Month: July 2017

Mt Congreve gardens in July

Mount Congreve is usually a tranquil place, but not today as hundreds of young treasure hunters and their families have gathered here for an action-packed event. I cannot resist a 99 cone with a flake, and after a short inner debate find myself at the end of a long line.

Mount Congreve

Even the Garda special forces are looking for something delicious.

The cone is gone in a flash, and I don’t feel like looking for any other treasures. I make my way up to The Temple to visit the resting place of Ambrose Congreve, the man who has created this amazing garden on the banks of River Suir.

I get caught in prickly shoots of unknown plant stretched across the path. The leaves look so neat. I wish I knew the name.

I also come across a blooming rhododendron. A late bloomer indeed.

A set of steps takes me to another level.

Blue Hydrangeas are gloving under the dark canopy.

Finally I see the sun again. Love the play of light on the Rhododendron trunks.

This is a cousin of our ordinary Linden ( Lime) tree.  Tilia henryana was named so after the Irish sinologist Augustine Henry who discovered the tree in 1888. Henry was born in Dundee into a family from Co Tyrone.

I am leaving the shady woodland garden to enjoy the bright colors of the walled garden.

I have a love-hate relationship with Dahlias 🙂 My mother used to grow a variety of Dahlias and we had a good few shelves filled with tubers in our cool room. I am absolutely fascinated with the flowers, but the smell of the stems makes me sick. Also, one of my chores was to take care of displays of cut flowers in our house, and I remember being so frustrated that dahlias made the vase water stink just in a couple of hours while the flower itself could last like forever. Still, Dahlia is one of my garden favorites.

Thank you for walking in the garden with me. This visit had a funny ending I will write about next time. Have a wonderful weekend!

Saltee Islands – All Things Beautiful

As I said in my previous post, to get to the Gannet place we have to first cross the Black-backed gull land. Great Black-backed gull is the largest of the gulls, and is described as a “merciless tyrant”. They can be fierce and aggressive at their nests, but I have no intention to bother them, and I know there are no chicks that early in the year. The gulls are perched on the rocks and become agitated as I get closer. Apparently they don’t understand the message I am sending them with my body language. One of them is trying to attack me. I keep walking and pretend I don’t hear, so he finally leaves me alone and returns to his rock. I turn around and take a picture 🙂 Then I hurry away.

Saltee Island Great

Just before the Cat Cliff comes into sight, I see another Black-backed gull with a tiny crab in its bill.

Black-backed gull

Finally I reach the Cat Cliff. This place always makes me emotional and fills me with reverence for the mystery of life. Beautiful big birds are so vulnerable here keeping the eggs warm, protecting the young.

Saltee Island Great

While climbing down the cliff, I have to pass by a clan of European Shags whose matriarch is an ill-tempered bird that starts hissing way before I come close. This year her young and very shy son finally has his own family. Now there are three nests altogether. I didn’t want to bother the hissing mama and the shy lad, and took a few pictures of the third Shag with two chicks and a Razorbill in background. Shag looks similar to Cormorant, but they are two different birds, easily distinguished from each other: Shag is smaller and has emerald green eyes and green sheen on the feathers. Also the European Shag’s tail has 12 feathers and the Great Cormorant’s 14 feathers. European Shag chicks hatch over a two day interval – it is why one chick looks much bigger than the other.

Saltee Island Great

These two Gannets are familiar to me. Their nests are perched at the very edge of the cliff so I always have to pass by them.

Saltee Island Great

I make myself comfortable on a big flat rock, and when the Gannets take off and land I feel like on Maho beach 😉


Saltee Island Great

This is not a fight, but an act of affection 🙂

Saltee Island Great

A perfect bird.

Saltee Island Great

Synchronized flight.

Saltee Island Great

Watching gannet landings, I forget about time.




I would sit on that rock and admire the gannets until dark, but it is time to start moving as the boat is back in an hour.

I safely pass the Black-backs territory and stop at the highest point to enjoy the beautiful view. You can see the Little Saltee in background.

Saltee Island Great

I walk through the carpets of blue and white.

And of course, Sea Pink.

Oystercatcher’s loud, panicked voice calls me back from my daydreams.

