us a great deal more.
At some point in the late 18th/early 19th century this fort was planted with beech trees. A crude formula for gauging the age of beech is to measure the circumference (here about 15 ft), divide by 3.14 (Pi) and multiply by 4.8.
This formula is subject to many variables including the ground on which the tree has grown and the weather conditions throughout its life. However, applying it gives an estimated age of 230 years for the oldest trees, which places the time of planting at the end of the 18th century, at a time when English landlords were focused on beautifying their estates.
A little over 200 years might also be seen as the upper age limit of beech in the northwest of Ireland, and as the Fortlawn trees are beginning to die back (and in some cases to decay within) we can assume our estimated time of planting to be reasonable.
The ringfort is currently overgrown with grasses, nettles and docks. About the center we find a depressed area dominated by enchanter’s nightshade. The depression is shallow, descending to about a foot and a half below the otherwise level surface. These features are typical of a collapsed souterrain, where food would have been stored and where the resident family could retreat in times of threat.
One interesting feature is the number of garden snails (Helix aspersa) that have wedged themselves into naturally occurring crevices on the trees (sometimes so tightly it is hard to imagine them ever finding a way out).
Being not native, beech supports a less diverse range of insects than many other trees. It is still of some importance for furniture building and as a fuel wood.
Thanks to Mrs McGreal for providing access.