On a walk the other day at Turlough Park, here in Co Mayo, I was reminded of Patti’s Lens Artist Photo Challenge for this week – Reflections.
One of the things that really make me happy is time spent with my family and particularly when this involves exploring nature, somewhere new. We had been to Ballycroy National Park before but this boardwalk trail we had only driven passed before.
The wooden boardwalk rises you slightly above the bog , so you can look down and admire the heathers and beautiful grasses in their winter browns and reds. Here and there bog pools are dotted and interpretation boards hint at what you may see on a summers day.
All around you can admire views of mountains, such as Claggan Moutain, (even if covered in low-lying mist) and the bay. In fact it is hard to imagine it as the sea as it seemed so calm. And you can also see why it would have been a favourite pirate hiding place in years gone by.
The boardwalk leads you to the sea shore where yet another surprise awaits. There in the water, and jutting out from the deep peat banks are ancient trees. Known as bog oak (though they may be oak, yew or pine) these tree fossils could be 5 or 6 thousand years old. They have basically been preserved in the acidic peat soil. Some, are slowly been colonised by seaweeds.
This is a special place. It is not just the spectacular scenery that make me happy but seeing these ancient trees is a powerful link to the past.
A couple of weeks ago we visited Balla Town Park. The park, managed by the local community, consists of a series of walks, we choose the fairy village trail.
The town was left land by a local landlord. In 2015, the community applied for a Neighbourwood scheme. An area of 35 acres of old estate wood was cleared of encroaching laurel and planted with 3000 young deciduous trees. These new trees, along with the existing old trees, now make a wonderful diverse woodland. The old trees include oak, beech and horse chestnut trees.
Well laid paths, benches, picnic table, tree trail and interpretation boards all add to the visitors experience. The fairy village including some lovely sculptured way markers, are a great addition particularly for the younger visitors. They are a great incentive for encouraging young ones to go for walks and explore. It is hoped to install a bird hide in the near future. Birds boxes and bats boxes have been erected and there are plenty brash piles for wildlife too.
The Neighbourwood scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. It aims to encourage communities to woodlands as a local community amenities.
Balla Town Park is a wonderful example of what can be done to create a great resource of local people and visitors.
Visiting Clare Island off the west coast of Ireland has been on my bucket list for a couple of years. We recently had the opportunity to visit the Island and even though it is January we decided to go. We were not disappointed.
Clare Island, is approximately 7km long and 4km wide, and lies 5km of the west coastal of Ireland. The highest point Knockmore (“An Cnoc Mór” in Irish, meaning great hill) is 462m. Today, there is a population of about 160 though many of the houses on the island are holiday homes.
We took the ferry from Roonagh pier, just outside Louisburg, on a cold but bright morning. The sea was choppy and hopping from the pier steps into the ferry had to be timed with the swell. Once all the passengers were safety on-board, the crew hoisted a trailer full of hay with the aid of a small crane. This was quickly followed by an ancient jeep.
In less than half an hour, we found ourselves alongside the Clare Island pier. We took the road heading west from the harbour, and part of the Clare Island loop walk. Looking inland the land rose to Knocknaveen. Out at sea, we could see the smaller island of Inishturk.
At this time of year, many of the facilities are closed but thanks to the hospitality of a local family we enjoyed some tea and hot chocolate, and also learned a little of Island life. There is only a primary school on the island so once children reach their teenager years they leave for secondary school on the Monday morning ferry, returning to the island on Friday evening.
We continued our walk, pausing for lunch, at the island abbey, unfortunately also closed for repair. There was then a steep climb along the road as we headed inland, but we had an extra treat of seeing an Irish hare! The land is grazed mostly by steep, with a few cattle, donkeys and ponies.
After crossing the interior of the island, we headed south-east back toward the harbour. Close to the pier stands a Tower House once owned by Grace O’Malley the famous pirate queen (whom I have written about previously).
We left the island on the 16.15 ferry back to the mainland. We were further blessed with a magnificent sunset over Inishturk and the sighting of three bottle-nosed dolphins (too far off to get a decent photo). I can safely say that we were all take by the beauty of the island and the hospitality of it’s inhabitants. And we hope to make a return journey later in the year.
As some of you will know one of our favourite family activities is a visit to the beach!
Even at this time of year, a beach walk brings much pleasure. The day was grey and perfectly calm, so the planned kite flying had to be abandoned. Still we enjoyed some beach art, rock jumping, fossil hunting, and I got to play with my camera. We even had a paddle, but it felt VERY cold!
From the shore of Beltra beach, you get to see Ireland’s pilgrim mountain, Croagh Patrick and looking out into Clew Bay you can see the hump-back shape of Clare Island. On the island is a 16th century Tower House or Castle which was one of the homes of the legendary pirate queen Grace O’Malley (in Irish Grainne ni Mhaille though she was also known as Granuaile). It is a place that is on our list of “places to visit”.
Before heading home we enjoyed our picnic, which included some warming pumpkin soup.