Kilkenny

From South to North and back – I

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First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all the thankful out there, wherever you may be! Have a wonderful and happy weekend!

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map of ireland

To those who haven’t read my blog before – it is the fifth post in the series about my trip to the North of Ireland to take part in Elena Shumilova Workshop.

I got this lovely map from  http://www.ireland-information.com/irelandmaps.htm, and drew my route with a green marker. My plan was to use smaller roads instead of motorways so that I could stop for a photograph. Most of the route was familiar to me, but I still got lost somewhere between Counties Cavan and Monaghan, twice – on my way to and from.

I left early in the morning from Waterford, drove through Kilkenny  and Durrow, and didn’t stop until I got to Abbeyleix. These photographs were taken in different years, but I think they are good enough for illustrating my journey.

kilkenny

These photographs are taken in Kilkenny Castle park, in early  November 2010. The day was chilly and foggy, and very quiet.

kilkenny

kilkenny

kilkenny

The National Monument to missing people was unveiled by President Mary Mc Aleese in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle in 2002. The sculpture is designed by Ann Mulrooney. Each hand was cast from the actual hand of a family member of a missing person. There is also a stone with inscription: “This sculpture and area of reflection is dedicated to all missing persons. May all relatives and friends who visit find continuing strength and hope”.

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Another old photograph – the River Nore in Kilkenny.

river Nore

After leaving Kilkenny I headed to Durrow, Co Laois. I think that it will help if I give you a link to a page where you can learn how to pronounce Irish names for places: http://www.logainm.ie/ga/

For today it is Laois [leash] and Abbeyleix [abbey- lees]

I already wrote about Durrow twice. Every year they are hosting a Scarecrow Festival, and it is a huge fun event. In my Scarecrow blog Part I I reflected on the life of Scarecrow of Oz and his predecessors; in the Part II I gave an account of the festival activities and attractions. I wont’s repeat myself and hope you visit these blog posts if you haven’t read them yet. There is also a video from which you will learn a thing or two about the nature of scarecrows 🙂

Today I am sharing two picture that I took after the festival in 2014. The day was fabulous, but then we noticed the darkest cloud menacingly approaching the town. We escaped, but all the merry gathering was drenched with rain in a matter of minutes. We drove up the rolling hills until this magnificent view opened to us. I had just a minute for a couple of snaps. The skies opened and the rain poured on us all the way home.

view

2014 durrow pano

Now back to my Grand cross-country trip.

As  I said, my first stop was in Abbeyleix.  Lonely Planet offers you six things to do in Abbeyleix, including a visit to the former Yvo de Vesci Carpet factory where a number of hand tufted carpets were made for Titanic’s staterooms. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stay in Abbeyleix longer than 10 minutes, it is why I will just share with you this old picture from Cobh (former Queenstown), the final port of call for Titanic. I will write about Cobh another time. 

titanic

I think you already understand why I am getting lost while travel…

So, I didn’t have time to do six things in Abbeyleix, neither was it my plan, but there is something in this little town that  I love and want to share with you. I love their street lights.

It was early in the morning, and I stood  in the middle of N77 without  getting in trouble. The fog was thick, the colors and sounds muted, like in a dream.

abbeyleix

I took some more photographs,  one of them I used in my previous post – the iron gate and the rising sun. After saying good bye to this lovely little town I resumed my journey.

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great Thanksgiving weekend!

All creatures

pat_gibbons

For those who are reading the fox story for the first time – here are two links to my previous posts – Kindness and Fox News.

This spring, I got a word that Minnie, the six-years old vixen,  was pregnant. The only “suspect” was a two-year old male fox Henry, badly mauled by dogs in his yearly days and restored to health in Pat’s care. Being very busy at that time, I didn’t come over to greet the cub and take pictures. I feel sad about that – I don’t think I will have another chance.  Now the cub is gone. Pat has too much on his hands  to accommodate one more fox, and a lady from Kilkenny was happy to give the little foxy a family and a little kit for a sibling to  grow together. I only hope for an interview in near future.

I didn’t take pictures of Henry. He was in a bad mood, and we left him in his pen. I only can tell that he looks very grown up, and his injured eye is not as teary as it was last year.

I have got a new “fox picture”, this time with Minnie.

fox

Grainne and Minnie are full of character, and are visually different.

pat_gibbons

pat_gibbons

fox1 170

fox1 189

Minnie is not angry in these photographs, or upset in any way.  She is just being herself, playing and watching if your attention is still on her 🙂  As you know from my previous post, Minnie doesn’t like walking and prefers being carried and cuddled, and talked to all the time. I think I performed all these tasks very well, and she expected me to carry on, but Patsy thought different and Minnie had to walk to the den on her own feet.

pat_gibbons

pat_gibbons

 

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After the photo session, we all went to the garden. The weather improved, a lovely change.  All the creatures of the house joined us, and I was amazed with their friendliness and good humor: even a huge rooster didn’t mind to be photographed. Cats, chickens, dog Blackie  –  all of them relaxed and at ease with the strangers.

chicken

rooster

chicken

grumpy_chicken

dog

pat_gibbons

And of course we talked about foxes, how important they are to the environment. Their diet consists mostly of rats and mice; if they steal a chicken it only means that the chickens were not locked properly. Wild fox killed his ducks yet Pat doesn’t blame the fox but the hole in the fencing. While opposing the fox hunting, Pat doesn’t encourage people to take a fox cub home if it has been found alone. The cub is not abandoned. Foxes belong to the wild and they will survive in the wild. Pat wishes people would just leave them alone.

We were invited for a cup of tea. Pat’s brother showed us a photograph of their parents. Calm, intelligent, beautiful faces. They have raised their eleven children well.

