A MELLOW EARLY AUTUMN WALK

I strolled around the block this evening. Around the block in this urban area does not mean that I walk totally among houses, no, for a start I walk through the Boreen which is a narrow path where a lot of wild plants and shrubs grow. This 15 minute walk also takes me along a fairly new road which is mostly surrounded by fields. Here I also see a lot of wild flowers, plants and wildlife in general. So it can be quite an interesting walk and all I need is the discipline to do it more often. Today I set off in a mild Irish mist that was softly falling and was hydrating my face, it was gentle and refreshing.

We have been experiencing lovely mild and sunny weather lately, making us think that it is an Indian summer. However, autumn signs can be seen and the lovely bright colours of the berries and the leaves are a pleasure to behold. A mellow early autumn walk was just what I needed after a hard day’s work in the garden.

I was glad to discover that there is plenty of Ivy this year, I always use this to make flower pieces at Christmas time. Apart from that there are moths and butterflies that lay their eggs in Ivy. An important plant. The blackberries are plentiful too and ripening fast now, they are plump and delicious.

Talking about the Boreen, this is the Irish word bóthrín, which is a diminutive of bóthar, meaning ‘road’. It is used to denote a narrow country path often surrounded by hedges, or sometimes by stone walls. Here in Ireland you might often see these paths very overgrown, because nature does take over and if the paths are not used regularly they just close more or less with overgrowth of brambles and other wild plants. However, what is very important about these Boreens is that they are ancient, and in this way they often still contain many native plants. This is important for biodiversity. In this particular Boreen I have found the creeping Hypericum plant, and this evening I checked and found that it is thriving. There are also a few different Ferns, and common Violets. Lots of Ivy, Hawthorn and also some Gorse. All of these are native plants or shrubs. I know that some well-meaning people use the strimmer on this particular Boreen several times every summer and it saddens me, I wish that at least they would let flowers come into seed before strimming.

Meanwhile in the garden lots of work is waiting for me, I did three days of it in the past week, it has only scratched the surface of it. I love autumn though, lots of tidying up, taking notes, and making plans for the next season. All good fun and a great work-out too, especially with nettles that I allowed to grow to 3 meters high!

Sending many thanks this way to all the blessed wishes from everyone on our wedding day.

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:
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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.

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.

WALKING THE CUTTING

Mural of the old steam train leaving the street behind in order to drive through The Cutting.

Skibbereen town has something preserved from the past that is quite interesting and has always appealed to many. This market town of old used to have a station, and a train line to Baltimore, a small seaside village, and to Cork city. It also had a narrow gauge line to Schull which is another small seaside village in the area. In the sixties the trains lost their use to bus routes and that was a great pity. And so we are left with some relics from this glorious train travel era. And one such a relic is what people here call ‘The Cutting’, and it is around this that I mapped my second walk. It was not a long walk, just 45 minutes and about 4000 steps. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon when I stepped out, I had the sun behind me as I walked along the Baltimore road. Passing many mature and beautiful gardens I then turned right and looked straight at a cottage that must have been associated with the railway I think, that’s what it looked like, maybe there was a level-crossing there. The road turns right again and passes lovely trees, birds were singing high in the branches, bluebells were in bloom even though it was only the end of March! Primroses, buttercups, wild strawberries, and long stemmed daisies were to be seen here and there. The other side of the road was mainly walls, some plastered but others lovely local stone and probably quite old behind which I could see some beautiful trees. I also saw one interesting ancient gate, I love those and always imagine what story they could tell us.

Road signs here in Ireland are in both English and Irish.
I hope whoever lives there won’t mind me using my photo of their lovely place.
It’s early yet for buttercups to flower, yet due to the very mild winter no doubt everything is early this spring.
In someone’s garden…..silhouette of yet another amazing tree, is it alive or dead, too early in the year to see.

