Bridget

Archive for the ‘Off the beaten track.’ Category

What is it about water?

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on August 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm

 

Ben Bulben Mountain near Sligo shrouded in heavy mist.

As the  Earth breathes the waves move in…and out again.

Deserted beaches are so appealing…

So much seaweed… I wish I’d brought a bag.

The weir at Clarendon Lock just outside the village of Knockvicar.

Beautiful!

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Out and about in Arigna. part 2.

In arigna, Off the beaten track. on August 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm

We sheltered in the old school shed during a rain shower. One could almost hear the laughter and chat that went on here in times gone by. No ipads and mobile phones then,  just skipping rope and hide and seek. I wonder did children have the problems they have now. I suppose not,  but I’m not under the illusion that all was better then. The problems were just different.

Remains of other old buildings add to the air of abandonment.

The roof on this building, just down from the school, looks remarkable good. Some lovely stone in the walls here.

Ferns and mosses seem to love the lime in these old walls.

In the distance the mountains are being taken over by wind turbines and monoculture plantations of Sitka Spruce. Money being made for people who live far away from here. With the threat of fracking on the agenda who knows what will be next on the horizon. Fracking rigs? Let’s hope not!

As we head home we pass through tunnels of conifers…

and some fast moving Fuschia!!

Out and about in Arigna.

In arigna, Off the beaten track. on August 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

The Miner’s Way is a network of paths once used by the workers as they made their way, on foot, to work in the coal mines at Arigna. They cover a distance of 62 miles with walks to suit all abilities.

Sunday was a showery day so not very good for walking. I really don’t like getting wet! We drove up to what we call The Top Road, which is the road above us in the valley, and parked at Glen Church. This little church which was built in 1912 is now sadly selmon used.

Symbols  of devotion in the overgrown churchyard.

As we descended the grassy path to the old school we were met by some baffled looking black faced Sheep.

One of many closed abandoned schools in the area. A sign of rural depopulation. 40% of Ireland’s population now live in towns and cities.

Sad to see the building vandalised and full of sheep droppings. An old desk stands monument to the past pupils who were educated here. I wonder how many of them still live in the area? With lots of abandoned homesteads in the area I would’nt imagine too many do.

The  plaque on the wall outside written in old Irish script reads: St. Maria Goretti National School. Only built in 1955. The area has seen monumental changes in those intervening years. Not all for the better I don’t think. But maybe I’m old fashioned and this is progress.

On the lane…

In nature, Off the beaten track., sustainable living on July 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

July 1st is here and walking on the lane with the dogs this morning it almost had an Autumn feel. All the rain has kept everything lush and green. But then that’s what people love Ireland for…the forty shades of green.  I’ve never met anyone who came here for the good weather.

The lane is a 3 mile long cul-de-sac. We live about 2 miles along. There are lots of other houses on the lane so it’s not as isolated as it would initially seem.

Berries have already set on the Hawthorn, adding to the Autumnal feel. In his book Food for free, Richard Mabey, says : “When fully ripe they taste a little like avacado pear. They make a moderate jelly, but being a dry fruit need long simmering with a few crab apples to bring out all the juices and provide the necessary pectin. Otherwise the jelly will be sticky or rubbery. It is a good accompaniment to cream cheese.”

I think this arrangement of Ferns, Hawthorn, Moss and Foxgloves looks lovely. Nature does it better than any garden designer. A passing Sheep has made a contribution to the scene. Diarmiud Gavin eat your heart out! No multi-coloured monstrosities needed here!

Maybe the wool was from this Mama who thinks she is invisible as she sits quitely in the long grass.

“Hey Mama, I think they can see you.”

Foxgloves are playing a blinder this year…so many of them. Gorgeous!

Lettie likes to drink from the puddles on the lane. In their water bowls in the house we always add Citricidal, which is good for eliminating internal parasites. Given the choice she always goes for the pure unadulterated rain water.

 

At Carrowcrory for Bards and Harps.

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on June 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

Saturday last saw Andy and I at Carrowcrory, near Ballinifad, Co. Sligo at the home of John Willmott and Claire Roche. The occasion was the fifth Bards and Harps Day to be held here. Regular readers will remember John from the Poetree Walks postings. He is a fab poet, tour guide, folklorist, story teller and labyrinth maker. Check out his blog at www.celticways.com .

Claire is a harpist and singer, but not just any singer, a singer with the voice of an Angel. I saw tears being wiped from eyes as Claire gave her wonderful performance. In this pic, which is a crap pic because of the light, Claire is getting ready to play 2 harps at once. Quite an accomplishment! The cottage itself is wonderful. Decorated in the traditional style it is a warm welcoming home. But then a home can only reflect what the people who inhabit it are like. John and Claire welcomed each and every person with gusto. One immediately felt at home and so welcome. Throughout the day food was available. Delicious food prepared in the cottage. Between each performance everyone visited the big table in the kitchen which was laden with food all day. Breads, salads, frittata, chowder,  dips, tarts, cakes. Each offering more delicious than the last.

