Ireland

Cheekpoint

I have written about River Suir before. Two latest Little Island posts gave me idea of following the river a little further. On the map below you see the Little Island pointing to the green chunk of land with the river coiled around it. It is the point where the rivers Barrow and Nore meet their sister Suir and together start their final journey to the sea.

I don’t even have to write much – Cheekpoint has a resident blogger and author Andrew Doherty 

You see a couple of pins on the map. They mark the places where my pictures were taken from. I will add some commentary, but most of the information I am going to share with you has come from Andrew’s blog Waterford Harbour Tides and Tales.

To get to Cheekpoint, we make a right turn from the Passage East Road, Waterford, and keep to the left under the bridge. The first thing you notice is a ruin surrounded by trees and ivy that is not marked on my map. The ruin is not a tower or castle but a mill that ceased to operate in the 1930-s.  Delahunty’s Mill is a silent relic of the industrial past of the land.


After Strongbow arrived in Waterford harbour in 1170, Henry II landed in Passage East the following year and granted strategically important lands surrounding the harbour to Juvenis Aylward, a merchant from Bristol who provided financial support to the expedition. The lands remained in the Aylward family for 450 years and went to the Cromwellian ‘officer of Dragoons’ Captain William Bolton in 1667. His descendants had been farmers, politicians and businessmen who built Faithlegg House, established Cheekpoint village, port, cotton manufactory and hofiery ( read about the Stocking Frame here), lime kilns and mills. They planted a forest, drained and walled salt marshes, improved the roads; Cheekpoint Packet Station run by Captain Thomas Owen commenced in 1787 and flourished until the end of Napoleonic Wars.


When we emerge from under the bridge, there is an old building on our left, Jack Meade’s bar. Their beer garden looks very attractive, and they also have two 19th century lime kilns and an ice house in the grounds. The bar dates back to 1705 and belongs to the present family since 1857.

We follow the Cheekpoint road and turn left after a couple of miles to Faithlegg Golf Club .

Cornelius Bolton inherited the Faithlegg estate in 1779. Being a prominent Waterford businessman and politician he built a stately house ( the architect is believed to be John Roberts). Unfortunately, with the end of Napoleonic Wars most of his investments failed and he had to sell the house to Nicholas Power and retire to his Waterford residence. Nicholas adorned the House with his family crest – the Stag head. In 1935 the House was sold and became a De La Salle college; in 1998 – a golf club and hotel.

We return to the main road and stop at the Faithlegg Church and graveyard. There is a ruin of a nave and chancel of the church that was possibly built in the 13th-14th century, however there are written records of this church in the 12th century. The difference in masonry of the front and back part of the ruin indicates that there are indeed two churches – one built in Romanesque style, and the other in a later Venetian Gothic style. The ruin is preserved by the efforts and financial help of community.

There is also a newer church that dates from 1826 and is still in use. This is a 1928 image of it from https://tidesandtales.ie/old-faithlegg-churc/. The spire was erected by Nicholas Power. The church looks pretty much the same except for the shrubbery and ivy which are gone now.

In the church graveyard there is a number of remarkable graves, like the grave of William Doyle who sailed the globe with Captain Cook. There is also Thomas Francis Meagher family vault.

We continue along the Cheekpoint road and turn left, up the Minaun Hill. A short walk from the car park takes us to the top. The views are spectacular. Dunbrody Abbey in the picture below is just a couple of miles away, but they say you can see seven counties from here on a clear day.

Numerous steep trails take you around the hill so that you have a 360° view. This is Port of Waterford.

This is the Faithlegg House with Little Island in background. You can see the black&white tower if you zoom closer.

A massive piece of volcanic rock  – The Cromwell’s Table – is a popular viewpoint. If you are tall enough you might see Saltee Islands from here. In the picture below you see the estuary and the village of Passage East. We will get there in the end of this blog.

The Rhododendron Walk is another beautiful and mysterious place. It stretches on the north part of the Minaun, closer to the Waterford port on the other side of the river. I had a blood-chilling experience while walking there alone in twilight last year. I even have a horror video from that walk, but cannot figure out how to post it in WordPress. So I will keep this story for the future use.

After all the walks and sight-seeings we finally reach the Cheekpoint village. This elegant red brick building, now a family home, used to be another Cornelius Bolton’s enterprise – a Coaching Inn. Daisybank House has a long history of which you can read about in Andrew’s blog.

Here are some pictures of Cheekpoint port and strand taken in different years.

The following eight pictures are taken from the strand.

Fog is a frequent occurrence in Cheekpoint.

Cheekpoint fishing weirs have a long history. Here you can learn the difference between Head weirs and Scotch weirs, and read about the Weir Wars.

Barrow railway bridge was opened in 1906 and closed in 2010. Nearly mile long, it has 13 spans one of which opens to let the yachts pass under the bridge. Sad that this beauty has no practical use anymore, but being an important landmark it is very appreciated among photographers.

A flock of Godwits are picking lugworms at low tide.

