A LIVING LANDSCAPE

Looking for signs of life whether in the past or in the now. This is what currently interests me in my photography. I’ve always been shy of taking photos of people, I have felt that it would be too intrusive, and because of my interest in nature I mostly take photos of plants, landscape or insects. This I enjoy. But recently it has come to my attention that I am always searching for signs of human habitation or activity, signs that the land has been worked, of structures having been used by humans; bridges, stone walls, gate posts, ruins, ancient pathways, old churches or houses or other structures. All these are interesting and give pleasure, not only from trying to find out more about them locally, from the internet or from books, but also from the sheer beauty of them.

My attention has been drawn by my friends and followers that you like to see this variety too in my blogs, and I find this very helpful and realise that by blogging and interaction with my other blogger friends I get to know myself better, and I define what I really want to record. I am grateful to everyone.

And so yes also on this walk last Saturday I did come across a broken old iron gate, rusty and fallen down, it has had its use in the past of that I am sure. And then I saw an iron gate post which is quite an unusual find around this area and I wonder how long it has been supporting this newish galvanised gate. Was this always a gatepost? Or did it start its life as something different on a farm in the area?

It is always lovely to see acres of crops, stretches of land that change colour according to the seasons and to what is grown on them, also fields or meadows sometimes with cattle. There is something so soothing and reassuring about a pastural landscape, I think that it goes very deep in a person, to see the land being used and crops being grown, it gives a deep feeling of safety and that all is still well with our earth despite all the environmental problems.

And then I spotted a red ribbon in this tree and it reminded me of an old tradition, not only in Ireland as I have seen it in South India too. People tie ribbons usually on hawthorn trees as a gift for spirits or fairies and as a symbol of a prayer or a wish granted, usually someone with an illness or unhappiness. This is done mainly during May around the feast of Bealtaine. I was quite surprised to spot this ribbon and it does add to the interest.

But here are also some of the wild flowers along my path, as always such a delight.

It has been another glorious day today after a real thunderstorm yesterday with a heavy rain shower, but it is this rain that makes the countryside in Ireland so green, lush and beautiful. We very seldom get thunder here usually only one clap and done, but this one took half an hour with brilliant skies and fantastic lightning and afterwards when the sky cleared and the rain stopped all was still, and then a blackbird started to sing!

JUST NOW

Just now we returned from catching some fresh air and admiring the beauty of Loch Hyne some 10 minutes drive from here. There were many people, young and old swimming and more people chatting over cups of tea. The sun had come out and it was now actually warm. A most beautiful evening and a great ambience.

I noticed two new flowering plants that I want to identify. Ok I think that both these two photos are Sea Spurreys. The one on the right might be Greater Sea spurrey (Spergularia media) but I have a suspicion that it is actually Rock Spurrey but in order to confirm that I have to go back and check the underside of the sepals. This little flower has 10 stamens and the sepals are shorter than the petals. The photo on the left, I will also go and double check this little plant, it is a Spurrey but I am not sure which one, probably the same as the one on the right but not in as good a condition. So some homework for me to do.

Lichens growing on the stone wall.

We both feel refreshed and ready to head into a peaceful night.

SOFTLY FLOWS THE RIVER ILEN ~ another walk

On a fine day like today I took a long walk along the river Ilen. After it has meandered through the town of Skibbereen it flows towards Old Court and this is where my hike took me. The Ilen river ‘An Aighlinnis’ in Gaelic, is beautiful. It flows from the Mullaghmesha mountain in the area between Drimoleague and Dunmanway. Skibbereen is the largest settlement along its way to the sea at Baltimore. Here, just outside the town and downstream a lot of young and sportive folks enjoy canoeing, and upstream it is salmon and trout fishing that attracts people to its waters. I have always personally liked the Ilen river because often when I pass it the surface would be like a mirror, reflecting the trees and houses, and that is so lovely. I think that this river makes Skibbereen and surrounding area what it is. A very scenic place.

On my walk today I crossed the ‘New’ Bridge, in my eye a beautiful bridge and I am glad to say that I found out some information about the design of this bridge. I love old bridges.

Here at low tide it is easy to see the abutments just above the water which act as support for the arches and strengthen the whole structure against the power of the flowing water.

‘New’ bridge has got beautiful arches, this bridge has been constructed with segmental arches.  This arch type is made from a segment of a circle, allowing for a flatter arch, which in turn allowed for flatter carriageways, and to reduce the hump-back profile. This hump-back profile was the result of an earlier design of a masonry bridge where the arch was constructed in a semi-circular form.  These bridges are still very common in County Cork.  The segmental style, however, became a common feature of 19th century bridges and ‘New’ Bridge in Skibbereen is a fine example of such a style. The bridge is constructed of limestone and sandstone which is the rock most commonly found in the area.

So I started towards Church Cross on the N71, this is a very popular walk with keep fit enthusiasts. Looking back towards the town I was surprised to see some horses grazing in a field bordering the river.
My walk took me over ‘New’ Bridge where plenty of wild flowers grown on its walls. Common mouse-ear and oxeye daisies among others.

This walk took me one hour and was most pleasant and, at the moment, at least it was very quiet. The sun was blazing and the wind played in my hair and was very refreshing. What a treat after all the gardening work which was rather intense during the past week. I decided that I will keep Sundays for walking, although around here it is better not to stick to a certain day as you never know what the weather will bring.

In the black circle is the route of my walk, when I see it on the map it is a tiny walk in the larger area of Skibbereen area.
While both Ian and I returned to this spot by the river today we noticed several fish jumping up and down. The river Ilen is known to be one of the cleanest rivers in Ireland. We are so lucky.