And then after passing the sign for Swanton’s Garden Centre, all of a sudden there it lies before you, The Cutting! A road sliced through the rocks, stark high rock walls covered in mosses, ivy, wild plants and even trees, everything seems to be growing out of these rock walls, rainwater drips down here and there, I walk on in the shadow and find it refreshingly chillier. Towards the end of the Cutting, the town’s houses come into sight, here we are at the Bridge street end of the town. Just a little while further there is the iron railway bridge – part of the now West Cork Hotel, and still further along there is the old station on the Marsh road. But before coming to this I found this most beautiful mural of the old steam train on the wall of a disused pub. I then walked back to where I left the car at Drinagh car park. I enjoyed this walk very much, it’s very easy and not long. Footpaths all the way.

Different types of mosses are plentiful on these rocks.

From where we live I can see the hill that overlooks this walk, it is to the West of the town and its a long gentle hill. One of my future walks will be over this hill, the views are great from there, but that’s a story for another day.

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.

A NEW YEAR BEGINS

On this first day of January 2018, I see a beautiful blue sky and blazing sunshine, I decide to walk in a different direction.  My walk takes me along the cliff road from Ghajnsielem towards Hondoq Ir-Rummien on the South coast of the island of Gozo.  It’s an easy road and it is no surprise that there are quite a few people walking.  The man from next door with his little dog is there too and we exchange a few words.  People pass and say hello or nod.  Today I went out not only to connect with nature but to make sure that on this first day of the year I connect with people.  Being far away from family and friends makes itself felt on days like today.  Luckily nature is a great solace, a balsam to the soul.

And first and foremost today was about exploring yet another part of the island.  So I took a totally different direction, and walked where I had not walked before.  The road stretched out before me, lined with wild flowers, plants and trees, a delight to the eye, beyond that the rocks going down steeply, and then the sea, the Mediterranean, sky blue with only a few white horses disturbing its surface.

The road was climbing, lined with stone walls, bright limestone locally sourced, built by men long ago, sturdy and functional.  Due to the most recent rain plants are green, sharp new growth, buds of almond blossom and giant fennel are fat and ready to burst.
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I see lots of wild flowers, a delight to the eye, colourful and bright they are fierce and upright even if the strong wind tries to blow them down.  My hair flies all over the place and I have to keep it back in order to look through my camera window and take a steady photo.  I relish the freshness and feel all the spider webs disappearing, all last year’s less beautiful happenings fade away, even all the problems of humankind, all the suffering and pain that people go through, all disappear for the time being. A new year starts and one hopes that it will finally bring Peace to the earth and with it kindness and happiness in every soul.  I know that is wishing for a lot but I still wish it.

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The road winds its way up the hill, I see houses, signs of life.  I think that I am coming to a hamlet but I don’t know what it is called.  It seems very nice and the views over Comino island and over Malta and the sea are wonderful.  I’m almost enticed to go into a tavern to have coffee but then I see that the sun is getting low in the sky and it is still a long walk back home so I decide to retrace my steps.  Such a beautiful place this is, I intend to walk this more often and check out more of the wild plants as the months go by.  It’s all down hill now, the sun is low in the sky, I see church towers of all the surrounding villages, there is Nadur, and Xewkija, and Ghajnsielem churches, the spires high toward the sky, the domes silhouetted against the setting sun.  I notice that all those villages are on heightened ground, hence they can be seen from far-a-way.  In my mind I can walk all over the island, it does not seem far!  In reality it would take me a long time, but it is good to dream at times.

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I get home before dark, but not before I take a few more shots of these lovely surroundings. I see the ferries busy and many cars waiting in line, all on the way to Malta where life is eager to get back to normal after all the festivities. I make a mental note of what I will do tomorrow, another year is starting and I am wanting to jump right in. Like one of my friends said today, we are going to make a good one of it, we are going to enjoy each moment and live to the full.  Grateful for another chance, another opportunity, to be kind.
Happy New Year to all my dear friends, wishing you a year full of Blessings and Love, Peace and Goodwill.

THE NIGHTS ARE DRAWING IN

I cannot believe that yet another week has passed by! Cooler now and the leaves are turning multi-coloured, while some are twirling lazily off the trees, and covering the front garden with a brown rustling carpet of glorious scented autumn!