With SMARTPLY manufacturing site in background, we walk to the end of the strand towards the Rookery.

All the buildings in the Rookery are unique. The time has stopped there long ago.

This house was built by Cornelius Bolton junior in 1786-1800. The house comes with the quay, dock and walled garden. I have read that the fishing weirs used by the owner’s family were built by Cistercian monks in 1177.

The house was for sale at the time of my visit, so I went to the quay and took this picture.

This is the dock and remains of the ancient fishing weirs. I fell in love with the place. I think it has been sold by now 🙂

Here are some closer pictures of the Barrow Bridge.

This is what Cheekpoint and Minaun Hill look like from the opposite bank.

In the picture below you see the Russian Side – the east part of Cheekpoint. The twin stacks on the right belong to the Great Island power station sitting across the river like a sore thumb. In my previous pictures I made sure to keep it out of frame. The picture was taken from the Wexford side of the river. I don’t know the story of the abandoned boat. You can see it in Google Earth.

Besides photography, there is another cool thing you can do in Cheekpoint: ship watching.

Up to twenty ocean liners used to visit Waterford annually. Only the larger ones drop anchor at Dunmore East – the other ships continue to the Port of Waterford at Belview, passing Cheekpoint on the way.

On my last visit in September I was lucky to observe Pacific Princess departing from Port of Waterford. I was on my way home when I caught a glimpse of the liner through the gap between the trees. I took a few pictures and hurried to Passage East.

For those who remember the name – it is not THAT Pacific Princess. The ship featured in the romantic comedy series The Love Boat was purchased by Turkish shipbreaking company Cemsan in 2012 and obviously ceased to exist. This Princess was built in 2002.

Princess Cruises have a history of ‘deliberated pollution’ – illegal waste discharge, but it seems that Pacific Princess has no major problems with environmental compliance.

I arrived to Passage East just in time to hear the ship horn blast as she passed the village and continued through the estuary to the Irish Sea. The passage from Belview to the sea is approximately 1.5 hours.

Thank you for joining me on this walk around Cheekpoint and Faithlegg. We will return to River Suir to walk the 20 km long Blue Way, this time in County Tipperary.

  Have a happy week!

 

New brother

First the sad news. Sweet Minnie the fox followed her sister Grainne to the Rainbow Bridge at the age of eleven. Last time I saw her she was weaker than usual. She died in her sleep like Grainne. Both had a long and happy life.

Run free in heaven, you beautiful girls! 

These are links to some of my blog posts about the Fox Man Pat Gibbons from County Kilkenny and his foxes:

https://inesemjphotography.com/2015/08/04/all-creatures/

https://inesemjphotography.com/2014/07/26/thomastown-fox-news/

https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/01/27/pat-and-his-foxes/

 

And here is another little soul who needed love and care. Meet Gorta, a 14 weeks old cub named after the famous Kilkenny hurler Martin Comerford’s nickname. In Irish, Gorta means Famine.

Gorta is different colour than the other foxes. He is peach-and-silvery grey with red goggles.

We are sitting outside and Gorta is sniffing the air and perking his ears. His nose never stops moving.

He smelled the ducks grazing in the garden and licked his lips.

A passing car startled him…

…so he did exactly what any other scared baby would do – reached for safety and pressed his little body to Pat.

A universal picture of love and trust.

No matter who or what you are.

  Have a happy week!

Little Island II

We resume our walk along the straight Queen’s Channel. Our first stop is a tower painted in black and white bands that stands at the end of a drying mud spit and guards the dangerous entrance to the King’s Channel. At low tide, the depth here can be just 0.5 m because of the deposits of silt, however the tidal currents can be very strong. The western end of the King’s Channel is as dangerous, but it is very well marked.

Across the water from the beacon tower there is Faithlegg House hotel and golf course. Another lovely place to visit some day.

A look back to where we walked from – the river from one side and the golf course from the other.

And this is where we are heading now –  around the mudflat, towards the wood.

Some butterflies land on the path and fly away as we come closer – Peacock, Painted Lady and Comma.

Looking back you see the Belview Port on Kilkenny side of the river…

… and our familiar light tower with Sliabh Coillte hill in background.

I have read that the island is densely populated with badgers. It may be so but I have never seen any evidence – not even a tuft of badger hair somewhere in the brambles. The article was almost two decades old – perhaps most of the badgers have since been relocated or died from infections. According to the article, the island is divided into six territories. There are at least three badger latrines along this stretch of path – I had a map with me, yet didn’t see or smell anything.

Man-made ponds provide a safe home for swans, ducks and shy Little grebes.

This gorgeous heron couldn’t make up his mind about me. How dangerous could I be when standing on the other side of the pond? He got out of the water, took off, circled over me, assessed and returned back to the same place. Safe enough!

A short walk through the silent wood isn’t exactly peaceful – this place gives me the willies…

I don’t recall having any more pictures taken in the wood, and I always breathe a sigh of relief when I see the light again.

A picturesque barge makes a great prop. Her best days are behind her though.

