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In the Woods.

8 Mar

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Wouldn’t this be a nice entrance to one’s home…or maybe it’s a bit too pretentious for a country cottage! This is the old entrance to Kilronan Castle just outside the village of Keadue in County Roscommon. It was here we met today for the second Bards in the Woods of the year. The first was last week at Hazelwood near Sligo but I didn’t get to that one.

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Just beyond the entrance is this impressive folly which is known locally as the Fairy House. It is believed that it was used by the occupants of the castle as a place where they could play at being peasants. The roof is long gone as are the toffs in the castle. Very pretty isn’t it?  The castle has a new lease of life now as a popular hotel.

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As I waited for the others to arrive I walked a little by the shore of Lough Meelagh. Something so very soothing about the sound of lapping water.

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About a dozen people turned up  and we set off happily on our walk. The weather was ideal…sunny but not too warm.

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Spotted this Oak tree with what looks like a deer head growing out of it.

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At the place called The End of the World we rested a while and had a cup of tea.

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John recited a couple of his own compositions here.

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What more could a body want on a beautiful sunny Sunday? Beside a beautiful lake, listening to poetry, the company of good friends and a picnic when we returned to the folly. Perfection!

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A lovely Sunday in the woods!

Looking forward……

20 Jan

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Andy was here today so I ventured out for my first snow walk after being housebound for a week with a lung infection. I am still on antibiotics until Friday but I really feel back to normal again. Today the sky was overcast and really very dark all day. It looked like more snow was coming but it never happened and there was actually a good thaw today.

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I don’t fall into illness mode easily and do not spend time lying in bed. Instead I use the time indoors to get houseworky tasks done.  Friends sourced some organic Seville oranges at the bargain price of 2 euros per kilo. Four kilos of them have now been turned into delicious marmalade. It is a long process but so worth the effort. Home made marmalade is just a different experience to the mass produced stuff. One batch turned a dark brown colour just like Oxford marmalade.

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A little gardening was also done today. These scented Tulips were half price in the January sale at a local garden centre and couldn’t be resisted. A little late being planted but now in pots in the polytunnel they will soon catch up. I really want a lot more scent in the garden so that is one of the aspects I shall be focusing on this year. More beds for planting vegetables is also high on the to be done list.

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Still lots of greens in the tunnel. Rocket, Purslane and Spinach are a welcome addition to meals. The Spring Onions are a bit small yet but will grow quickly when the weather warms and the days grow longer.

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The Sun is still low enough in the sky to create interesting morning shadows however this evening there was still some light at 5.30. So looking forward to Spring and the year ahead. A few trips planned but not to be revealed as yet!

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The view down the lane is bleak today but before long everything will be clothed in green again. Looking forward to that time. For me Winter is something that has to be tolerated to get to the glory days of Spring and Summer again. That is my time!

 

 

These Wintry Days.

15 Jan
Snow covered Hawthorn.

Snow covered Hawthorn.

The weather is throwing everything it has in it’s arsenal at us here in Ireland at the moment. In the last few days we have had: torrential rain, thunder and lightning, high winds, frost and snow. The snow was beautiful but it was washed away after a day by the heavy rain. Didn’t even walk in the snow this year as I am lying low at the minute with a lung infection. The first lot of antibiotics didn’t work so I’m now on the 2nd lot plus steroids. That should knock it on the head.  Hopefully!

Snowy garden.

Snowy garden.

Despite the inconvenience of it I do love the snow. It makes everything look so fresh and pristine. I love being the first one to leave my footprint there. Makes me feel like I am walking on virgin ground. I love how it changes the light too, so bright and at night it gives everything a blueish hue.

Log stash.

Log stash.

It’s certainly the time to keep the home fires burning. I always keep this cupboard under the verandah stocked with logs as an emergency supply. During the day I keep the range in the kitchen going as this heats the radiators and provides hot water. At night I retire to the sitting room and light the little wood burner there. It gets so warm that I usually have to open the door.

Snow covered Birches.

Snow covered Birches.

There’s lots of indoor projects to work on when I feel a little better. There’s a pile of material ready to be turned into a patchwork quilt, oranges to be turned into marmalade, doors on cupboards to be repainted and a multitude of other tasks to fill these Winter days. If the weather suddenly turns to Spring my mind shall stray to outdoor activities. Lets see what the rest of the month brings!

 

Fracking Ireland…here it comes.

1 Jun

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Earlier this week we heard the dreaded news that fracking is to go ahead in Ireland. Tamboran is to drill 3 test wells near Belcoo in County Fermanagh starting sometime this month.  This is in Northern Ireland which is under the jurisdiction of the UK government but I’m afraid pollution and destruction of our lands and water do not recognise political boundaries on a solid land mass. Isn’t it a sad situation that we have to fight our governments to try and protect our environment. Surely it is the job of government to protect the people it is meant to be serving rather than kow towing to the will of corporations.

