WILD SUMMER GARDEN ~ INSECT PARADISE

A look at our garden through the conservatory window on a rather dark day this summer, but it’s all good. This spring and summer I let all the wild plants grow wherever they wanted as first and foremost on my list was to give as much food as possible to the insects. It has worked too, we never had so many insects before. Some of the thistles at the back of the garden are now taller than myself, as are the poppies and some of the foxgloves.
It has worked, yes. At first we had a huge quantity of borage, then the kafir lilies started to flower and the marigolds, then in the beginning of May so many more flowers followed. Soon bumblebees, bees and hoverflies started to arrive. Honey bees seem to favour the kafir lilies, the bumblebees are partial to the foxgloves, the comfrey, and the borage. By now the lavender is also visited by all the insects.
As you can see, the garden is rather wild. My patch of garlic is totally overgrown with foxgloves and thistles. Unused leeks are growing and coming into flower soon, they are allowed and I am looking forward to see what they will add to the garden.
Apart from the kafir lilies we are having a super crop of red poppies which we are enjoying very much, as are the insects.
Foxgloves grow wild in Ireland, and so they just come to grow in the garden too. I love them and they are never without some insects visiting them.
Mostly herbs here, sage, oregano, lavender, Melissa, thyme, and some celery too.

ROCKS AND FOSSILS ~ A FASCINATION

Stones…..over the years I have gathered a huge collection of rock samples, of stones. I’ve had an interest in stones, in rocks and fossils ever since I can remember. I’ve always had this connection with the earth , and to me a stone was never a dead thing, no, rocks are alive, definitely in the sense that they evolve, they change, over millennia they change, and what is a millennia in context with the unfathomable, expansive, and the immense timescale of the cosmos. And so, yes, I think rocks are alive. And I’ve always had this affinity with rocks, but also with sand, and what other is sand than tiny pieces of rock, and what does sand do under pressure and given time but change into rock.

I was, for a large part when I was young, living in that part of Antwerp where sand had been dredged up from the river Schelde, this sand that we had in our gardens and everywhere else, was sea sand, and it was full of pieces of shell and other sea creatures. In a way it was like living on the beach. One day while on a walk with my family I happen to see something curious, I picked it up and identified it as a fossil, a fossil of a conch or some type of sea shell. I was eleven years old. It was the start!

And yet I did not end up studying geology, but in later life I did do a geology course with Tel-Aviv University and I loved it. At the time we were living in Gozo and all my research was done on the geology of the Maltese islands. I’m retaking this course in September but doing my research around West Cork. That’s the plan.

I always said that I would label all my rock samples when I retired, but to date, and after several years, this has not happened, that is until a few days ago when I had to move all the samples out of an old glass press in order to redecorate the living room. So, they are all spread out in the conservatory and now demand my attention totally. Some of my smaller samples I brought back from India, Mauritius, New England, Spain, Gozo, France, Uk, Portugal and Naxos. And of course I have some very interesting samples of Ireland itself. Among my many samples are limestone, basalt, quartz, marble, malachite, soapstone, etc.

A little sample of copper ore in quartz, from the ancient disused copper mines in Ballydehob.
Not too sure if this is actually weathered corral or rock?

Over a life time I found more fossils too, and I found crystals, as it’s not only rocks I’m interested in. It is a fascinating subject to be sure and there’s always plenty of rocks and fossils around. When we were in Gozo, I found the most beautiful citrine crystals, but I left them where I found them, like wild plants I don’t think I should indiscriminately just take away natural treasures from wherever I go. But I always take photos of course.

Our earth sure is a fascinating place and I mean to enjoy another bit of what it has to offer so freely, for us to admire and examine, study and enjoy.

Part of the collection of samples

BANDON TOWN – FULL OF HISTORICAL INTEREST

The other day, while Ian was undergoing tests in the hospital in Cork city, I decided to overnight in Bandon, which lies close enough to Cork, and I took the time out to explore a little of the town. I had never really explored Bandon, I only ever travelled through it. But I was nicely surprised, it has got a rich history and many interesting buildings. As I did not know much about these building as yet, I decided to do some research on Google and I used some history books to enlighten me. I had planned a visit to the local Heritage Centre, but it was closed. So I decided to take a walk down the long street past the Children’s Charity Store (a delight in itself). The street was mostly lined with houses to the left and an old empty brewery building, as well as a new one, to the right. Some of the terraced houses had been build by the Town Commissioners as artisan dwellings in 1912. Eventually I saw more detached houses and many beautiful mature native trees, the entrance to an estate looked picturesque.

