heron

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!

 

St. John’s River: Confluence

This and the following four posts are dedicated to the Friends of St. John’s River.


Waterford is situated along the beautiful River Suir – the river one cannot miss. Many visitors, however, might never realise that there is another river sneaking behind the Waterford Crystal House – St. John’s River, which, according to her Friends, represents the heart of the city. About a mile from the Rice bridge River Suir curves to the SE direction. Right before the curve is where two rivers meet.

Until the 18th century, St. John’s River didn’t have banks – there was a marshland and a pool of water that filled up at high tide and almost emptied at low tide. The pool was drained, the city expanded, and St. John’s River was contained within the banks reinforced with stone all the way to the River Suir. Here is some more history.

We know where the mouth of St. John’s River is, but where is the source? I don’t know it, but we will walk as far as we can and try to find it out.

Meanwhile, lets stay at the mouth of the river a little longer and enjoy the wildlife.

This heron at Marina hotel is wise enough to understand that photographers cannot fly over the fencing.

This gull is probably an adult non-breeding Herring gull.

These two look like young Great black-backed gulls. My knowledge of the juvenile gull classification is almost nonexistent.

One ‘teenager’ annoying the other 🙂

The cutest group of Black-headed gulls in their winter plumage. I have no idea what is that ‘stranger’ they have adopted.

The last look at the River Suir from the Scotch Quay before we are off to follow St. John’s River through the city.

We walk to the Georges Quay. The unnamed metal pedestrian bridge connects to the Adelphi Quay.

Gigantic red buoy in the Georges Quay is a lovely bright detail among the grey surroundings.

Pigeons are heading to the William Street Bridge. So are we.

We cross to the other side of St. John’s River. William Street bridge was built between 1780-1820. It is a single arch humpback bridge.

Pigeons are foraging on the walls.

We pass the car park and enter City Courthouse grounds. Courthouse was built to the design of Terence O’Reilly on the site of the ruins of St Catherine’s Abbey in 1841. Many of the dead from the 1604 outbreak of plague were buried in these grounds. Courthouse was recently refurbished and extended. In 2016, after the epic All-Ireland hurling semi-final, Kilkenny flag was put out at the top of the Courthouse .You might remember my blog post where I mentioned the long lasting rivalry between our two counties divided by River Suir.

I am mostly interested in starlings residing in the grounds.

Charming lattice work iron bridge over St. John’s River connect Courthouse grounds with People’s Park. The bridge was opened in 1857 by then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland William Frederick Howard, 7th Earl of Carlisle, and named Carlisle Bridge for him.

In the “waste and weary swamp covered with dank and fetid water“, People’s Park was laid out in 1857, after the marshland was drained and St. John’s River diverted and contained in the banks. The “Orb” in the picture is a sculpture incorporating water continuously flowing over it. The sculpture was created by Tina O’Connell, and installed in 2002 in the place of a beautiful Victorian fountain which was vandalized beyond repair.

Look back at the Courthouse ( I just love this bridge).

Blackheaded gulls on the Carlisle bridge.

One more look back.

This is the end of today’s walk. We leave People’s Park and walk into town again. Hardy’s Bridge below was built in 1841/1842, and commemorates the captain of Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy (1769-1839).

We resume our walk along the St. John’s River in two weeks. Thank you for joining the tour.

www.inesemjphotography Have a wonderful weekend!

The Year of The Pig

It would be just another new year if we didn’t have Chinese Zodiac calendar 🙂

The year of The Dog is fading away as the year of The Pig starts in February and marks the end of the Twelve years Cycle.

Was 2018 “a good dog” for you? What were some of the highlights?

Here I share some pictures taken in 2018. It was (and still is) a very challenging year, but I cannot tell it has been unlucky for me.

The year started with a lazy snowfall that continued into the end of February. Then a mighty storm hit the island – you can see all the pictures in my previous blog post.

The snow melted in the first few days in March.

I didn’t see much of St. Patrick’s Day parade this year, but I liked this actor and took some pictures.

