BRACKEN IN THE IRISH LANDSCAPE

Around this time of late autumn, and along the Irish country roads, there is a wealth of bright colours and especially after the many days of rain we have had recently the colours are brought out even more. It is refreshing, bright and yet mellow. I’m inclined to romanticize whenever I’m in nature, colours become very vivid in my eyes. I stopped the car about seven times while on an errand to the next village, it was evening, but not yet sunset time, everywhere was so beautiful.
Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, turn this lovely rusty colour after the first frost during autumn, and during the last cold spell we have had a little night frost. Bracken is found all over Ireland, probably due partly to the damp climate here. Being a very large fern it is not something to grow in a smallish garden, though I do like some of the other fern species as they can be very beautiful. No this species does belong to the mountain areas and typically to the side of the country roads.
The water is actually the river Ilen almost at the point where the river ends into the sea at Baltimore.
Bridge at Skibbereen town, and close to the potato famine graveyard. This is a most attractive bridge going back a good many years and featuring the lovely arches that you see here all over the place. The bridge spans the same river Ilen.
I so enjoyed my little journey today even though I was driving and not walking every now and then I stopped the car to enjoy the views, to get the scents and to listen to the blackbirds. A lovely late autumn day it was.
I arrived home to a cosy atmosphere where Ian was tinkering away on one of his projects. Soon it was time to turn on the light and draw the curtains, these days are very short now – another thing I thoroughly enjoy…….for a while.

SEASONS MIXED UP OR IS IT ME

So right, we live in S.W. Ireland, and that means that we experience a micro climate due to the gulfstream passing by these shores, and normally we do have a mild winter, it seldom snows or freezes here, though we do get some light frost during or after January.

Even though it is quite cold just now, and the mountains in the distance have their tops covered in snow, in the garden the plant growth reminds me more of early spring. The temperature of the soil seems normal enough, it was 6 degrees Celsius the other day, and at night the outside temperature is between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius. And even today the cold wind made it feel very chilly. But yet something seems out of kilter, and I cannot actually put my finger on it clearly. Questions like; Is the planet really warming up? Is the climate changing? beg for answers everyday and all around us now. Here are some of my own observations.

And taking stock of the garden the other day here is what I found.

And even while you would not think so, it is late autumn now, another few weeks and it is Christmas. Am I perhaps imagining that the season is out of kilter? All the same I am delighted with so much growth in the garden. As it stands I have not been able to work in the garden since September because we have been working inside the house and I have had no time. Needless to say I cannot wait to get going again, meanwhile I am using my herbs in my cooking. Oh and I bought a Camelia shrub yesterday, can’t wait to give it a lovely spot where we can see it bloom from the window later in winter.
Have you been busy in your garden my friends? I’d love to hear your stories.

PS actually Oca is only harvested after the first night frost, they are a reddish sweetish little potato-like vegetable. I have found them relatively easy to grow but hard to peel or clean before eating. They are a nice plant though. Check this website if you are interested in them. https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/how-do-you-grow-oca-3113951-Dec2016/

THE BURREN ~ COUNTY CLARE

Some while back we drove through the area of county Clare called The Burren. Geologically speaking this is a fascinating place, also for botanist. This area is known for and covered in karst, limestone that is so weathered and cracked that several small plants and flowers grow in the cracks, some of the plants are only found in the Alpine and Mediterranean regions of Europe. Now we did not do any trekking or hiking, we just drove through the area and mainly looked at the interesting landscapes. Partly along the coast, and partly inland.

So here is a photo of what the limestone hills look like in the Burren, it is beautiful and to me it looked like it had been snowing. It’s very impressive though to think of the actual limestone exposure, quite amazing in fact.
On this small stone beach I found different rocks, some where large slabs I could walk on, others were pebbles and still others were small crumbled rock.

A typical and fine example of Karstic landscape. Karst is a special type of landscape that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, in this case limestone. Whole landscapes are formed in this way and the Burren is one of those areas, as seen in the photo below.

We decided to stop for lunch in Kilrush at a traditional Irish pub for some much needed nourishment.

The name ‘Burren’ in Irish is Boireann, meaning “great rock”.
Interesting rock formations.
Even though County Clare, and especially that part which is called the Burren is very rocky, there is a softness to the landscape and some of the hedgerows were showing a lovely autumn-like abundance of ripe fruits. The colours were brilliant.
Hawthorn, blackberry, and some black berries of which I am not sure what they are, in full ripeness.

This is just yet another part of Ireland that’s nice to explore. There is plenty of interest there for anyone liking or studying geology, botany, or archaeology. We did not even scratch the surface. I hope it gave people a taste though.

MYSTERY IN THE GARDEN – A WORK OF ART

Today while pruning the rosemary bush my eye caught something unusual, excitedly I grabbed my camera to try and see more of what I was seeing. It seemed to be something like a cocoon, with a perfectly round opening. And when I looked inside I saw an earwig! That is I saw what I think was the body of an earwig, it did not move, and another bit of a darker body but I could not see that properly and did not want to disturb the creature (s). I took several photos hoping some of them would show and give us more info.

Here part of the earwig can clearly be seen.
I particularly like the underside of the cocoon, it is intricately made using the pieces of fern leaf. A work of art.
Notice the intricately woven cocoon, it’s beautiful and has totally woven a leaf of a fern that grew under the large rosemary bush.
This is a very close up picture and not great but the best I could do. You can clearly see the earwig to the left I think, and some black creature to the right.

I do not know what this is that I found, I was under the impression that earwigs have nests in the soil. I’ve never come across a spider hole like this either, so it’s probably not a spider having sucked the life out of an earwig and taken it into his lair. The cocoon type of thing is only about 3cm wide.

I am really hoping to get some feedback on this, on what this is. All my life I have had to overcome a bit of a phobia about earwigs, they would always come to me, cling to me, I saw them everywhere and my washing was always full of them and I would hate finding them while ironing. But now-a-days I am very interested in finding out more about them, their lifestyle and as I hardly every see them lately, it fascinates me to find one in this position. Please if you have any ideas about what is going on in my rosemary bush do tell me in the comments 🙂 I cannot wait to hear what you all think.

Here is a little update then. The day after I took photos and wrote about this I checked and found that the earwig had disappeared. I can now only see what appears to be a chrysalis and like Eliza and Marylou mentioned in their comments, it is very likely the chrysalis of a moth. My plan is now to take it inside the conservatory and keep an eye on it. I am really curious about it now. Thank you all for your interest and input.

EXCITING TIMES

Saturday the 31st of August saw Ian and myself tying the knot, we were surrounded by our children and grandchildren, sisters and brothers, and a few close friends. It was a very beautiful ceremony led by Helen Grubert who is an interfaith celebrant here in West Cork. It is a day to remember fondly for a long time to come.

Slowly life returns to normal routine. I do have lots of material, other than our wedding to write about and lots of photos too, and soon I will be back into my blogging mood. Until then I wish everyone of my dear friends and fellow bloggers a great start to a good autumn (or spring as the season might be).

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.

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.

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