I’ve been busy over the last few days and I know that I have quite a bit to catch up with – blog entries of friends that I follow, eventually I will get to read all. The reason why I got so busy is that I started an online course with FutureLearn, this time with Trinity College in Dublin. The course is called ‘Achieving Sustainable Development’ and it takes us through four of the 17 UN development goals. As a start we examined goal 16 which aims for the elimination of all violence as a basic for the establishment of sustainable development. Both physical violence, structural violence (embedded in social structures of inequality), and cultural violence (where traditions condone direct or structural violence. So covering the whole area of peacebuilding and peacekeeping. I found this very interesting because I run around (like so many of us)trying to work out how we can help to bring about world peace. The way that this course works is, it gives a video of an interview, in this particular first week different professors were interviewed on conflicts in Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, and Colombia. Links are provided to other reading material (lots of it), and then we students write our thoughts on what we learnt, there are students from all over the world taking part which of course makes for an interesting dialogue. It is so thought provoking! Tomorrow is week 2 and we will be looking at SDG 3 ‘Challenges to Health’. I’m looking forward to it.

And at the same time it is only another eleven days before we leave to return to Gozo, after a visit to Norfolk to see Ian’s family first. I’m totally packed and organised, all that remains for us to do is see family and friends and that is always a pleasure. Two days ago my daughter, and the children took me to climb a hill overlooking much of the area here, we saw the sea and the patched fields and meadows. It was beautiful – though the climb nearly killed me. I will share some photos with you all.  In a way it is a sort of farewell to the area here – for the time being.
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An ancient stone wall covered in moss, everything was covered in moss, the trees, walls, ground, different types of mosses, very nice and green.
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As we came above the tree level it became quite windy, the kids were running up and down like mountain goats, exploring and discovering creatures and all sort of things growing. Ferns, heathers, mosses, fungi, and they even brought me clear water from a little stream to show how fresh and clean it looked.

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The view was spectacular once we were on top of the hill where a lone cross was keeping watch.

So beautiful.  One thing puzzled me and that is the higher we went to more wet the soil became, I think that the soil is peat as it was pure black in colour.  Walking down was actually harder in a way than climbing up, we were all ready for a nice cup of tea.  Luckily the weather was sunny and quite beautiful really.

After all of that, the cobwebs were out of our hair, that is for sure.

 

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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FIRST DAY OF SPRING

This morning we awoke to another beautiful day, it was warm and sunny, with a fresh breeze. After a long breakfast with Ian my legs could not wait to get going again, a nice walk around the areas of Victoria which I did not get to see yet was in order. I had actually not planned anything in particular, but had to do some shopping on the way home, so I decided to go direction Xaghra, this walk would take you up a steep hill, but it looks interesting. However when I reached the bridge just before the hill I noticed some water fowl, some ducks among which I thought were a few Muscovy ducks, red head, interesting looking.  So I decided to follow the ducks, under the bridge they went away from the reservoir and into a river or is it a watery storm drain, I am not sure.  The one side is very smooth and is dug out in the limestone, with what seems blue clay toward the bottom, the other side is a path, and that is the path I decided to follow, along with the water fowl.  A class of school children were walking ahead of me but otherwise it was a very quiet place with lots of fresh greenery along the path’s borders.  I found, a little yellow flower, which at the moment is flowering all over Gozo, it is the creeping wood sorrel.  On the water side there were castor oil plants with their beautiful red leaves and dark red seeds.  Some borage gave splashed of bright blue, and the prickly pear cacti, tall and impressive made good fencing.  The path was smooth to walk on, and flat which I took note of because it would be an ideal walk for Ian too.  Toward the end of the path there are two very large eucalyptus trees, the ground at this moment is covered with the halve circle leaves, and some seed capsules that came down with the last high winds were lying around too.  I smelled them to see if I should take some home as they are good against colds (not for internal consumption though).  And then all of a sudden I was on the main road to Xaghra and turned again toward the centre of town.  Here along the road I found goosegrass growing, it is a plant that I have used before, stewed in soups.  It is great to see so much greenery around the place, when we first arrived in autumn everything was brown and dried out.

Signs of spring are everywhere, it promises to be a beautiful summer!

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