Island nature - The Spike Island sanctuary

Spike Island has a total area of 104 acres which is topped by the 24 acre Fort Mitchel.  The areas surrounding the Fort is known as the Glasis, which is French for slope, and its steep and steady climb with no cover made it very difficult for attackers to reach the fort.  This slope was built by the convicts housed in the islands prison, with up to 18 men at a time pushing heavy carts of soil to fill in and create the slope.  

Further out in the island are many houses and even a village with many homes and a church.  The residents lived on the the island until 1985 when the riot of that year forced their removal.  ​The process of families leaving the island had begun with the opening of the civilian prison in 1985.  Before then as far back as far back as the early 19th Century military families would have lived on the island, with the families of the convict guards also resident during the convict prison period 1847 to 1883.  Some once beautiful homes now dot the island mostly in derelict states and show the ravages of time.  

The perfect short grass of the Glasis and occasional flattened area betray the fact that the Glasis was once used as a golf course, as officers had the convicts build them a 9 hole golf course on the forts slopes.  To the west of the Island sits a full size football pitch which was used by the British and Irish military for sports days, and also by the prison guards of the 1980s prison for recreation purposes.  Just south of the pitch lies the convict cemetery, where up to 1300 bodies lie in unmarked graves, with only a handful of gravestones giving prisoner numbers.  

Also on the west of the island is a beach that was often used by locals for swimming, and the north side facing Cobh has many accommodation blocks and the gun drill shed.  The gun shed housed a 6" artillery gun and this was used to train the troops ahead of firing the main guns in the fort.  

The residents of Spike Island have always shared the island with the many birds and animals that dot the harbour coastline and today the island is part of conservation efforts for endangered species.  The native Irish red squirrel is under threat on the mainland so it is being reintroduced to the island, where it is safe from the grey squirrel.  The Irish hare which has struggled with Ireland's growing urban environment is set to find a welcome respite from human interference.  Colorful phesants have also found a safe haven from the predators of the mainland.  Spike Island is becoming a sanctuary for native Irish wildlife.