Spraoi monsters looked completely out of place at the St. Patrick’s Parade. I don’t think it was a great idea to include them. Yet, I posted this picture for a reason since I want to tell you a few words about monsters.

I discovered  Jean Lee’s World  blog in 2015. After reading one article, I went back through the archives and read almost everything. I was stunned. A quick check on Amazon showed no books. No books?! Later I learned that Jean Lee did work on a novel, but there were many obstacles she had to overcome – you can read her story as she tells it herself in her blog. 

In June this year, Jean Lee published the first book of the short fiction series Tales Of the River Vine. The other five books followed, introducing the characters of her first YA fantasy novel Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, Book 1, parts 1 – 2, available on Amazon. An intelligent, captivating, very well written book will take you and the courageous, strong-willed teenage heroine to the fae world of darkness, and, hopefully, back. I look forward to reading Book 2 in March 2019. I am so very happy for you, Friend! You did it! Your books are as wonderful and unique as everything else you do. 

Please visit Jean Lee’s amazing blog, and read her books. 

 


The days went by. In the end of May I got my life back, but in a complicated form. The world is still beautiful, though.

A Chaffinch still sings his little heart out…

… and his cute lady looks pleased.

Puffin here is just being gorgeous.

In the end of July I returned to blogging, and visited a few more places.

I went to the Cunnigar. I didn’t do the crossing, just walked to the end and back, watched the birds and insects. Usually I see one heron at a time, but there were seven. They took off when I came closer.

This scared fledgling was sitting in the middle of the boggy area on the Anne River trail. Hope his parents came to his rescue before a predator got there first.

I also went to the Comeraghs. Taking pictures of sheep never seems boring.

Then I came across a lone black pig. I later learned that this is her daily walking route.

Finally, there was a long flight, and many different birds and animals.

I guess my life was spared once again. We landed in Dublin in the eye of the storm Ali to learn that some 80 flights have already been cancelled or diverted, and a RyanAir plane had been forced to abort landing. Only two hero crews – Philadelphia and our JFK – landed their planes that morning. The landing was a nightmare, but it was performed splendidly regardless of violent swaying. The plane was still rocking and shaking in the gusts when we finally approached the terminal, and the passengers were instructed to watch their foot when stepping onto the jet bridge, as it might get detached. Two days later, a delivery man handed me my luggage and said ‘You guys are lucky to be alive’.

And then came the Autumn. It went through the different stages, until it was safe to call it Winter.


The young year of The Pig begins with hopes and dreams.

Who can tell what it will grow into?

Just be a good human in the year of The Pig, and everything will work out for your good.

Everything will definitely work out in the end.

 May the New Year be wondrous!

SPRAOI – Source to Sea

SPRAOI 2017

As always, the three-days long festival culminates in a spectacular creative parade Sunday night. Every parade has a theme. Source To Sea is the theme for this year’s 25th anniversary Parade. It is all about River Suir.

SPRAOI 2017

I have written about River Suir on many occasions, and I know I will write again :).

River Suir is 185 km ( 115 mi) long with the average flow rate of 76.9 cubic metres per second –  and we love every drop of it! River Suir begins on the slopes of Devil’s Bit Mountain in County Tipperary and flows south to Waterford Harbour where she enters the Atlantic Ocean.

River Suir flows past many castles, and she has witnessed many bloody battles.

Snaking through the countryside, River Suir grows in size and beauty. She is a home to many creatures, real and mystical, and her secrets are well kept, some of them hidden in the thick of her islands.

Here is everything you need to know about River Suir – animals, fowl, fairies and humans living here since the world began.

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

It is literally raining on our parade, but the rain is not going to bring our spirit down.

SPRAOI 2017

Heron is one of my Suir favorites. These birds are perfect for slow shutter speed shots since they can stay motionless for hours. This one has caught a rainbow trout and now is trying to swallow it whole.

heron

Some walking exercises after a great lunch.

heron

They have a heron here too. No fish eating demonstrations though.

SPRAOI 2017

They even have an otter! I don’t have any picture of a live otter…

SPRAOI 2017

Many floats represent fishing.

