THE RAILWAY BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER ILEN

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This now unused railway bridge runs over the river Ilen in the small town of Skibbereen, West Cork, in Ireland.  This market town used to have a rail connection between it and the large city to the East, Cork.  The railway extended also to Ballydehob and Schull, and to Baltimore.  I have heard it said that in days gone by sugar beet was cultivated around Baltimore, a seaside place close to Skibbereen, and that daily the sugar beet would be transported by train all the way to the factory in Mallow, a town which lies much further inland.

Sadly the railway is no more, neither is the sugar beet production.  The old bridge stands to this day and is part of the West Cork Hotel.  I happened to pass there today and immediately saw that the reflection of the bridge was perfect on the water, so took some photos with my phone and played around a bit with editing.  I wanted the bridge in black and white, but I found that in colour – especially boosted a bit, the result was fine too.

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Skibbereen is a small town in the South-West of Ireland, I plan to explore it more in future and also to learn more about its history.  It has many interesting corners, and lately I am discovering new walks.   Time to start a little exploration!

LIER IN BELGIUM

Some photos of our last visit to Lier this past autumn. Lier is a charming and beautiful place to visit with many interesting sites, such as the begijnhof and the Saint Gummarus church, built in Brabant’s Gothic style. I hope that you will enjoy my short photo album.

FAREWELL GOZO

It is that time again, the time to say goodbye and to move on. West Cork is calling, my grandchildren cannot wait to see me again, and the garden is definitely in need of lots of tender care. I’m also dying to meet up with my family, friends and to reconnect with the art and social scene in Skibbereen. I’m restless and cannot concentrate on writing my blog, I’ve had little time for it also because for the past week I have been sorting and packing our stuff together, 20kg each. Winter clothing is heavy and large, books are heavy too. As I’m minimizing everything I own, I do not want to take extra stuff home, and even if I wanted to – there is no space in the suitcase. It is the weight that matters most in our case, and I bought one of the digital gadgets to weigh a suitcase but I cannot use it, simply because I cannot lift the case to hang it on to the scales! Hopefully we are going to be all right. Everything is sorted, organized and packed. Four days left, time for relaxing and for a last chance to soak up sunshine, because we are going to the land of rain and gray skies. Goodbyes have been said at my lace-class, book-club, library and friends here. Our last few walks have been beautiful.  I know that I shall miss all this glorious sunshine, and I am grateful that we had the opportunity to spend some months here enjoying this lovely island.

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GANDIKOTA FORT

In India, somewhere about 15 km from Jammalamadugu in the Kadapa district, in Andhra Pradesh, there lies a village called Gandikota. It lies on the right bank of the river Pennar.  This river creates a deep gorge while it runs through the ancient red granite rocks of the Erramala hills, whole big bolders of them, a magnificent sight!  About seven years ago I was there. It was new years day of 2010 and together with some friends we visited the fort there and the temples and mosque all well maintained ruins now. Gandikota Fort was constructed around the 12th century during the Pemmasani Dynasty, and became one of the most prominent forts in the country. Gandi is the Telegu name for gorge and the village and Fort got their name as a result of that. There was quite a bit to see at Gandikota, most immediately when you enter the area there is the impressive ancient Jamia Masjid mosque with its beautiful architecture, its elegant arches. Then there is the granary which is a very robust and dark building, very cool inside while intense heat outside, only air vaults letting in a tiny ray of sunlight.  Before long the eye catches another interesting building, this is the ruin of the Ranganatha Swamy Temple, very impressive with its magnificent carvings and pillars. The carvings depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There are also the ruins of the Madhavaraya Temple and some other ruins in the vicinity.

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The rock structures of the gorge are magnificent, the red granite majestic in huge blocks precariously grace the tops of the gorge, you have to climb over them to get to the edge and see the view. Granite is an igneous rock made up of a variety of mineral, like quartz, feldspar, mica, and hornblende. The composition of small amounts of mica, amphiboles, and other mineral is what gives granite its red colour.

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I spent many months in this vicinity over several years but alas it is now seven years ago I was there last.  This visit was one of the outstanding natural and archaeological beautiful places that I visited in Andhra Pradesh, but there are many more. It’s been too long since my last visit to India, me thinks.

