A LATE SUMMER EVENING SKY

When summer gathers up her robes of glory, And, like a dream, glides away.     
Sarah Helen Whitman

I took a walk this evening and felt a real bit of a chill in the air, but it was still lovely and the breeze was actually refreshing after I spent the day painting inside. And I did find some time to check a few herbs in the garden. I also include a couple of photos from a few days ago. I’m busy with my new herb course. I am also learning more about the wild plants that come growing into the garden, at this time of year the woundwort is still in full bloom and much desired by the bumblebees, lots of them. The flower bud on my ginger plant has not changed for the past two weeks, I wonder if it will reach actual flowering but I fear not as already there is not enough sunshine and we are slowly heading into the fall season.

Stachys palustris – Marsh Woundwort
Tagetes Lucida, Mexican marigold ~ I think.
Our endive plants are flowering, a lovely blue display.

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 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.

THOUGH NATURE IS MEANT TO BE ASLEEP, I SEE MANY SIGNS OF LIFE

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Our garden does not know whether it should be asleep or begin to wake up.  On this peaceful and last Sunday of the year 2019 I took a little stroll to check on my vegetables and herbs.  So far it has been a mild winter except for one morning when all was white with frost.  We did have more than usual rain though, and one or two real destructive storms which blew over our bird feeder and destroyed it.

I found that the few bean plants which survived being served as someone’s dinner (the slugs), are doing rather well, the spinach and the kale are doing great too.  Among the herbs the oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary are all thriving.  The rosemary is even flowering, but then it flowered all summer too, perhaps it is an everlasting flowering type 🙂

The Camelia that I planted out weeks ago has buds and seems happy where I put it.  The Californian Lilac is also doing great and I cannot wait to smell its flowers, and to look upon the red Camelia flowers later when spring comes along.  Bulbs are pushing through the still very wet soil.  And the young Californian Poppy plant I found fresh and green, early flowering is expected.  It is always nice to take stock of the garden around the start of a new year I think, and to start planning.

A tender young Lupin plant has pushed through some leaf covering. And the Rudbeckias that I have been carefully tending since last spring when I sowed them, are so far doing fine, I hope that they will become strong plants and I know that they will last for years as I used to grow them before.

But I wanted to look a little further than my own garden today and took a walk through the Boreen and further-a-field.  Planning has been received and work has started on building 50 houses for a social housing scheme.  This will mean that from next year onward we will be surrounded by houses, whereas up to now we still had so many fields.  But I understand that housing is needed badly and that the plan for rural Ireland is to have satellite towns and not much housing in the countryside, this to give easy access to all utilities without too much need for new infrastructure.  Anyway that seems to be the plan for the future and the future is now.  While walking the Boreen I found beautifully fresh and healthy Yarrow plants, I also found that the Gorse was flowering, and that the sweet little plants of creeping Hypericum are still intact and have not been affected by the wet weather.

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There had been a certain quietness around the place here with some neighbours away over the Christmas period.   The land was also quiet this afternoon apart from some starlings, a wagtail and a thrush that I saw along my walk.  Year’s ending has that certain feeling about it in nature, a stillness that is a promise of new life and activity to come.  I like it.

Along my walk and in the Boreen, Yarrow, Creeping Hypericum and flowering Gorse.

And so we enter the last days of this year.  Tomorrow my grandchildren and their mum and dad are coming to open presents, that will be lovely.  The rest of the week will also be spent with family visiting and so we will enter the new year surrounded by loved ones.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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