A NEW WALK

As from a few days ago, and after a lockdown period of over seven weeks we over seventies are allowed out for a daily walk. Well I did not have to be told twice and though it was raining for the last two days I did go out. But today the sun shone and it was mild again and beautiful. I badly needed to connect with nature big time, and so I choose a walk which was the last walk my grandchildren and I did together in early February. It is a country road close to our town, taking you right out into farmland, a sight to behold, beautiful.
The sun playing through the leaves of the trees threw dappled shadows on to the road, something that I love to see whether it is in a painting or in reality.
This is farm land, lovely to behold and behind those hills in the distance is the sea, the Atlantic Ocean!

A FINE NATURE WALK

On this fine Saturday afternoon, two of my grandchildren and I decided to go for a walk on a land that leads towards the townland of Milland and to Russagh Mill Hostel. It was a fine distance and totally in pastural land. Ruben had come with his binoculars and his notebook, he wanted to draw some pictures of what he would see and find. Alice wanted to take photos of anything that would please her eyes; leaves, trees, plants and ourselves. I merely wanted the walk in nature and to see plenty of green countryside. (and take phots of course). We were not disappointed and between climbing some roadside trees and rocks and walk at leisure we had a wonderful time. I did not climb the trees though.

Laneway running towards the townland of Milland, a part of Skibbereen
Nice to see the land being tilled, I wonder what crops will be grown
This is where the laneway stops or becomes private and then this Boreen connects with Russagh Mill Hostel.
Celandine flower and lovely leaves
Some of the trees along this lane are very beautiful, even if only in silhouette
And here is what Ruben drew in his copy book.
The grass was so very green and the landscape flowing

I was delighted when Ruben got out his copybook and pencil and started to draw what he saw, though I had to watch him as he plonked himself into the middle of the laneway at first and there might be the odd car passing. He was totally oblivious to all that, just wanted to do his thing. He is such a delightful boy.

Our walk took us over two hours and was well worth it. Towards the end Alice picked some dandelion leaves which she wanted to give to our two new canary birds. We came home and made a big pot of spaghetti Bolognese which was soon emptied by my now hungry grandkids.

What better to do on a January Saturday 🙂 we loved every minute.

SPONTANEOUS ART IN NATURE

While waiting for a lift with my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren to travel today I spent this time taking some photos of knots in the Chestnut and Pine trees lining the little park on the outskirts of our town. I also wanted to take some photos of the lichens growing on their trunks, and so I did that too.
It was a glorious and still Sunday morning.
Some high Pine trees grow side to side with the Chestnut trees. Lichens and some mosses cover their bark.

MY EARLY MORNING WALK

A few mornings ago I awoke real early and immediately decided to go for a walk. The sun was still only just reaching over the hills to the East. A walk around the block, and a little bit further seemed very inviting. We live almost on top of a hill, the walk would take me along the top of this hill and then down toward the town centre and up again taking the path called the ‘rock’ which overlooks the centre of the town and the river Ilen in a most fantastic way. Some hundred years ago people used to live there in small cabins. The remains of these pre-famine cabins have been excavated. In some places the rock face had actually been used as a wall, even some niches were cut into the rock wall. See my earlier blog about this dig at:
https://gaiainaction.blog/2015/07/09/an-interesting-dig-in-skibbereen
This morning’s walk did not take me quite as far as the site of the rock cabins. However, the lane leading up to them is a wonderful bit of woodland, birds were singing beautifully, it was an awesome moment to listen to them there.

These are only some of the wild flowers that I find growing along the roadside, and in the Boreen along this walk. We are experiencing rather warm and dry weather in the past week or two and it shows in the abundance of flowers. And though insects in general are on the decline, I’ve seen several butterflies recently, among them a few painted ladies and one meadow brown.

And so the walk goes on, along the road leading down into the town. I have always admired this scenery.
So my walk carried on along all the many beautiful and interesting wild plants and flowers. The speedwell which I could not identify I have seen growing in a little brook along the road for many years. I think that it might be either creeping speedwell or thyme-leaved speedwell. Its leaves are glossy and they grow differently along the stem from most speedwells. A mystery to me! The common scurvy grass, also newly identified, grows in the same brook.

The abundance of wild plants and flowers is amazing and wonderful, while making the walks interesting and ever changing. Always something new to find and explore or look up after coming home. I am not sure about the bird that I hear singing but if you would tell me that it was a nightingale, then I would believe you, it was quite magical. The other bird was a chiffchaff.

Have you had an interesting walk recently? I know that many of my followers and the friends that I follow are into walking and enjoying it very much. May I wish you happy times.

ALONG THE WEST CORK ROADSIDES

Along the road between the little seaside villages of Schull and Ballydehob in West Cork, the growth of wild flowers is at this moment so luxurious and beautiful that it is just like driving through a beautiful park. Bravo for not cutting or using herbicides on these roadsides. This, at the moment is very much discussed in Ireland. We want our roadsides to be beautiful, but most of all we want to take care of the disappearing bees and other insects, we realise how urgent this is today. The beauty of flowers along the roads lifts the heart of even the most unobservant driver, because you cannot but notice the wealth of it all. Today I was able to take a few shots of these roadside wild plants and flowers. Here are just some of them.

A beautiful sky, a little breeze, and a meadow full of damp loving wild plants (as this meadow is wettish) Besides thistles there was quite a bit of water figwort, ragged robin, and lots of sorrel.
Schull is a little, but very popular seaside village. This is a view out to sea. The water is usually full of yachts and boats and in summer there is lots of activity going on here.

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