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

And of course there is a fish. A gigantic Rainbow trout.

SPRAOI 2017

This mechanical swan looks very real.

SPRAOI 2017

swan

An army of dragonflies and their Queen.

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

And of course nothing of this would have happened without 200 artists and volunteers.

SPRAOI 2017

SPRAOI 2017

The Parade ended at a quarter to 11 pm concluded with firework finale which I never take pictures of. Fireworks are for watching.

river suir

Thank you for visiting SPRAOI and River Suir!

www.inesemjphotography.comHave a wonderful weekend!

Anne Valley – Walk through the Fairy Door

dunhill

Dunhill village is a home for Anne Valley Walk, a 2.5 km trail that travels from Ballyphilip bridge to Dunhill Castle. This beautiful trail through the Anne Valley was officially opened in 2013 and took a huge amount of voluntary work to complete. The blue patches on the map are the man-made ponds that transformed the area from a marshland to a comfortable walking environment. The route takes some 50 minutes to complete if you don’t want to see the castle ruins.

anne river walk

The Fairy doors are at the other end of the trail – cute and very inviting. I am sure the fairies find a shelter here on their travels, and I feel like I walk through the doors too.

fairy doors

If you have worries, there is a place to leave them. The tree stump will sort it out for you.

Annes river trail Annes river trail

This menhir stands in the pond and looks authentic. I couldn’t find any information, probably the stone was standing in the bog before the ponds were made.

high stone

I don’t know anything about these either.

high stones

This one looks mysterious, it is difficult to spot from the trail. The picture was taken in early spring before the foliage obstructed the view.

annes river

Anne River is gurgling under the bridge, reflecting the sky.

anne river

In the late afternoon, the sun makes everything look golden, and the air is filled with musty fragrance of golden gorse.

annes river

Flora of the marshlands is still present. Birds use the silky seed hairs of Reedmace (Cattail) for lining their nests.

I have seen most of these birds. Best time for bird-watching is early morning, before the dog walkers scare them away. I have read that there is a kingfisher living somewhere. I hope he is. Of the mammals, I saw an otter one evening.

Swans, herons and egrets are the biggest birds seen around Anne River.

heron

This photograph looks funny and I am not sure if I should have posted it. Because of the darker feathers on his chest, the heron looks like a sticker cut off with scissors and glued to the picture. It is the same heron. Two photographs were taken within just a few seconds.

heron

European robin is one of my favorite birdies. This one was very friendly and sang me a song.

robin

robin

I wonder if this is the same bird.

robin

anne river

I met these ducks just minutes before a tragedy struck their family. Have a closer look. Some ducklings are light-grey and have big, round heads like their mama, and the others are dark brown and have a dark stripe across the eye. The brown ones look like Mallards, but the grey ones are different. Anyway, twelve ducklings had hatched, but the day I took the picture there were just seven.  They were picking on something in the grass, and their mama was watching.

duck

I took some pictures and walked away. After a moment I heard a duck quacking in distress, then came a loud splash, and then, with loud quacking and splashing and wing flapping, the ducklings run in the water towards me. Little legs got tired very quickly and they finally stopped running and swam – it is when I took this picture. They didn’t make any sound, but swam very fast.

duck

Mama duck started quacking again, and the ducklings quickly ran past me. The darker ones seemed stronger and the lighter ones were left behind. Tall weeds didn’t let me see what was happening, but I ran behind the ducklings to the bridge. Finally mama duck flew past me too, quacking like crazy. From the bridge I saw them all gather together, mama duck still quacking. I counted the ducklings – there were six. One didn’t make it. The ducks swiftly swam away but I was still standing and waiting for that one. He never showed up. Anne River has her dark secrets.

ducks

These strings of Water crowfoot plant look like something woven by river Nymphs. White flowers seem fluorescent under the dark canopy.

anne river

A river doesn’t have to be deep and wide to be beautiful and important.

anne river

I will write more about Anne River and Dunhill in my next two posts. Thank you so much for taking a walk with me.  More adventures to follow.

inese_mj_photography Have an amazing weekend!