HEALING FOREST AND WILD PLANTS

What is nicer and more calming than a walk in a forest. Listening to the sounds, the wind rustling in the canopies, smelling the trees and the herbs, looking at all the different shades of green or brown, feeling the roots or the rocks underfoot. Walking in a forest can be the ultimate sensory experience. When I walk in our local forests with my grandchildren I see them clambering over branches and rocks, paddling through some of the muddy paths, picking up pinecones and twigs with lichens or piece of old bark, and the youngest girl picks up and carries with her any dead branches and trails them behind her all along the walk. Their young minds are open to everything they see and experience no matter how often they actually do these walks. My daughter and son-in-law are real nature lovers and outdoor people and they take the children out on hikes, walks or beach days whenever they can. West Cork has good opportunities for this, and even the unsettle weather or rain does not faze them.

Right now the Irish native forests are full of new life, young plants, flowers and mosses. There are still night frosts and it is still a bit chilly but the sun is getting stronger by the day to our delight. We have had a real light April shower yesterday which refreshed everything and was good for growth. In the forest the spurges are giving a lovely show, the celandine, wood sorrel, blue bells, violets, stitchwort, and wild strawberries are equally blooming. The willow trees which are among the first to provide blossoms for the bees are now almost in full leaf. And already the bumblebees are buzzing!

I find a walk through the forest very calming but also refreshing, I think that it is the good air provided by the trees, the extra oxygen. But there is something more at work, Erich Fromm called it “Biophilia.” which is a love of life, an instinctive fondness for all that is living, our fellow humans, the plants, the trees, the animals. Our human brain craves greenery and an interaction with other living things. I read that we are naturally drawn to natural settings, and apparently things like ‘forest bathing’ can reduce our blood pressure, heart rate and lower our cortisol levels. But most of all it relaxes us and can quieten our often overstretched minds.

From a young age I have found it a need of mine to be surrounded by plants, whether it were houseplants or garden plants, now-a-days to see the green fields from some of our windows gives me great pleasure. But to actually be out in nature and get the full benefit of it has got to be far better still.

I hope that everyone is enjoying either spring or autumn seasons and also looking forward to less restrictions all over the globe.

INTERESTING SURROUNDINGS

On a bit of a ramble in our immediate area I enjoyed some spectacular sights and afterwards I researched some interesting little bits of history and knowledge of the area here.

I thought that I would take a drive as far as Traguma (Tráigh Omna), this beach is backed by marsh land and a small lake called Lough Abisdeally, this small lake (in the photo), is a real beauty it is very sought after by birdwatchers. This was a rather pleasurable attempt to get to know more about my immediate surroundings.  Tragumna is supposed to get its name from the stumps of oak trees dug up out of this strand. (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0298, Page 061). Sounds rather interesting!

On the way there I took a wrong turn and kept driving along narrow lanes and got totally lost. Long ago there was a time when I wondered about all these myriads of little roads crossing the country side until I learnt about the famine roads. The Irish peasantry were made to build roads in order to get food under the strictures of the poor law during the famine. These included random and unneeded roads. That is what I am told. Anyway my journey became a little longer than expected. It was raining lightly and I took some photos out of the car window.

These are some views of the landscape that I passed, it was wonderful of course.

Then the open ocean, here to see some caves and rocky shores. And rain streaming down!

And that was it, what was going to be a within 5km (just about) drive to help with my cabin fever turned into a tour of the little roads around the countryside. I felt so good after it, ready for another week back into the cabin (which of course I do love very much too). Mental health is so important and it is our responsibility to take care of it 🙂

MEETING WITH A SPINDLE TREE

It was quite unexpected that I came upon a Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus), I first noticed the red berries now mostly decayed in the mud, and recognised them as being spindle berries. When fresh they are so very beautiful! So I looked out for the tree and found it growing beside a much thicker trunk of a tree unknown to me. Part of it had fallen down and is probably dead. The crown of the tree though was still full of the berries. Do some of the birds feed on them? I do not know. The first I ever heard of the Spindle tree was from a Dublin lady called Hilary. She used to read out her essays on nature on Sunday morning in a radio program called Sunday Miscellany. Although I was fascinated this was before the internet and Google search. So I never really bothered to look up something about what was said to be a very beautiful and also a native tree to Ireland.

Apparently it’s easy to grow from its seed and I might try it. I found quite a bit of information on how to go about it. Germinate Seeds from Spindle Trees – BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine

And here is another website link, it is full of information about this interesting bush. Tree Lore: Spindle | Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (druidry.org)

Finding this to me new and interesting tree was the highlight of my week, we might be in lockdown but there are still always new wonders to discover.

I just want to add a little note here. I am not being very active at the moment both in posting and in reading posts from others. I am very busy but also my inspiration seems to have taken a downturn. I know this won’t last so I am just going with it. It is good to have a period of reflection as well as a period of posting a lot. I’ll soon be reading all your blogs again dear friends and followers and I wish you all the very best. Thank you for reading my words.