The rest of the walk is lovely and peaceful. Some old, strangely shaped trees and winding ropes of ivy along the path look peculiar yet harmless.

Birds and insects provide a soundtrack.

Silver-washed fritillary – another beauty to add to our list of butterflies found in the Little Island.

We walk to the ferry point and back to the castle.

One more look around.

We drive downhill past the golf club and cottages. It was a great visit, something to remember.

I hope you enjoyed being transported back to a warmer season.

Hope to see you again in a couple of weeks.

  Have a wonderful weekend!

Little Island I

If you are looking for a unique place to stay in Waterford, you might think about the Waterford Castle hotel and Golf Club on the Little Island. I borrowed this aerial view image from the Golf Open Competitions website – you can also click on the image to view the page. It is a very good site, covering all the golf events in the country.

I put three marks on the map: the ferry point, the castle, and the guide beacon – a tower standing on the sand spit. We will walk the perimeter of the island – it will only take an hour of brisk walk and two blog posts 🙂

This is a Google map with the same marks.

Little Island is located on River Suir just 2 miles from the estuary, and encircled by the Queens and Kings Channels. The strategic position of the island has always attracted settlers. The island changed hands several times. First came the monks, then the Vikings, and finally the Normans.  The FitzGerald family being the cousins of Strongbow were awarded this land for their part in the Norman Invasion. They built a Norman keep around which the rest of the current castle was built over the centuries. The island was connected to the mainland by wooden boats, but the residents would also use the stepping stones to cross the north channel ( then called the Ford) to attend the mass. Obviously, the channel wasn’t navigable as there was a depth of only two feet at low tide. In the first quarter of the 19th century, the channel was cleaned and deepened.

The FitzGeralds owned the ‘Lytle Yland’ for almost eight centuries. The land was farmed by the lord and rented out to tenants to be used as pasture, and to grow crops. Pay and conditions were good. By the 20th century, the island developed into the self contained community. If you are interested, here is a link to an absolutely fascinating article by Tom Dooley on the history of the Little Island, found on the page #49.

The Little Island was first leased and sold in 1958. After that it changed owners another couple of times. The castle was turned into hotel in 1988, and 48 three-and four-bedroom garden lodges were added in 2007. I won’t share any reviews. I only help you discover the island and have a pleasant time walking around. Isolation and ambiance of the island are worth the money – you can also book a whole lodge for the price of a room in the castle if you travel with your family and want to save a little. By the way, they say you might see ghosts in the castle and fields. Is it why I never met another walker in the remote part of the island?

Mary Fitzgerald‘ ferry takes us across the King’s Channel which is the old natural bed of the river Suir. One-way winding road goes up the hill to the castle car park through the green canopy full of wildlife. We won’t see the castle until the last minute – it is hidden in the high trees.

We drive past grazing deer.

This one is very inquisitive.

A young song thrush tries his voice.

A red squirrel with a white tail and white ear tufts is digging in the grass at the side of the road.

Suddenly the main entrance of the castle appears on the left.

When we are done with our walk, come in and ask for a cup of tea and a cake. Even if you are not a resident and didn’t make a reservation, there is a good chance you will be served.

You can walk around the castle and count the cute gargoyles.

A tiny garden offers tranquility and mystery.

To follow our plan, we take a trail that starts at the car park, and walk through the patch of trees. Some lucky residents have seen badgers and hedgehogs around the castle, but this happens early in the morning or late at night. We just see more deer 🙂

A grey squirrel resides in this part of the island – there is enough food for both species.

These pictures were taken in August – the Butterfly Month in Ireland.

Our path reaches the river. There is a patch of thistles, a favorite spot for butterflies. Let’s have a look.

This is a brand new Peacock butterfly, the most spectacular of the Irish butterflies. It will overwinter in a tree trunk or another dark place, and resume activity in March.

Small tortoiseshell is a very common butterfly also known for its hibernating habits. Every February-March I find one or more in my kitchen where they overwinter somewhere behind the cabinets.

Meadow brown female is not as hairy as her colorful cousins.

This is Red admiral, a beautiful migrant from Southern Europe.

Red admirals are not shy. One lands on my shoulder, stays there for a couple of minutes and then returns to the thistles.

Butterflies have a variety of predators. This one has been in a fight for his life 🙂

After admiring the butterflies, we walk west towards the Islands Edge. Little Island is a nesting place for herons, and you will see many of them at the water edge and in the fields.

A group of Godwits inspect the muddy riverbed.

Various waders can be seen picking lugworms : Curlew, Godwit and two almost identical Lapwings.

We walk past the castle and enter a wooded area.

We walk to the point where the path merges with the road that brought us to the castle. As we are not leaving the island yet, let’s walk back to the castle, have a cup of tea by the fireplace in the Great Hall, and get ready for our next adventure..

Here are two links to my favorite websites where you can read more about history and sailing specifics of the Little Island.

https://eoceanic.com/sailing/harbours/27/little_island

https://irishwaterwayshistory.com/tag/little-island/

We resume our walk in two weeks

Have a wonderful weekend!