I take one last glance around. This is the Makestone, the largest islet at the southern side of the Great Saltee.

Makestone Islet

Little Saltee looks close when zoomed out. In fact, the channel between the islands is about a mile wide and 30 f deep.

At this time of the year, puffins spend most of their time at sea. I have only seen four puffins during this trip. They will return later, after we leave the island. I am glad they are safe here.

Saltee Island Great

Saltee Island Great

An Crosan – The Razorbill – will take us back to Kilmore Quay. Two seals bathing in shallow waters are not afraid of Cap’n Declan and his dinghy.

Saltee Island Great

Thank you for visiting, exploring and discovering all things beautiful. Hope you put Saltee Islands in your itinerary for next June.

Saltee Island Great Have a wonderful week!

Saltee Islands – the colours of May

Kilmore Quay

This time I visited Great Saltee island in May, a month earlier than I usually do.  Kilmore Quay marina is busy as always, and Razorbill, the boat we will travel on, is moored at her usual place near the slipway.

I have a couple of minutes to take a few pictures. Love the name of this fishing boat 🙂 Once again I remember my good intention to purchase myself an inflatable float vest… Next time for sure!

Kilmore quay

The sea is smooth, and our 5 km trip lasts only 15 minutes.

“All people young and old, are welcome to come, see and enjoy the islands, and leave them as they found them for the unborn generations to come see and enjoy.”    Michael the First

Great Saltee

Michael the First, then farmer’s son Michael Neale, bought the islands in 1943.

“It was never my intention to make a profit from these islands.  Day visitors are welcome to come and enjoy at no cost.  Bird watchers will always remain welcome.”  Michael the First

From the bird’s view Obelisk is in the shape of the Maltese Cross. Each side of the Obelisk has inscriptions, and on the front, under the image of the Prince, it reads:

“Nothing is impossible to the man who can, will, then do. / This is the only law of success. This monument was erected by Prince Michael the First as a symbol to all children that be hard work, perseverance, their dreams and ambitions  may also be realised”.

Saltee Islands

The Chair, or the Throne, is dedicated to his mother.

” This chair is erected in memory of my mother to whom I made a vow when I was ten years old that one day I would own the Saltee Islands and become the First Prince of the Saltees. Henceforth, my heirs and successors can only proclaim themselves Prince of these Islands by sitting in this chair fully garbed in the robes and crown of the Islands and take the Oath of Succession”. Michael the First

Saltee Islands

The Islands have a long history and they used to be inhabited and farmed. There is a rumor that the Islands were accidentally made by the Devil himself while he was being chased by St Patrick. The evil creature took two handfuls of rocks from the Comeragh Mountains between Lemybrian and Kilmacthomas,  and then dropped them on the run in the Celtic Sea.  St Patrick built a causeway, just a mile from Kilmore Quay, to connect the islands to the mainland. It is dangerous to swim around the St Patrick’s causeway because of the very strong riptides. When the tide is in, the causeway is almost completely submerged. Don’t try to walk in the shallow water – the current is very strong and will sweep you off your feet.

But let’s get to the point. I am here to see the puffins 🙂

Saltee Islands



This trip was different, and I only saw four puffins. Every year they return to the same place.

I took off across the island to see the Gannets. The island looks beautiful in May. Bluebells and Sea Campions painted it in blue and white.

Saltee Islands

Saltee Islands

I saw two Eurasian Rock Pipit couples in exactly the same place as the year before.

Saltee Islands

Rock Pipit

I also saw unusually many Cinnabar butterflies, all over the place. On a closer inspection, they were all dead! This one was being consumed by a spider…

The path turned to the edge of the cliff. This is a young Lesser Black-backed gull.

Gracious Guillemots don’t mind posing for a picture.


Saltee Islands

I am approaching the highest point of the island. An almost vertical climb will take me to the land of Great Black-backed gulls. More pictures next week.

Thank you for your company! You are the best.

Saltee Islands

Here you can find some of my previous post about Saltee Islands.

2014, 2015, 2016 Have a wonderful week!

Anne Valley Walk

Anne Valley Trail is one of the overlooked treasures of Waterford county. I have written about the trail before. This is what I found on my last visit.