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Our beautiful Ireland is to be offered up on the altar of greed and money and damn the consequences. We must try and defend her otherwise we are complicit in these acts of vandalism.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt:

“Here is your country. Cherish those natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of it’s beauty, it’s riches or it’s romance.”

It seems we will soon have to try and protect our cherished land.

Bards in the Woods at the Cavan Burren.

26 May

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Yesterday our Bards in the Woods gathering was at the newly opened Cavan Burren park. We had been to the park previously but it is now much improved with new roads and pathways and an unmanned interpretive  centre. There’s even some very clean public loos…

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and a covered picnic area.

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Spirits were high as we set off. Usually the views from here are amazing but yesterday was a very mizzly (mix of mist and drizzle) day.  A lot of money has been spent here…almost a million…and it’s still free to the public. Great new path here to this previously inaccessible area.

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Soon we were at Tullygobban Hill Wedge Tomb.

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Soon the bards and singers were in fine voice. Poems and songs came thick and fast. First class entertainment. In between there was lots of chatting…about the history and folklore of the place and of course catching up with people we hadn’t seen in ages.

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Our next stop was at the Boulder Grave. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of cremated remains here. Ancient rock art on the front of this huge stone.

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Lots of other huge boulders here too. These are glacial erratics which would have been dropped by the receding ice as the Ice Age came to an end. There’s also a spring well nearby.

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Interesting rock art here too…

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plus some dodgy looking fertlers hanging about. Only kidding! That’s my husband Andy and Tony Cuckson who played guitar and sang as we all had our picnic later. Such a beautiful voice he has too. The dog is called Obe. He is deaf and is reputed to be able to see the fairy folk.

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At this point the group split in two. Some people went on the steep climb up to the Giant’s Grave while the rest of us went to the more accessible Calf House Dolmen.

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The name calf house is because this was used at one point to house small farm animals. Originally the large slab would have sat on top of uprights to resemble a table. This monument is also known as the Druid’s Altar.

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Here Jan entertained us with a wonderful story about a witch called Alys.

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People are said to have lived in this place continuously until the 1960s.

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Beautiful stone walls here. I wonder how long since these were constructed? Lovely Beech trees too.

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Another shot of Tony and Obe the fairy dog.

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Hart’s Tongue Fern.

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This sinkhole has only been discovered recently. It is well fenced off for safety.

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After a couple of hours we were feeling peckish so back to the picnic area where a great spread was laid. Everyone brings a contribution for the picnic table. We had salad, sandwiches, hummus, olives and a multitude of sweet offerings. I made an Orange and Almond cake which you can see in the pic. It was all devoured gratefully in the midst of chat and song. A fitting end to a lovely afternoon at this special place.

The Cavan Burren Park is part of the Marble Arch Global Geopark and is recognised by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). It comprises 124 hectares on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain. Megalithic tombs, hut sites, rock art, stone walls and glacial erratics survive here from pre-historic times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The May garden.

18 May

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The Spring flowers have retreated  and the early Summer flowers have taken centre stage. These Aquilegias or Granny’s Bonnets as the are commonly known are short lived but so pretty right now.  Dead heading will keep them flowering a little longer but by high Summer their time is over. They are easily raised from seed or from division of the clumps.

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Rosa Rugosa is about to show it’s first fragrant blooms. It will continue to produce them right up to Autumn followed by large bright red hips. These are very high in Vitamin c and can be used in jellies and syrup.

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There’s been a lot of rain this past week so everything is looking beautifully fresh and green. Purple Alliums add a lovely dash of colour. Must do a bit of weeding here…pretend you don’t see those Dandelion heads.

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Valerian is waiting in the wings. I love it’s tall gangly habit that allows one to see through it to the plants behind . Nice pink flower too. I do tend to have a lot of pinks and purples in the garden. Purple is my alltime fave colour.

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It’s looking good for some Blueberries later on in the season. One of my fave fruits…nothing to do with them being purple!

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In the conservatory Geraniums (or  are they Pelargoniums) are producing lots of flowers.

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In the polytunnel all the new season crops are in. The Swiss Chard had to come out to make room for Courgettes and Beans. I’m always reluctant to take out crops that are still producing but this would have gone to seed soon anyway. Salads and Spring Onions are cropping now. There’s nothing like those first salad pickings. Broad Beans will be ready soon.

Outside the Setanta potatoes have been planted. These are supposed to be blight resistant and very floury. Kale, Red Cabbage and Onions are also in the ground.

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Round the pond Andy has built a dry stone wall. Doesn’t it look good?

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On the lane all is fresh and bright and green once again.

 

 

 

 

 

Clogher stone fort.

10 May

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After our explorations at Coolavin House (see previous post) we decided to visit Clogher Stone Fort. Just down the road it is on the lands of the Coolavin Estate.

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The entrance is under the stone arch and through this lovely iron gate. I believe this is called a kissing gate.

