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.

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

SHORT WALKS

Gorse growing in the West Cork landscape along the road leading from the town of Skibbereen towards the coastal villages of Castletownsend or Unionhall. I walked only as far as Russagh Mill Hostel which lies about 2 km from the town. The walk is a pleasant one even though it is along a busy enough road, there is a footpath most of the way which makes it quite safe.
I found that along the road there was quite a bit of wetland, and also a small stream, ducks flew up when I approached. Though my reason for taking the walk was to become fitter, I enjoyed finding so many wild plants and spring flowers by the roadside, among them were two types of wild geraniums.

To my right was Lick Hill, a long hill which is so familiar to me as I can see it from the upstairs window where I live. Its bedrock is made up of purple mudstone and siltstone, behind it and to the South lies the sea, the wild Atlantic Sea. A little more towards the S.West lies the famous Knockomagh Hill, at Lough Hyne. But walking further along this road I passed some lovely green fields, very green, like you only get them in Ireland, typical with Gorse, Hawthorn, and Blackthorn growing in the hedgerows. And today the sky was blue, dotted with woolly white clouds, what a lovely contrast.

Above – Looking back towards our houses, with hawthorn hedging and wetland in front, and then the walk goes on past Liss Ard Estate where I found lots of native trees growing, their buds bursting in the warming spring sun, and birds singing their hearts out for sheer delight.
Also along my walk, and I love to see this, were stone walls, beautifully built from local stone, purple mudstone, shale and I even saw some quartz here and there. These are often grown full of little ferns, mosses, and other wild plants, this one in the photo must have been built fairly recently though.

And in people’s gardens, a magnificent Camelia bush in full bloom!
I also came across this beautiful blue door, the colour of it dazzled me!
Last, but not least, this little ladybird was sunny itself, I’m happy to say that I’ve seen at least a dozen over the last few days.
I have marked out at least seven walks in the vicinity of Skibbereen town, I’m doing this for my health, both body and mind. This particular walk took me 50 minutes and all round it was about 4km in distance. When we used to spend our winters on the island of Gozo I used to walk everywhere, exploring the whole island and all it’s little villages, and it was such a delight. I have missed this very much in the past six months and so I decided to make the best of it by mapping out some do-able walks around here and exploring nature or architecture or whatever I can find to interest me, and reading up on it all. The beautiful sunshine of the past few days has helped greatly to encourage me and inspire me, and off to a good start it has been. I am truly grateful.

RIVER LEE FLOWING THROUGH CORK

I was very lucky today because I seldom go to Cork city these days, it so happened that for the past few days I was there, unfortunately most of that time was spent with Ian in hospital, but while on the way back from parking the car in the multi-story carpark I took these snaps today. Most importantly Ian was seen to and is doing fine, and we are home again tonight. But as you can see for yourselves Cork, which is the largest city in County Cork, and to us the nearest city, an eighty minutes drive on a good day (without roadwork stops), it is above all a beautiful and charming city. Population is only about 417,211 souls. Cork was originally a Viking trade settlement around the year 915 and is now a thriving and very popular place to shop and visit.
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The river flowing through Cork, the river Lee, flows from a lake in Gougane Barra in the Shehy mountains on the Western border of county Cork, it winds its way down other lakes and eventually reaches Cork city where it splits into two, creating an island on which the centre of the city is built.

A lot more could be told about this lovely river but I will carry on and show you today’s photos of the views I enjoyed so much and which I hope you will enjoy too.
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Another iron bridge, this time it is just a narrow foot bridge, very much in use!

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Here are some interesting and beautiful gables along the streets near the Lee river, I could not resist taking some photos of these too. Just love that gate!

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NATURE TRAIL – BALLYDEHOB

Ballydehob is a small and very charming village on the coast of West Cork, and along the Wild Atlantic route. It was once a thriving mining town, now-a-days it is still overlooked by Mount Gabriel which is where copper was mined back then. Its beauty is superb, and last Saturday we decided to go on the Nature Trail which leads around and over the old railway bridge which leads over one of Ballydehob’s two rivers, the Bawnakeane and Rathravane, but I am not sure which of the two it is! We took along one of my granddaughters, she is a real nature child and took delight in drawing pictures of some of the scenery in her note-book. Ian was well able for this walk and enjoyed it too. I took note of all the new growth along the way, there were several flowers open, Lesser Celandine, Daisies, and Herb Robert were among them. I also noticed young leaves of the March Violet, a wild Geranium, and quite a few very pretty ferns.  The walk along the trail is easy for anyone and the views are magnificent.  We finished our walk in the village with coffee and delicious cake at a delightful eatery called Budd’s.
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HENHAM REVISITED

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Autumn can conjure up a variety of different colours and heart warming scenes, and this past October has been more mellow and beautiful than most. And a lovely golden sunshine has illuminated everything that it has touched.

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We have been staying in the ancient stables of the parsonage in the village of Henham in Essex. The cottage is lying next to a fine church built with use of flint stone. A fine square tower rises against the blue sky, and surrounding, the magnificent trees shed their leaves over ancient graves. Ugly gargoyles feature here and there, some almost completely erased.

The trees are most lovely this time of year, colours varying from deep dark red to pale yellow , gold, ochre, or sepia, a beautiful pallet. But it’s not only the colours that are like velvet to the eye, it is the shape and size of the ancient trees that attract the attention.

The architecture found in this village has always fascinated me, the thatched roofs, the variety of cottage styles, the village green, all make for a picture card scene. But that is only me romanticising because this village is also a vibrant and dynamic community and that has perhaps got to be of more importance for the people living here.

 

TEXTURE, COLOUR AND BEAUTY

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Yesterday found us in one of the most beautiful places in West Cork, a small fishing village along the coast.  It was a quiet and a sunny day, a day like you might get in September or October, when the sun is golden, bringing out the colours everywhere and in everything.  The air was crisp, and all along the hedgerows lashes of bright red fuchsia were still proudly in bloom, lifting the landscape and infusing in us a feeling of vibrancy and beauty.

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We stopped for a bite to eat, seafood chowder and smoked salmon on homemade brown bread, it was delicious.

We walked to the pier to watch the fishermen mend their nets, bright colours were everywhere, whether the nets were new or old, or whatever other materials are used by the fishermen, there is a wealth of texture and colour to be seen.

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Fisher boats moored along the pier

Everywhere I looked I saw art and beauty, was it me or was it the reality of things?

Fishermen working on their nets, nice to watch, dedicated work.

Ian having a great walk down memory lane, and nets everywhere!

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This is, or was the Post Office in this little village, the village of Unionhall.

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We were celebrating my 69th birthday and it was a wonderful way to do so.

Thank you Ian for helping to make this day so very special.