Bandon town as it is now spans two sides of the river. At some point in time a bridge was built connecting the two sides, probably in 1864. British protestant Settlers were introduced into Bandon and the town became part of the Munster Plantation. A wall was built around the then town between the year 1620-25 of which parts remain to this day, use was made of slate stone. Every year a Walled Town Festival takes place in Bandon.

Photos below and above: So far these buildings or ruins remain a mystery to me, as I learn more about the town I will be able to fill in more information on these, some of which do look quite old. Townscapes can be quite beautiful to the eye I think. I often think that I would like to paint them.

Photos below: Interesting doorways, some Georgian (one on the left), some, I believe (the one with the pointed portico) was a style brought here by the Huguenots.

Below, looking toward the spire of Christ Church which is now the Heritage Centre.

Photos below: I found this intriguing wall all along Chapel lane and do not know if it is part of the old town wall, or not but I have asked for advice from Bandon facebook site and hope to be able to shed more info on this soon.

The Courthouse, in pale blue, and the Town Hall, which was built in 1862, to the left of it.

The photo below is of the side of the Courthouse. It shows a fine stone building underneath the plaster and paint of the façade. I loved the arches above the closed off windows. Also the old gate was of interest.

Although most of the houses’ facades are plastered and painted, I did see several stone facades too, dark grey, rough, slate stone. Some limestone too was used. And then there are many walls, skilfully built along the roads leading out of town (photos below), but also many to be found within the town. There is a great revival of conservation going on, the old town wall – part of which remains in existence are being preserved.

Photo below: This 16-sided stone building is the former Shambles, or meat market, and dates to 1818.

A view toward the St. Patrick’s church, a fine Gothic revival church, along which some of the old town wall runs.

I have so thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Bandon town and will return for more, as there is much more to explore, and read up on too. I hope that you enjoyed it a little too. These small towns are found all over rural Ireland and though very different from each other, they have many similarities too. I’m on my quest to discover more about them.

One of the publications which I read and found quite useful is: Irishwalledtownnetwork.ie

CORK CITY – FULL OF INTEREST

Cork city and the river Lee in evening light

Historically speaking, this beautifully ornamented building is found in what was one of the main financial centres of Cork City. It is found on the South Mall and has recently been restored to its former glory. It is a branch of the Allied Irish Bank, the building was constructed between 1863 and 1865. To say a few words about the South Mall, this street is in the location of a former river channel and some of its 18th century buildings retain evidence of street-level boat houses which fascinates me but I have not photographed any of it to date.

The red brick houses form a terrace dating back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, one wonders if they could have been old merchant houses lining the river? The bridge (St.Patrick’s) takes people and cars over the river Lee connecting Saint Patrick’s street and Bridge Street, and upwards to Patrick’s hill which is very steep. The bridge is built from limestone, and it’s a 158 years old. The interesting bit I read is that this bridge was originally set up to provide the butter merchants with a good link between the North side of the river and the warehouses and docks in the centre of the city.

What we saw when we stopped for coffee in Carey’s lane in the heart of the city, was part of the present Saint Peter and Saint Paul church, which has been built on the site of the original parish chapel which served the centre of Cork city centuries ago. But what we see now dates to the beginning of the 19th century when a larger church was built in neo-Gothic architecture. It is said to have some fine features, but I have not been inside. Some of these appear to be the altar which is made from Sicilian marble, and the apse which is highly decorated, including blue and gold ceiling panels and beautiful stained glass windows. Russian oak has been used to create the pulpit and some of the carpenters were said to have been Flemish and Irish. Just as a note of interest, Gregorian masses are still being sang every Sunday at 12noon. (Photo above)

Wow factor of all the red bright colours at the Everyman Palace Theatre, a fantastically busy place to date.
Evening falling over the city.

I always enjoy going up to the city of Cork, it is the nearest city to us and takes two hours driving these days because of road works among other things. But as of any city the history is always so very interesting even if it is only bits and pieces.