EXPLORING VILLAGE LIFE

It is wonderful here in Gozo and we are enjoying life to the full, grateful for blessings. We are here now a week and a half, our second weekend already! The first week or so I was very busy with sourcing shops locally. In doing so I have started to explore the village where we live at this moment, Ghajnsielem. It takes me about 15 to 20 minutes to walk to the shops depending on how often I stop to admire something or to take a photo. At first, and because I went shopping during the closing hours (12 to 4pm) I thought that there were no shops at all except one supermarket on the main road between Mgarr and Victoria. But then I went to the village after four o’clock and discovered a bakery, a hardware store, a green grocer, and a small food shop, also several cafés. The fact is that generally there is nothing advertising that it is a shop, and when the door is closed you cannot see that it is a shop. Here is an example of the hardware store, it is one long narrow room filled with glass jars containing screws and nails and what have you, a delight to go hunting for something you need, and to be sure to find it!
20171014_111451But I’ll tell you a little more about this village.
It has a population of 3000 souls, there are several churches, the main one is in a neo-gothic style, rather impressive and amazing inside. Another older church is much smaller, was built mostly by voluntary labour of the farmers around the area and I fancy this one much more, it has simple architecture, and it has many steps leading up to it.

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This is a photo of one of the squares in the village, I really like this square, people go and sit outside in the evening enjoying each other’s company, it is found in the oldest part of the village. There is a butcher shop in this square and a young woman who grows her own organic vegetables and sells a number of other products like gram flour and sesame seeds and so on… she has told me how to cook rabbit the Maltese way because I ordered some at the butchers, I like to cook at least some of the local dishes.  I’m getting to know some people and finding so many friendly and helpful folks, making me feel at home.
But there are several other squares in this village, all with plenty of benches, important for Ian, but also nice to just sit and take in the atmosphere. Beautiful trees and flowers are also in plentiful supply in these squares.
There is also the huge Band club café where a coffee only costs 50cent. This is sort of the hub of the village where young and old gathers and where the local band holds its practice.

I like to walk through the narrow streets and the squares, there is a special atmosphere and often I find some beautiful features in the vernacular architecture using local limestone. Old doorways are also always a joy to admire and take photos of, they are so picturesque that I always feel I want to paint them, well this time I brought my watercolours and we’ll see how it goes. There is a lot to explore yet around here, I read that remains of a prehistoric temple complex are to be found within the limits of Ghajnsielem, but they have almost been destroyed by road building, but what does remain are two groups of megaliths, they were probably originally part of the same structure, can’t wait to plan a walk out there to go and see what I find.

These are photos of an old washing place, the source of the water is an ancient well and women used to communally do their washing here. The rest of the village would have been built around this area. The above photos are of a reconstruction of the original washing place, a shame that the original one got destroyed but at least the original well is still there and the water is still running! There is a story attached to this well. Long ago when the village was only starting to be formed a local farmer named Anglu Crech used to take his sheep and goats to this spring every single day, and because the sun was so hot he would take shelter under the surrounding trees and say his prayers. Well one day while doing this he saw an apparition of what he thought was Mother Mary who invited him to raise a statue close by and this the farmer, together with his friends, achieved and they would gather there in prayer, and eventually a church was built close by. It’s nice to learn something more about the places we stay, it makes it so interesting, it is the small church I was talking about above.

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This photo is the neo-gothic church, I took it today and include it to show the blue sky and the way the sun shows off the honey coloured limestone which is most commonly used as building stone here and sourced locally. I have not messed around with this photo, the colours are real.
Close by is the library which is so small that I won’t have a problem reading those books that I fancy. I found some there on the history of the village, to my delight. Most of the books are for children and just like at home there was a class of them in there yesterday, all excited about getting their books. I was laughing as one little girl was told she could not take that many books because she had still some out… she went over to the table and found the books, just like what we often came across back home when I was still working in the library, I did not need to know Maltese to understand what was going on!

