Trench describes how he utilised guano and how the reclamation project in Cardtown was turning previously poor land into very arable soil;
Guano, six hundredweight to the acre, was then scattered over the ridges, care being taken that the guano should not come into immediate contact either with the seed or with the lime. And this being done, the furrows were dug, the clay shovelled over the ridges, and the whole made up into lazy beds, rough underneath where heather and sods lay rudely massed together, but when covered up with the fresh dug soil from the furrows, presenting a neat and finished appearance above. The potato grew to perfection in this rude description of tillage; and whilst it was growing, the heather rotted under the influence of the lime, and, together with the other superabundant vegetable matter, was turned by the action of the lime into a most valuable manure. The guano stimulated an enormous and luxuriant growth, and when the potatoes were in course of being dug out, the act of digging mixed the lime, manure, and the several soils together into an even texture, leaving the land which had hitherto been scarcely worth one shilling per acre, in excellent order for sowing corn crops or grass seeds, and permanently worth at least one pound per acre.
Trench had used this method of reclamation in other estates which he had managed in Monaghan before his success in Camross and he was confident that he would see a return in the investment in labour and guano in Cardtown and Baunreigh in only one year. He hoped to make the bulk of his money back in the sale of one harvest of potatoes and following this he would be left with land between ten and twenty times its original value. In 1846 Trench planted 100 acres of potatoes. By July of that year, the crop was said to be the wonder of the locality. Trench was adding significant extensions to his home. Furthermore, his success was being noted by the most intellectual agriculturalists in the Kingdom; he won both a silver and gold medal from the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland ‘for the best report on the largest quantity of wasteland reclaimed in Ireland’.
Trench’s project was proving to be a huge success but, as he described, the great calamity that was taking hold in Ireland led to the ruin of the Happy Valley;
Many people thought, and I was myself amongst the number, that at last one of the great difficulties of Ireland at that day — namely, the reclamation of her waste lands, and the profitable employment of her superabundant labour — was about to be solved by this hitherto successful experiment … I had not less than two hundred labourers, employed constantly at those works, draining, levelling, liming, and the heavy work of sowing and digging out again enormous quantities of potatoes. A more cheering sight it was scarcely possible to conceive than to witness these numerous labourers, employed at good wages themselves, collected from all quarters where labour was abundant, producing food for thousands of people whilst reclaiming one of the wastes of Ireland. But all this passed away like a dream on the sudden failure of the potato, and ' the happy valley,' as the sloping sides of my mountain property of Baureigh, with a clear trout stream running in the hollow, was frequently called by those who visited the works, was by that fearful calamity turned into a valley of woe.
On August 1st of that calamitous year, 1846, I was startled by hearing a sudden and strange rumour that all the potato fields in the district were blighted; and that a stench had arisen emanating from their decaying stalks. I immediately rode up to visit my crop, and test the truth of this report; but I found it as luxuriant as ever, in full blossom, the stalks matted across each other with richness, and promising a splendid produce, without any unpleasant smell whatever.
On coming down from the mountain, I rode into the lowland country, and there I found the report to be but too true. The leaves of the potatoes on many fields I passed were quite withered, and a strange stench, such as I had never smelt before, but which became a well-known feature in the blight for years after, filled the atmosphere adjoining each field of potatoes.
The next day I made further enquiries, and I found the disease was fast extending, and on rooting up some of the potato bulbs under the withered stalks, I found that decay had set in, and that the potato was rapidly blackening and melting away. In fields having a luxuriant crop, the stench was generally the first indication of disease, and the withered leaf followed in a day or two afterwards. Much alarm now prevailed in the country; people looked blank enough, as they asked each other if they had seen this new and formidable disease. Those, like me, who had staked a large amount of capital on the crop, hitherto almost a certainty, and at least as sure as the crop of wheat or turnips or any other agricultural produce, became extremely un-easy; whilst the poorer farmers looked on helplessly and with feelings of dire dismay at the total disappearance of all they had counted on for food.
Each day, from the time I first heard of the disease, I went regularly to visit my splendid mountain crop, and each day saw it apparently further advanced in course of arriving at a healthy and abundant maturity.
On August 6, 1 846 — I shall not readily forget the day — I rode up as usual to my mountain property, and my feelings may be imagined when before I saw the crop, I smelt the fearful stench, now so well-known and recognised as the death-sign of each field of potatoes. I was dismayed indeed, but I rode on ; and as I wound down the newly engineered road, running through the heart of the farm, and which forms the regular approach to the steward's house, I could scarcely bear the fearful and strange smell, which came up so rank from the luxuriant crop then growing all around ; no perceptible change, except the smell, had as yet come upon the apparent prosperity of the deceitfully luxuriant slicks, but the experience of the past few days taught me that all was gone, and the crop was utterly worthless.
I need not tell how bitterly I was disappointed, overthrown as all my anticipations of profitable results were by this great calamity. Not only did I foresee the loss of my £3,000, no small sum to a man who had just surrendered an agency of £1,000 per annum; but I felt also that the hopes of future success, on which I had expended a large capital, and much time and thought for years, were gone — that it would be madness ever to venture on the trial of such a crop again, and that all my labour and patient experiments, which had hitherto turned out so completely successful, were - by this new and fearful calamity, sent by the special hand of God, and the like of which had never appeared in nature before — utterly blasted.
But upon this I will not dwell ... It is enough to say that the luxuriant stalks soon withered, the leaves decayed, the disease extended to the tubers, and the stench from the rotting of such an immense amount of rich vegetable matter became almost intolerable. I saw my splendid crop fast disappearing and melting away under this fatal disease. I tried to dig the potatoes rapidly, in the hope of saving something; and, in accordance with the advice of Sir Robert Kane and others, I set up a temporary machine for the conversion of the tubers into starch. But the final result was, that the produce of the entire crop yielded about forty pounds in starch, whilst the cost of grinding the pulp, and erecting machinery, amounted to about twice that sum! My plans, my labour, my £3,000, and all hopes of future profit by these means, were gone!
But my own losses and disappointments, deeply as I felt them, were soon merged in the general desolation, misery, and starvation which now rapidly affected the poorer classes around me and throughout Ireland. It is true that in the more cultivated districts of the Queen's County and the midland counties generally, not many deaths occurred from actual starvation. I mean, that people were not found dead on the roads or in the fields from sudden deprivation of food ; but they sank gradually from impure and insufficient diet ; and fever, dysentery, the crowding in the work-house or hardship on the relief works, carried thousands to a premature grave. The crop of all crops on which they depended for food, had suddenly melted away, and no adequate arrangements had been made to meet this calamity, — the extent of which was so sudden and so terrible that no one had appreciated it in time — and thus thousands perished almost without an effort to save themselves.
As Trench alluded to, the level of death and misery around Camross was not comparable to other areas of Ireland, especially in the west. However, the population of Camross dropped from 5,627 in 1841 to 4,093 in 1851. The population of the county dropped from 153,930 in 1841 to 111,623. The stark trend of a falling population continued on for the next 130 years until the population fall was finally arrested by the early 1980s.
 Trench, Realities of Irish Life, p. 99.
 Trench, Realities of Irish Life, pp 99-103.