Situated 17 miles east of Galway city, near Athenry and by the town of Monivea, the wood today is enjoyed by people for walks and recreation away from the hustle and bustle of every day life, freedom to roam and the enjoyment of outdoors and fresh air activity. It is known internationally for both its unique flora and archaeology. The Monivea Wood is widely regarded as being one of the most interesting, diverse and sensitive parts of East County Galway. Apart from the partially completed felling of the Coillte crop, it remains for the moment, largely undisturbed as a quite meditative place.
Lady Kathleen Ffrench left Monivea to the people of Monivea and the nation in 1938. She stated the 400 acres of beech woodland would be left "until the trees rot in the ground". The newly-established independent Irish government had decreed that when a landowner died, 90% of their lands should be given to the local people, to break the old English feudal systems. This meant that the size of the Monivea demesne would be reduced from 10,000 acres to just 1000 - not nearly enough to sustain the baronial lifestyle and castle. So it was that the land was left to the fledgling Irish nation, and the mausoleum in the care of the Catholic Church, as it remains today.
By the 1950s the trees were cut down by the land commission/forestry board and replaced with a conifer plantation, which is now ready for clear felling, hence the sale. Coillte now have control over the forest.
Coillte Teoranta, along with their QUANGO Monivea Community Development Co-op, had plans to sell of large portions of Monivea Demesne for the development of 120 retirement homes, a community care centre, a nursing home, an 80 bedroom hotel and a leisure centre. Though Galway County Council approved the developments, they were rejected by An Bord Pleanala.
According to the Inspector’s Report, "the application site is part of the Monivea Estate which was acquired by the Ffrench family at the beginning of the 17th century. In 1938 the last member of the main branch of the family Ms. Kathleen Ffrench bequeathed it to the Irish nation as ‘a home for indigent artists.’ This bequest was abrogated with the neglect and demolition of the main house leaving only the medieval castle portion and outbuildings and the break-up of the Estate. However the main woodland area including the area adjacent to the village passed to the Forestry Commission, subsequently Coillte, and has been a long established public amenity."
The inspector also noted about the effect of the waste water treatment percolation are on the Mausoleum in Monivea Wood: “The Ffrench Mausoleum and Chapel is located some 150 metres SSE of the proposed percolation area. The applicant states that this cannot be affected since the floor of the structure is some 40 inches above ground level. A visit to site reveals a grid set into the ground against the structure’s north wall. This is presently removable and it leads to something of a moat or subterranean passage that also appears to surround the Mausoleum’s foundations and basement level. Robert and Kathleen Ffrench’s remains are contained in a crypt in this basement level, which is well below ground level by some 2+ metres. It is reasonable to be concerned about any potential increased ingress of water into the basement crypt of this Protected Structure.”