Everyone who came seemed to be imbued with the same happy, jovial spirits this place seems to generate. I love this pic of the lovely Tina Rock with flowers in her hair. Everytime she caught my eye the Sandi Thom song, I wish I was a Punkrocker with Flowers in my Hair, came into my mind. That’s Andy with the big grin.

That’s John heading round the corner. The pic was taken from the Tree Labyrinth which has been planted in front of the cottage.  There’s not too many thatched cottages left now so it’s lovely to actually know the people who have brought this one back to life…and what a life!

So I will finish with a little more about the day’s entertainment. In the evening we were treated to a performance from another harpist. It was after all Bards and Harps Day! Fionnoula Gill, of Riverdance fame, gave an amazing performance in the little theatre space behind the cottage. You could hear a pin drop in the room. Each and every person was spellbound. I wonder do all harpists have angelic voices? Seems that way to me! She finished her set with Molly Malone which everyone sung along to. So floating on that cloud of joy and enchantment we headed off at about 9 in the evening. John however had one last edible treat for everyone. He had made his own chocolate and peanut butter cups, just like Reese’s! I won’t say how many I had…but they were yummy! A wonderful end to an amazing day.

It’s garden visiting time….

In Garden, Gardening, Off the beaten track. on June 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

June, July and August are the months for garden visiting here in Ireland. Gardens are at their best and the weather is usually ok. The weather was’nt great this past weekend but,  undaunted,  a friend and I decided to visit Saffron Thomas’s garden in Ardsoran, about 6 miles from Boyle. This garden is part of the Secret Gardens of Sligo initiative which sees gardens open to the public to raise funds for charity.

The garden is set on a south facing slope and the site is bordered by mature trees giving it a lovely secluded feel. Big wide borders filled with a combination of old favourites and rare and unusual plants make for an interesting peruse. This lovely border filled with blues, pinks and purples sweeps down to one of the ponds.

I love gardens with ponds, so beneficial for nature and of course they add an interesting extra dimension to the garden.

No chemicals are used anywhere in this land. The result is a beautiful garden filled with the humming of bees and busy with insects flying hither and thither. A feast for the senses.

A little wooden bridge leads to a path that takes you on a walk around the perimiter of the big field at the back. Already planted with so many varieties of trees, the long term plan is to have another very large pond on this as yet undeveloped part of the garden. This is a garden that is continually expanding. Every year Saffron collects, plants and nurtures thousands of seeds, resulting in thousands of plants needing planting areas. With a total of 7 acres there is lots of room for expansion.

Several sculptures are set amongst the plants adding extra interest. This is a piece of found bog oak set atop a lovely piece of wood decorated with a spiral. I really like that!

There are also 2 polytunnels and a small orchard here. One polytunnel has just been erected,  the other has been there several years. The long standing tunnel is so filled with plants it has a jungle feel. Vegetables, flowers and shrubs being brought on for the garden all together make for an interesting  feast for the senses. Plants like the climbing Snapdragon above and many more that I did’nt know existed keep one’s interest.

If you are in the Sligo/Roscommon area do check out the Secret Gardens of Sligo. It raises money for charity and opens up gardens off the beaten track that are varied and interesting. They also have a Facebook page.

Click on pics to enlarge.

Beautiful Bulgaria.

In nature, Off the beaten track. on May 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

Two of my three weeks away were spent in the beautiful country of Bulgaria. A place of beautiful nature, unspoilt countryside, Christian Orthodox churches filled with beautiful icons like the one above which is in St. George’s monastery in Pomorie and so much more….

An abundance of produce which grows easily in the long hot Summers. The Winters there are short and sharp. Every house has a garden and lots of fruit trees. Plums, Peaches, Grapes and Walnuts seem to grow everywhere. Tomatoes here taste like nowhere else…so sweet and delicious.

The land here is open…no fences. The animals are taken out to graze daily by a shepherd who gets paid a fixed amount for each animal in his care. At night the Cows, Goats and Sheep are milked and kept in the yards behind the houses. It’s lovely morning and evening to hear the bells the animals wear tinkling in the distance before you see them.It’s a long day for the shepherd…7.30 in the morning to 7 in the evening. Each shepherd has 3 or 4 dogs to protect and herd the flock.

There are about 5,000 pairs of Storks in Bulgaria. Their arrival at the end of March is seen as an indication of the beginning of Spring. Bulgarians have great fondness and respect for Storks…they are associated with good luck and fertility.

Nests are never interfered with and it be considered very bad luck to kill a Stork. They have a great fondness for nesting on top of electricity poles. To protect the birds and stop them causing power outages special nesting platforms have been placed on top of the poles.

Small villages are dotted throughout the countryside. Always the same…stone and brick houses with red tile roofs. Most of the houses were built in the 50s by the Communist Government. Sadly many of the houses are now needing repairs but rural poverty means that the living conditions are less than we in the west would find acceptable. Bulgaria is now an independent republic.