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Also along the main road between Mgarr and Victoria, are some beautiful trees. It is an alternative route to the village from where we live and even though it is uphill all the way I like it because of the interesting plants and rocks along the way. So shopping is no hardship even without the car and as it is always nice outside the walking is a pleasure.

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This is the view from our balcony, mostly in the day it is almost too warm to sit here, but in the morning and evening it is lovely. At night the view too is great with the lights of Malta and Comino in the distance. The ferries come and go every 45 minutes and there is always plenty of life to observe. There are little fishing boats at the marina, typically Maltese – at the moment they go out fishing for Lampuki, a fish locally used in traditional dishes. This fish migrates past the Maltese islands during the autumn so it is then that you can find it everywhere and it is very popular here.

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One of the Luzzu boats, original Maltese fishing boats, they go out early in the morning or at night to try and get their catch.  We used to see very many of them while staying in Marsaxlokk, Malta.  Very colourful boats, and usually having an eye painted on its bow, said to protect the boat and those in it.

So this is only the beginning of another winter’s stay in Gozo and there will be plenty to discover and learn and write about, it seems that in order to experience a place fully I have to write about it, then it becomes more real for me.  It is always very exciting though and no matter how many times I walk the same road, there is always something new to find and see or experience.  Awesome!  I hope that you all enjoy coming along with me on my journeys.

THE BEAUTY THAT IS GOZO

It is hard to believe that it’s nearly a week ago that we arrived in Gozo again. This time we are staying in a village, Ghajnsielem it is called, which lies on the East coast of Gozo and right at the little harbour of Mgarr which is where the ferries from Malta and Comino arrive, and where many boats of all sizes are anchored in the marina. Our flat is at the outskirts of Ghajnsielem and we overlook this harbour from a height which is very pleasant indeed. I am fascinated with the rock that our building is situated on, a beautiful rock, limestone. On my way to the village centre to fetch some groceries or go to the Post Office or such-like, I walk past lovely limestone buildings, old and new. The traditional, beautiful Maltese/Gozitan balconies can be seen in wood or stone along the way, a pleasure to the eye as always. Then you come to the neo-gothic parish church which rises up toward a blue sky, it’s eye catching! Surrounding the church are a variety of green and tree filled areas and an interesting Band club café where it’s nice to sit outside and observe village life while sipping a nice coffee or a cool drink. This morning I discovered where the library was. People all along the way were greeting me with either a bongu or a good morning! I’m starting to feel quite at home in this village.
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FLINT STONE AND PILGRIMAGE

To say that England has a lot to offer in terms of history, interest, and beauty surely is an understatement. We have been here in Norfolk now for several days, while it is mainly as a family visit, the family has generously shown us around the area, and we took a great, long walk along the salt marshes at Burnham Overy Staithe. How nice to get to see this and get acquainted with a variety of the birds and plants found in this habitat.  I did hear a curlew, nice to hear as in Ireland they are heard less and less.

One of the main noticeable find here though are the what the houses are all built with lots of flint stones on their facades, no even all over the walls of the houses, I had never seen anything like it before and am fascinated. Flint is a very hard stone and those walls much be so strong and well able to endure the winds and weather in those areas. It is great to see locally sourced rock used as a building material. More information about the use of flint in Norfolk can be found here: http://belongathoughton.com/introduction-norfolks-natural-heritage/gallery ids=”13797,13790,13784,13792″ type=”rectangular”]

We took Ian’s grandchild and daughters on a steam train ride from Wells to Walsingham, the ride took us along many different wild shrubs and the berries were plentiful, among them hawthorn and rosehips. The birds will have plenty of food this winter!  The train ride was quaint, lots of time to take in all we saw along the track.

The flowing fields along the railway track were beautiful to watch.  Skies were also very  interesting.

We had cream tea in a teashop at a place which is dedicated to the virgin Mary in memory of her visitation by the angel Gabriel.  A pilgrimage from London to this village goes back a very long way.  There is a well there with waters that are said to cure people.  Mostly the place is very peaceful and beautifully laid out with lovely trees and flower beds.  In mediaval time pilgrimage was very popular but people had to go a long way and the road was often not very safe.  Today many people will visit places like these to get in touch with themselves and meditate on the meaning of their life.