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A short walk through an area with some lovely trees…mostly Beeches…brings one to the fort.

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Sitting atop the hill in all it’s glory is the ancient fort.

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The walls are 15 feet thick and about 10 feet high. It would have taken a lot of labour to build this so it would have belonged to a fairly wealthy family. It is estimated to have been built about 2,000 years ago.

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It would have been built for defensive purposes. ..the family  living in huts within the compound. Amazing to think that 2,000 years ago our ancestors would have been climbing these steps to survey the countryside for friend or foe on the horizon.

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There are 2 souterrains within the fort. Souterrains are believed to have been used to store perishable foodstuffs and as hiding places during raids. These ones are also said to lead on to tunnels which emerge about a mile away.

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We really had a lovely time here amongst the trees and the stones…two of my favourite things.

 

 

 

 

Exploring.

9 May

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Whilst driving to Sligo from Ballaghaderreen a few weeks ago I spotted the above sign.  A Victorian Gothic Mansion for sale! Had to be checked out! A few enquiries revealed that the house was empty. The last resident had passed away a few years ago.

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With my friend Justine in tow off we went to check it out. Well if I won the lottery I could be a potential purchaser!  Isn’t it just beautiful? Built in 1850 Coolavin House is  in great repair even though it looks like not much has been done to it since it was built. Even the windows are original…

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and all the beautiful cast iron gutters are intact.

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Beautiful archway and front door.

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Lots of lovely antiques visible through the windows.

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This stuffed bird has seen better days.

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If only old places could tell their stories. I’m sure this place has many a tale to tell.

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Really enjoyed looking round this old place. Could even imagine living there…

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but the reality is I didn’t win the lottery…actually as usual I forgot to buy a ticket…and the place is already sale agreed. C’est la vie!

Bealtaine thoughts.

30 Apr

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It seems appropriate that the rain arrived today on Bealtaine Eve. April was blissful with mild sunny weather almost all the way. However all the dry weather meant that the land was verging on dryness.  Fruit trees are laden with blossom…so nice to see.  The fresh new green lifts one’s heart. Green is after all the colour of the heart chakra.

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In days gone by Bealtaine was a time of hard work for country people. Turf had to be cut, crops planted and animals turned out to pasture. Fires were lit on hilltops in celebration and also as a protection ritual for people and animals.  People had a strong belief in evil spirits  and fairies coming to do mischief. A  Gorse bush would be placed above the door of the dwelling house for protection. Like Samhain this is the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.                                                                                                                                                   I must admit I did feel joy when the rain came today. Andy and I had just spent the morning planting out shrubs and perennial flowers and rain was just the ticket to water them in and get them off to a good start. No amount of watering is equal to a nice soft shower of Irish rain.

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So for now it only remains for me to wish a happy, fruitful Bealtaine and beyond to all who visit here.  Get out into Nature if you can and absorb the vibrancy of it. The energy is tangible and invigorating. Everything smells so fresh and new. Birds are singing and Bees are buzzing. Joy oh joy!  Happy Bealtaine and beyond to all who visit here.

Sunny Easter days.

21 Apr

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The weather here has been great for weeks now. However the last week has seen temperatures rise to 18c. Perfect weather for being outdoors. The Daffodils are just finished blooming  but the Primroses are playing a blinder this year.

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Freddie loves the hot weather…his new fave place to sit is on this leatherette chair in the conservatory. It gets really hot when it’s sunny but he just loves it.

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The heat has ensured plants have put on a great growth spurt. Lots of things in flower a bit earlier than usual. Delighted that our Lemon is about to flower. Apparently the scent is lovely.

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Geraniums are also in flower… this one is  lemon scented.

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The Fig is also showing the promise of fruit…

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and the Grapevine has put on a lot of fresh growth.

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This Kiwi was planted in the conservatory by the previous owners. It was far too rampant so we dug it up and put it in a pot to see if it would resprout in the Spring.  As you can see it has sprung into life. It is now planted on the south facing wall of the shed where hopefully it will do well.

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Andy put up a trellis for it to climb onto and the overhang of the roof should give some extra protection. I’ll be well pleased if we get some Kiwis. All for me as Andy doesn’t like them.

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We had friends from Finland staying with us for a couple of days over the weekend and on Good Friday we went on a bog walk from Knockvicar Organic Garden to Cloonakilty Castle on the shore of Lough Key.

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Andy and Katri managed to get inside the castle…

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while Don and I relaxed in the sunshine. Restoration work was started on this castle a few years ago…there was even talk of a recording studio…but alas it has lain unfinished for several years now. A lovely place to explore though.

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On Easter Saturday we went to visit my friend Charlie in Manorhamilton. What could be better on a hot sunny day than sitting on the verandah with a friend gazing at beautiful Magnolias in bloom.

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Such beautiful flowers. I shall have to think about getting a Magnolia for our garden. Is it possible to be in love with a flower? I think I am!

Hope you too had a wonderful weekend.

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