Every town has a fruit and veg market. This one in the town of Elhovo is held twice weekly. The stalls are run by locals selling fresh local produce. Cherries were in season when we were there…so delicious. I bought a kilo for 6 leva. A lev is worth about 50 cent. Also on sale is the traditional drink Rakia. Made from Plums or Grapes it packs a punch but is delicious as a hot drink with honey. A brought home a couple of bottles for medicianal use in the Winter. No pleasure of course!!! The local honey is gorgeous too. Raw and unpasteurised…straight from the hives…just as Nature intended. I suppose that’s what I like most about Bulgaria…it is still pure and unspoilt…a bit like Ireland was 40 or so years ago.

Click on pics to enlarge.

The search for the Sacred Well.

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on April 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

Anyone know whats going on with WordPress? Anyone else out there having problems with visiting blogs or leaving comments on other WordPress blogs? Last week Blogs I Follow was changed to Reader…not accessible…to me anyway. This means that I can’t access blogs I follow or leave comments. Sorry folks…hopefully WordPress will sort this out soon!

 

To destress after that whinge I will share some pics from our woodland outing yesterday. We went to Deereen Wood, near Knockvicar where the Bluebells are in full bloom  at the moment. My pic does’nt do it justice but you get the idea.

Our quest yesterday was to find Toberdarragh Sacred Well. This required us to go deep into the woods, far off the beaten track. John Willmott, who leads the Poetree Walks had found the well on old ordnance survey maps.

 

After fighting our way through the undergrowth the woods opened out into a much clearer area of lovely mature Beech trees. On we went through the Fairy Ring…

 

stopping to admire the Bluebells which were only within the circle of the ring.

 

On we went past more beautiful Beeches… I do so love Beech trees.

 

Finally, thanks to John’s sense of direction and his trusty compass…we came to a broken down stone wall…over the still merry band went…and there was the well. Much overgrown and long disused we set to work immediately to clear the brambles and weeds choking this long forgetton but once important water source.

 

Fallen branches were cleared…

 

and willing hands remove the tangled mass of weeds. It’s amazing how quickly a few people working together can get a job done.  In the spirit of the  old ways this Poetree Walk had turned into a Meitheal. Meitheal is an Irish word for the once common practise of people working together…usually on farms…to help each other get the work done. Sadly now in Ireland Meitheal seems to be practised only by alternative living people or “hippies” as the locals would say. So be it….

Check in tomorrow for part 2 of the well clearing.

 

 

Chillin on a Saturday.

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on April 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Wild Violets are flowering in the hedgerow…

and Nasturtiums are self seeding like crazy in the polytunnel. I will spread these around here and there as they are great for attracting beneficial insects. Some will also go the school garden. Had a gardening free day today…only went out there for the morning walk around and opening the polytunnel.

After lunch we drove down to Lough Meelagh…about 5 miles away. The dogs came too as it’s a handy way for them to take a wash.

Freddie was’nt too impressed as the water is very cold still. Sorry Freddie!

The water level in the lake is very low right now as we have’nt had much rain for several weeks. The red on the trees shows the Winter level of the lake. The red is from

the iron content in the water of this mountain stream which feeds the lake at this point. The land around here is rich in naturally occuring iron.

Bright yellow Celandine in flower near the shore…soon it will be crowded out by the fast growth on the Reeds and  Horsetail…but not before it has finished flowering.

Most of the trees here are Alder and Willow…neither mind having wet feet when the Lough is higher. Shame to see rubbish here…next time I will bring gloves and a plastic sack to gather this up.

Soon it is time to head back home again…out through the wonderful fairy gates…take a right and on to Arigna.

Hope you all have a relaxing weekend. Happy Easter!

By Lough Meelagh’s shore.

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on March 27, 2012 at 12:13 am

The weather is beautiful here at the moment, 18-20c for the last few days. Sunday saw us once again in woodland. This time it was Knockranny Wood on the shores of  Lough Meelagh.

On this occasion the Poetree Walk was led by John Willmott from Ballinifad, Co. Sligo. John shared many of his poems with us over the course of the afternoon. John is a great character with a head full of stories, folklore and legends. He has a captivating way of telling a story which entrances the listener. John has made a Garden of Labyrinth’s at his home and visitors are welcome there. Check it out on www.celticways.com .

So many beautiful trees in this forest…this Beech infected with bracket fungus has started it’s slow decline.

Eventually we reached the shore line where John regailed us with stories of Orchard Island which can be seen in the distance. It is said to have once been home to St. Lasair and her father Ronan Mc Ninneadha, St. Ronan. It was a place of abundance with an apple orchard, bees and the Rose of Sweetness. Ireland’s Avalon as John called it.

The shoreline here is made up of these unusual rocks…I call them Moon rocks. So many wild plants growing here…Meadowsweet, Wild Mint and Primroses are in abundance.

Leaving the shoreline we walked across fields to St. Lasair’s Holy Well…

it is here that people still come to pray and drink the sweet, cool water that will cure their ailments. 

 

Further still we walked onto the so called Fairy House. This sits in what was once the grounds of Kilronan Castle. If you look closely you can see that the stones are the same as the Moon rocks from the shores of the nearby lough.

As we made our weary way back to the carpark the sun was setting and the evening chill was coming in. A beautiful end to a lovely afternoon.