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https://www.walsinghamvillage.org/about/history-of-pilgrimage/

 

CARRAIG ABHAINN GARDENS

Carraig Abhainn Garden which lies in Durrus, West Cork.  It is one of the very interesting, well established and peaceful gardens in the area. It consists of 1-hectare which is bound by a mill stream. An amazing waterfall and further along the tranquil stream add to its charm and serenity. My daughter and I visited it recently with my grandchildren and the garden was loved by one and all. The children found it exciting with all its nooks and crannies, and we adults – although we often become like children when we are surrounded by nature – we just loved the tranquillity of the place. I was particularly interested in the variety of trees and plants, among them a Mimosa tree, a Korean Fir, and a whole range of other exotic trees, even a Banana tree! The variety of other subtropical plants, Palms, Rhododendrons and others was interesting too. I think it would be a lovely garden to visit in the autumn also just because of the variety of trees, although many of them are evergreens, a lot of them are deciduous trees also. I think my photos will speak for itself.  I hope that everyone enjoys the walk through this lovely garden with me.
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20170803_142255After our walk we had a chat with Eugene, the owner together with his wife of this beautiful garden.  Eugene is a goldmine of information on plants and trees and he knows his garden inside out.  I will be visiting again and he promised me a guided tour to which I am looking forward very much.  Here is a link to information on this garden.

http://www.ireland-guide.com/gardens/carraig-abhainn-gardens-.7116.html

 

A WILD FLOWER WALK

Yesterday I decided it was time to explore one of the cliff villages of Gozo. Ta-Sannat, and Il-Munxar were on the program, then to walk back from there to Ir-Rabat. It was a beautiful sunny and warm morning. Not sure what to expect as I had not read up on these villages, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of wild flowers that were in bloom, it really did fill out my inventory and photos of wild spring flowering plants that I have encountered so far here on Gozo. I was rather overwhelmed at the diversity, never having seen such a variety yet around the other villages, but that could be because the further in spring we get, the more flowers will be opened. The bees were buzzing, probably because the sun was rather hot, birds were singing, including the canary birds that many people here own and give fresh air whenever they can. Ta-Sannat also proved to be the first village where I heard a cock crow and saw horses and cattle outside. I got a lovely feel of the place, it is situated high enough for one to see the surrounding villages, like Ix-Xewkija, and Il-Munxar, I could also see the sea at L-Imġarr (Mgarr) from where I stood, and part of Victoria. A wide horizon is visible, and virtually the whole island of Gozo can be seen. The village itself was quiet, I was chatting with a lady in a small shop, apart from that and from the usual vegetable van which I had encountered on most of my village trips, all was still.
I know that there are quite a few things that I missed seeing around Ta-Sannat; the cliffs, the dolmen, the temple, and the ancient car ruts, but these were all outside the village and I did not like to go and see them on my own. I have a plan though, next time we spend the winter in Gozo I will link up with some friends to do things I do not like to do on my own, these activities will be on that list, I will organise that.
After taking many photos of the wild plants and flowers I started to walk toward the village of Il-Munxar. This is a very pleasant walk, it takes one along a whole stretch of farm land, land at this moment full of vegetables and here and there a farmer tending to his plants, heaps of manure were also to be seen lying ready to be spread out on places that were bare. I had a chat with one farmer who was obviously enjoying being on the land on such a sunny morning. Il-Munxar is another small village lying between Ta-Sannat and Ix-Xlendi, there is a walk that takes one from the Ferry Port of L-Imġarr (Mgarr) along these coastal villages toward Ix-Xlendi, the walk must be so beautiful as all along there are to be seen the highest cliff of Gozo. In Il-Munxar where I walked some bit out of the village, I saw meadows so full of flowers, like a painting with full blocks of bright yellow, so cheerful I just sat and watched it all and tried to take it in so I could take it away in my heart and mind, such a beauty!
Eventually I kept walking toward Ir-Rabat (Victoria) and reached there well in time to share lunch with Ian who had been at home meanwhile and working on writing his children’s book. We both excitedly shared our mornings adventures and decided once again how much of soulmates we really are and how thankful we can be for all that we are given day by day.

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