FROM TRAGUMNA BEACH TO TOEHEAD

Tragumna beach is small but very much used and liked by the local Skibbereen folks. Every year on Christmas day there is a swim held here by some brave women and men, usually in aid of some charity. The beach lies about 5 km from the town via the Castletownsend road.
The coastline along here is very rugged with many inlays and rocky outcrops, which makes the landscape interesting and beautiful. Many wild plants and flowers grow along these shores.
Our drive took us along this Wild Atlantic coastline towards Toehead
(Ceann Tuaithe in Irish, Ceann meaning head, and Tuaithe meaning
a clan or community gathered under one chief, the name Toe Head is a bit of a bad translation ). Looking out West towards the Atlantic ocean, we know that’s where most of our rains come from.
Along the rugged coastline where lots of fresh sea air was to be enjoyed.
Toe head is a most beautiful headland. Birds were singing but I did not identify any on this trip.
At Toe Head we found this signal tower, these type of towers were found along the southern and Eastern coast in Ireland, they were used to give advanced warning of any invasion. The interesting thing is that every signal tower could see two other signal towers to either side of them, they would use visual means (semaphore) to signal. These towers date to 1806.
Looking out towards what looks like a little island some distance from the shore. I went checking it out on Google Earth and it seems that it is just rocks – nothing else.

AN ADVENTURE IN BEAUTY

“When you regain a sense of your life as a journey of discovery, you return to rhythm with yourself. When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you. Moments of beauty begin to braid your days. When your mind becomes more acquainted with reverence, the light, grace and elegance of beauty find you more frequently. When the destination becomes gracious, the journey becomes an adventure of beauty”. John O’Donoghue
Excerpt from his books, Beauty.

A very simple walk but nevertheless full of little beauties that lift the heart. A view on to the pastoral landscape beyond the hedgerow and seen through the presently opening hawthorn bush.
One of the impressive treasures on this walk is the stone wall, Ireland has a great reputation for building beautiful stone walls and this is a good example. Seeing that I am trying to learn a lot about and become really familiar with the rocks and geology of the area, I took a keen interest in all this rock.

And so this walk, while very easy and on flat ground was a delight, it took me 50 minutes from where I had parked my car on the other side of town to when I returned, and by that time my head was cleared, and I felt happy with my small discoveries. Along this road I also came across many other wild flowers, and another garden escape was the tree mallow which I did not quite expect to grow here but had seen very many growing in Gozo. Further along this road there is a large area of wild garlic plants growing, I saw them there last year. It is amazing what is found along the roadside and hedgerow, for example, if this road is followed for quite a few miles there are large patches of wild roses, some dark red and beautiful, I used to take this road to work (it eventually leads to Bantry where I worked in the library) during June/July when these roses would be in bloom, it sure was lovely. I had three or four different roads that I could take to work and used to vary them according to what plants were in flower as every road had some difference in habitat and hence in plant growth.

I’m calling this walk the stone wall walk, my sister Josefine who is coming to Ireland in the summer will be walking with me, I sure look forward to this, even when I am normally a solitary walker.

TENDER SEEDLINGS AND ROBUST SHOOTS

After a full two weeks of sunshine and mild weather, we are now experiencing some crazy April showers! Heavy rain is drenching our valley and wind is tearing at the blossoms of our trees.  For now the frosty nights we had lately are definitely over.  Inside, however, there is plenty of activity and the conservatory cum dining room, half of the kitchen, and part of my bedroom are all taken up by tender young seedlings or robust shoots.  Pots are everywhere but it is a delight to see.  Ian too is sleeping between all this young growth.

I have learnt an important lesson this spring, to date I have always bought my plants at the market stalls and put them straight into the garden, except last spring when I sowed French beans, spinach, and radish as part of an experiment and course with GROWTH.

This January, however, every time I went shopping I came home with at least one packet of seeds or bulbs and doing this cheered me up no end.  Come the beginning of March I could contain myself no longer and started sowing, indoors obviously.  And this was a mistake….some seeds came up after a week or more but did not thrive, most came to nothing.  A few days ago I did another larger sowing and the seed came up almost overnight and so far they are thriving!  Lesson learnt!  Do not sow before April in West Cork!

So far the slugs seem to be still asleep, I find them underneath pots and planks in the garden, unmovable.  Inside is quite another matter….they are travelling leaving silvery trails in their wake over pots, carpet and table, but so far very little damage has been done to plants.