Rushes were swaying to and fro rustling in the wind, and I noticed a tiny ladybug feasting on something that looked like a caterpillar.

Yellow dung fly sat chilling on the young fern frond. Don’t be misled by the name – adult dung flies spend most of their time hunting small insects in vegetation.

Furled fronds of young ferns look like cute little animals.

This one looks like a furry snake 🙂

Larches sport the most beautiful shade of  green.

I check on every blackbird I see in case it is a Red billed chough. There is a couple of them living in the Anne Valley. I saw one last year, but it quickly disappeared in bushes before I grabbed my camera.

The blackbird is quietly following me as I walk.

Finally he shows himself for long enough to take a picture. Funny, curious bird.

Song Thrush young keep together.

This scared baby is a juvenile Robin. A clumsy dove landed on his tree and he moved closer to where I sit. I feel good 🙂

Warbler ignores me as if I don’t exist.

I took pictures of some simple but beautiful flowers.

This insect is trying to look like a wasp, but it has only one pair of wings and quite a wide waist which gives away its true identity : it is a Syrphid fly.

A group of swans, some of them last year’s cygnets, are floating near the island in the middle of the pond where they will spend the night.

Four ducks, survivors of the family of ten, didn’t want to be photographed.

The swans are finally getting ready for the night, and I am heading home.

One more picture of Foxglove before I drive away.

Thank you for joining me for this walk.  Have a wonderful week ahead!

Mount Congreve Gardens II


The Gardens are the life work of Mr. Ambrose Congreve. His life was colourful in any sense of the word.

Young Ambrose was sent to school at Eton where he met his roommate and life-long friend Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond spy novels. They both collaborated in the school magazine The Wyvern.

During the World War II, both friends served as intelligence officers. Ambrose Congreve served in Air Intelligence for Plans and in Bomber Command, and later in the Ministry of Supply.

A brilliant businessman, Ambrose Congreve was working for Unilever in England and China, and ran Humphreys & Glasgow firm when he took over from his father-in-law Arthur G. Glasgow (from 1939 to 1983). During this time the workforce increased from less than 100 to more than 3000. Foreseeing the global economic crisis, he sold the company and his holding of stocks and shares in the 1980’s. Much of the proceeds went to charities and literary prizes, the rest was invested in the estate. Wholesale nursery added to the funds necessary to maintain the gardens and house.

Mount Congreve

Liveried servants, fine chefs de cuisine, gorgeous Rolls Royce Phantom V1, collection of the finest items of art… and one of the best gardens of the world that took almost a hundred years to plant.

He employed Albert Roux, the chef who later co-founded Le Gavroche restaurant in London; his Rolls Royce was driven by the Queen Mother’s former chauffeur; his London house in the courtyard of St James’s Palace was next door to Prince Charles; he was a friend of Lionel de Rothschild ( his mentor in gardening), Winston Churchill, and Aristotle Onassis.

His 70 employees gave him a special and thoughtful gift for his 100th birthday – a Wollemi Pine.  


In the beginning of April, there are only a few Camellias in bloom .


Most of the flowers are laying on the ground at different stages of decay.

The variety and number of Azaleas are overwhelming.

Mount Congreve

Mount Congreve

There are 16 miles of paths in the gardens.

Mount Congreve

Snowy flowers and the bright flame of the new shoots  – Pieris fills up the gaps between the twisted Rhododendron trunks.

Mount Congreve

Mount Congreve

River Suir.

Mount Congreve

Bluebell path.

Mount Congreve

Magnolia walk. There are about 200 tree Magnolias planted by Ambrose Congreve and his long-time head gardener Herman Dool who came from Holland. It was their secret – to plant numerous trees instead of 1-2 to make the garden look so spectacular.

Michael White is the current curator of the Mount Congreve Gardens.

Mount Congreve

Another long-leaved Rhododendron.


One more Azalea. I have shared just a tiny slice of the collection.


Some birds.

Thank you for visiting Mount Congreve Gardens with me. It is sad that we won’t see the tall figure of Mr. Congreve. He and his wife are buried at the temple overlooking River Suir. Have a wonderful week!