MAGICAL WINTER WALK

First I would like to wish all my friends and followers a beautiful new year ~ Let 2021 be a year filled with hope, many blessings, happiness and good health. That is my wish for everyone of you.
My walk took me around our little town on the ring road, this road is relatively new and is flanked with interesting shrubs. It also gives lovely views towards the town and behind it some the hills that surround us. At some stage the road crosses the river Ilen. The view is always spectacular, the river is tidal, today the tide was high which saw the sun sparkling in the water.

I am hoping that you all stay healthy and happy during these frequent lockdowns. Sending you all much love. Let 2021 be a year full of hope and happiness.

REMEMBERING

On this beautiful, calm and wind still morning the garden has been transformed into what reminds me of fairy land, the reflexion of light in the dew drops makes the spider webs shimmer and reminds me of fairy lights, or even the Christmas tree and brings me back to early childhood days, to innocence and happiness. I wander around the garden taking in this beauty and allowing these feelings to be. Autumn leaves have been brushed up yesterday, but it is the spider webs that really herald the beginning of autumn here in West Cork. There is not a sound to be heard, all the neighbours are still asleep, then a robin takes the floor and cheerfully sings its heart out.
Wind still and glorious, another day has begun.
My heart fills with gratitude.

I wrote these words some years ago but because we have recently been living with so many raindrops, not dewdrops, and we are all quite saturated with the damp and the darkness ~ I decided to give life to this post again as the beauty of watery drops really is something incredible and we might as well enjoy them.

BLACKCAP FEMALE BIRD

New to our bird feeder is the blackcap bird, a female. She has been visiting the garden now for several days running. The first thing that took my notice was the hump on her back, I thought oh what an unusual bird, maybe it is deformed, but then I also noticed the sharp beak and the chestnut brown cap on its head, and I immediately knew that we had a bird not seen on our feeders before. I have not yet heard it and am curious how its song will sound as people tell me that the Blackcap has a nice song, and the guidebook describes it as a series of melodious warbling notes.

Yes she does like the seedcake and I see her more on that than on the peanut feeder. I read that she will have one or two broods per year, laying four to six eggs at a time. What I found interesting is that this little bird would be a summer visitor from Africa and that over the last 25 years Blackcaps have been overwintering in Ireland in increasing numbers, but apparently they come here not to overwinter from Africa but from other colder European countries, meaning that they are a different breeding population. These Blackcaps from the population that breeds in Central Europe migrate here to Ireland to spend the winter.

Even here in this country they will breed in mature hedging which is exactly what surrounds our garden, so I hope that they will indeed breed. Blackcaps are found where there are a lot of Ivy berries and indeed in our Boreen close by there is a wealth of Ivy and the berries are plentiful this winter.

Actually I just came across this YouTube video and was delighted to hear their song. Reference: Blackcap ~ Eurasian Blackcap ~ Bird Call ~ Bird Song ESL and Popular Culture

Birdwatch Ireland also tells me that the majority of the Irish Blackcap population migrate south to winter in Iberia and North Africa. But that there is a small wintering population, mainly in the east and south of Ireland, and it appears that this is what our female Blackcap is a part of.

January is a good month around here for birdwatching and as we are feeding them we see a lot of them in the garden. We have residential Collared Doves, many Finch, many Blue Tits, Dunnocks, Sparrows, Robins, usually at least one wren, Blackbirds, Jackdaws and Starlings. Overhead are flying Seagulls, rooks and hooded Crows. It is amazing the diversity found in an urban garden. One type of bird that I would love to see more of are Thrushes, but they sadly disappeared from our gardens years ago.

LATE SUMMER IS MAGICAL

Today the temperature went up to 28C which is very warm for West Cork. Beautiful sunshine and blue sky added to our pleasures, and a little breeze made it so that I could work in the garden. Our very overgrown and wild garden, our Ark, has attracted an enormous number of insects and butterflies during the summer months, and still there is a great number of hoverflies, a fair number of bumblebees, and many smaller flies, as well as butterflies visiting and making life very pleasant especially knowing that we are helping with the upkeep of biodiversity in Ireland. Very necessary.

A delicate thistle seed landed among some of the late flowers.
Nasturtiums have overgrown the Lavender and the Mellissa, flowering beautifully, giving bright colours.
This is my favourite photo of this summer, so lovely to see the insects feeding on the dandelion flower.
The Oregano is almost finished flowering, from my observations these flowers have attracted the most insects, they have flowered all summer and have been buzzing unbelievable.
I guess that it will take me a great deal of time during the winter to identify all my insects, I have so many photos of them and such a variety. Fun for rainy days.

Wishing each and everyone a very nice September, my month, this month I will have my 70th birthday! Again unbelievable 🙂

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.

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.