As 2014 draws to a close, here are just a few of my highlights of my growing gardening year.
On Saturday last, we went on another one of our favourite local walks. It goes from Drummin wood just east of Foxford and joins with another part of the Foxford Way, which I have written about before (https://murtaghsmeadow.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/foxford-way-at-laughil/). It was cool, though the sun came out between the showers of rain and sleet. The walk starts at Lough Cullin.
We climbed through the mixed woodland of Drummin Wood. At the top of the first hill, conifer trees were cleared last year, leaving just the broadleaf and a lovely view of the lake.
The path then joins an old track (part of Foxford Way), that leads uphill. At this time of year, there are a couple of beautifully decorated ‘Christmas’ trees here.
The track continues to climb and at the top we got a great view of Nephin, one of our higher Mayo Mountains. The photo below is from 2013, as this year the mountain was not as clear due to the rain clouds, though it was similarly snow topped.
On the way back down we got a lovely view of the hills around Foxford. And the kids loved running down the grassy track.
There were more clouds rolling in as we reached the end of the walk. The lake is quite high at the moment – some of the willow trees are under a few feet of water, though this is not unusual for this time of year. It was a great morning out and it used up some of those extra Christmas calories.
Finally the winter solstice. From tomorrow day light will lengthen and there are thoughts of the new growing season to look forward to. Even in the garden there are signs of new beginnings. This daisy, though admittedly closed tight against the elements, was in flower four days ago.
Wishing you all a good solstice and festive season.
Today, while out re-planting some spring bulbs (something had dug or pulled them up – I suspect a blackbird) I noticed a small bird upside down on the ground. Initially, I thought it was dead, but on closer inspection realised it was still alive. I gently turned it upright and it sat for a few brief moments on my gloved finger. It was a goldfinch. It is so amazing to see tiny birds up close, the patterns and rich colouring of their feathers are so exquisite. I assumed the poor thing had crashed into one of our kitchen windows, a not irregular occurrence and one that has resulted in a few casualties over the years. The bird was obviously a bit traumatized. I looked for a safe and dry spot to place it, also hoping that I may get a chance to take a photograph before it flew off. I tried to encourage it from my finger onto the little gate post next to the house but instead it flew off and landed a short distance away on a rock.
I went to get the camera and managed to get a few reasonable photos. I did feel guilty taking it’s picture while it was obviously still distressed and my presence was probably not helping matters.
I checked on it a while later with the kids and it was still there. I like the kids getting a close view of any wildlife and was reminded of a quote from book I am currently reading called Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary by Ester Woolfson. In the book, she quotes the English philosopher John Locke from a treatise he wrote in 1692, “I think that people should be accustomed, from their cradles, to be tender to all sensible creatures, and to spoil or waste nothing at all.” While the City of Aberdeen is the urban backdrop to her book, Ms Woolfson examines our relationship with nature, particularly with some of animals that are ‘looked down upon’ by the majority of the human race like rats, slugs and pigeons.It’s a well written and engaging read and I would encourage anyone to read it.
I am glad to report that the goldfinch did later fly away. I hope it survives. Goldfinches, along with chaffinches and greenfinches are all regular visitors to our bird feeders in the winter, though their natural diet is grass and other seeds.
It’s cold, wet and very windy outside. Yesterday, it hardly seemed to get bright all day. Everyone was commenting on how dark it was. I’m really looking forward to getting to the other side of the winter solstice! So as it was not a week to try and get new photographs, I’m looking back at some old ones.
I love trees. Any kind of tree but especially big ones! Here is just a taste of some of my favourites. This one is at Raheens Wood, which I have blogged about before (https://murtaghsmeadow.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/bluebells-and-woodlands/). In fact, you can see it is more than one tree. I told the kids that fairies lived there – it just seems like perfect fairy habitat.
The photograph below was taken last April at Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon. It’s a maple tree. You can see the fresh leaves just opening, a nice reminder of spring.
And, even though not big, this old hawthorn and ivy are so beautiful.
The walk we did on Sunday is part of the Foxford Way, a long distance walk (56 miles) though some of our stunning Mayo countryside. The great thing about the walk is that you can do little sections of it and this is what we did. This section of the walk starts just west of Pontoon Bridge. It follows a track through an area of bog/heath. This area was planted with a conifer plantation some time ago but thankfully someone realized this was a mistake as it was an area of old woodland, so the conifer plantation was cleared. As far as I can tell the area is left now for nature to takes it course. Already birch and willow trees are coming back and hopefully oak and hazel will return over time.
The place-name is Laughil, in Irish na Leathchoille. Leath can mean half or side and Coille is a wood. Looking at old ordnance survey maps this area was wooded since at least the 1840’s. Once you get past the area of that has been cleared you find old oak trees, covered in moss and lichens, hazel too is abundant, and holly. There is moss, everywhere.
And lichens, including this one Lobaria pulmonaria, an indicator lichen for old woodlands.