I did plant some old English marigolds outside and I put empty water bottles over them as protection and they are doing fine.   The irises will have to be planted out soon as the shoots are coming on strong, as are the dahlias and begonias.  I’m so looking forward to my first time growing agapanthus.  Furthermore I’ve lots of different rudbekias coming on, I used to grow these and love them, also the time of year when they flower.  Seedlings growing at this moment are petunias, red poppies, ixia, cosmos, zinnia, freesias, eliopsis scabra, and phlox, they are all new plants to me.  Irises I used to grow when I was a teenager, they were blue.

I’ve also sowed marrows, cucumber, basilica, African marigolds, spring onions, chives, lots of heirloom fragrant sweet peas, and the wild bee flower seeds which I bought because they were recommended to help the declining bee population, the sunflowers and the cornflowers.

The local (Brown Envelope) seeds of the garden peas are also coming up beautifully.  There is a lot to be said for sowing locally sourced seeds – plants resulting from them will be more tolerant of local climate.  There remains to be sown my own seeds which I saved from last year’s harvest and these are;   Thistle, catnip, evening primrose, oregano, basil mint, and purple loosestrife, some of these seeds have already self-sown outside. 

The wealth and abundance of nature is a wonderful thing to behold, something to be very grateful for, day by beautiful day.

If, my dear friends, you have continued to read to the end of my notes this time, I congratulate and thank you.  Have a nice day.

Every bit of space where there is sufficient light is taken up by seedlings
Dinner is served on a tray for today!

A SENSE OF PLACE

My walking routine is so much more than an exercise regime ordered by my doctor. It is one of many things. It is an hankering after times past – times we spent in Gozo where it felt so good to walk everywhere and everyday, taking in the delightful scents and stunning sights of a Mediterranean land- or townscape. So my current walks here are a looking back in a sense, and a remembering of very positive energy which in itself is energising my today.

But it is more than that; it is a grounding of myself in this Irish West Cork landscape. For years I had felt restless here, discontented even, I wanted to travel and I did not feel as if I even belonged here, this landscape, this town and people – however beautiful and friendly, had totally lost its appeal for me and I often felt a stranger. And this despite there being a thriving Art Centre here and my contentedness about all my travels to India.

So when we returned from Gozo in spring 2018 I decided to do something about this, I could not continue the way I was. I started to look at this place with fresh eyes. Discovering new aspects of this town and area, nature and vernacular architecture, people, and I studied the map carefully to know all the hills, the rivers and the surrounding area, keeping in mind the four cardinal directions to orientate me precisely. And I walk, I walk everywhere and my body is feeling so grateful, I feel fitter for it in my every movement. My mind smiles and I’m constantly making plans to explore even more places in the vicinity, little walks and big walks. I have plans to visit and explore surrounding villages too, just as I did in Gozo.

And all this is giving me a sense of belonging and of feeling good in this space on earth, many is the time when I have felt very isolated here in West Cork, cut off from the rest of Europe and the world. I did not like this feeling and then I would hanker to go back, to return to Belgium, even after all these years. But I know that I am here to stay, and so I need to ground myself as much as I can, and I think that I now have found the way to do this – finally – after many years I am beginning to find a sense of place, a sense of belonging.

Yesterday’s walk was not long, it was in open space on the ring road around the town. It opens up views of the town and the hills behind it and shows the river Ilen upstream going off to its source, and downstream flowing into the town. These are good views. And while a constant flow of traffic does not make this walk particularly peaceful, it is nevertheless a walk I love. Many spring blossoms grace the shrubs and many wild flowers grow along the edge of the roadside. Fine stone walls have been built along some of this road, in local rock, shale, in slate-blue colour, with the odd bit of striking white quartz here and there, beautiful.

As I look towards the town centre, my eyes casting over a wide area of marshy ground, I notice works are still ongoing, the building of flood protecting walls. Skibbereen was built on marshland which makes the town prone to flooding. The town centre lies in a long valley, open to the West and North, and protected from the Atlantic Ocean by hills to the South and South-east.

I do believe that in every place on this wonderful earth of ours there are many interesting and exciting things to discover. Finding out about the place we live does give us a sense of belonging.

I would love to hear about your experiences and feelings about your sense of place or your sense of belonging. I would find it to be most interesting.

Along the river Ilen as it enters the town of Skibbereen
Ribes sanguineum in flower along the river Ilen
Looking downriver as the Ilen enters the town of Skibbereen
Looking upriver