As I have learned, Pat is famous not only because of his foxes. While attending a hurling game, he was spotted and taken a picture of for Kilkenny People newspaper. What has drawn the photographer’s attention? A hat. Pat’s sister is knitting these hats for the match goers, in county colors. Amber and black – Kilkenny colors. I asked Pat if he had another hat for a photograph, and he brought me a Red and White, a Cork one… Didn’t feel comfortable in it… 😉  I should have replaced the colors in Photoshop… 😉

pat_gibbons

On our way back home we took a few pictures in Thomastown.

thomastown

thomastown

A French tourism-oriented website recently posted a story about Pat and his foxes, and asked if they could use my photographs. I am delighted that more people will learn about this wonderful man and his beloved pets. They are already known in England, Scotland, and New Zealand, thanks to Grainne who is kind of a movie star, since she has several film and tourism commercial credits.

I hope you enjoyed the day with Pat Gibbons, and will visit with him in person on your next trip to Ireland.

Have a great week!

Meet the Past: Dolmens and Fairy Raths

fairy_rath

The past and the present in rural Ireland are balanced and closely tied up together. I want to share some photographs of ancient things taken in different years and seasons, and thank the thoughtful farmers who are the guardians and protectors of the balance.

There are about 190 dolmens in Ireland.  Dolmens have an entrance – the portal. Another name for dolmens is Portal tomb, because most of them are associated with graves.

The most visited dolmen is Poulnabrone portal dolmen  – a fine megalithic monument in the Burren, Co Clare .

dolmen

The site was excavated in 1980, and the bones of 21 people – 16 adults and 5 children –  were found. The bones were dated from 3800-3200 BC. There were also many other finds like stone tools, arrow heads, beads and even the head of a bone pin.

dolmen

The natural limestone formations in the Burren are called grykes and clints ( you see them in the image below) 

dolmen

The magnificent Proleek dolmen is also known as the Giant’s Load. It is situated in Co Louth near Dundalk, in the grounds of   Ballymascanlon Hotel.

dolmen

The dolmen  is about 3 m high and has a round capstone weighing approximately 35 tons. Legend says that a wish will be granted to anyone who can throw a pebble on its capstone so that it stays there.

dolmen

Another impressive megalithic structure is Knockeen  dolmen located near Tramore, Co Waterford.

dolmen

The dolmen is about 3 m high, and has two enormous capstones.

dolmen

Next to the dolmen is an old graveyard, quite overgrown. This is what it looks like in the end of December…

old_graveyard

A few minutes drive from Knockeen dolmen, there is another amazing megalith – Gaulstown dolmen. If you are interested, here is a Tramore area Dolmen map,  but you have to know that some of the dolmens cannot  be seen from the road.

dolmen

This is one of the dolmens that is accessible a whole year. Kilmogue dolmen, or Harristown dolmen, or Leac an Scail, is Ireland’s tallest dolmen at almost 5 meters or 15 feet from the ground to the tip of the capstone. It is situated near Templeorum, Co Kilkenny.

dolmen

dolmen

Another fascinating structure is a Fairy rath.

There are about 50.000 Fairy  raths, or Fairy forts in Ireland –  the remains of the Bronze Age – Iron Age circular dwellings. It is what the archeologists say. The ancient books say that the raths are the portals to the magical world of the Tuatha Dé Danann little people,  the fairies.

As you see, the trees grow only on the edges of the circular wall  and the central section. Why? No one knows.

fairy_rath

The ditch, or moat, is very deep, and there is no growth. Who can explain this?

fairy_rath

No one in their sound mind would cut a tree or even break a branch from a rath. Most of people believe that  if they do so, they would be followed by bad luck. Here you can read what happens when you don’t respect the fairies.   

fairy_rath

The Fairy raths were used as burial grounds for the  babies who died before they could be baptized, and had thus been denied  a burial in the Church grounds.  If the Catholic God would not accept the little ones, the ancient Gods would accept them. Babies buried in raths were thought to be protected by the fairies.

Thank you for taking a trip to the ancient places with me! Hope you enjoyed the reading.
IneseMjPhotographyHave a great week!

Mountain Grove

Ireland

One of my first WordPress posts was the one about Jenkinstown Woods. Now, after a year, I am visiting another bluebell forest, Mountain Grove – a loop trail just outside Piltown, Co Kilkenny.

Mountain Grove is an old woodland part of Piltown forest that is located in South West Kilkenny, covering an area of 1,823 hectares. The forest stretches to the Tipperary border on the west and to the Waterford border on the south, along  the river Suir. The main tree species growing in the forest include Sitka spruce, larch, Douglas fir, beech, ash and oak, with the broadleaves dominating in Mountain Grove – as you can see in the images.

Starting off from the tiny parking spot, I meet two dog walkers and from this moment I am there alone for a whole two hours.

Ireland

The quietness is almost surreal. The birds are nesting and prefer not to expose themselves, and I don’t see any presence of the mammals either – dogs have scared them away from the grove.

Ireland

The bluebells are scarce but nevertheless their fragrance is intense, sweet and alluring. I walk off the trail and feel like I disappear from the world and become a part of the wild woodland.

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

The Early purple orchid, once a common plant, is a rare guest in the woodlands. Many wild orchids are legally protected, but this fact does not stop people from picking them… A friend went to the Mountain Grove just three days later and didn’t find a single flower – all gone. People don’t realize that it takes years for the orchids to germinate.

The early purple orchid is the “long purple” of Ophelia’s garland, as referred to by Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

“Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples, that liberal shepherds give a grosser name”

Ireland

Different species of Ferns started unrolling their young fronds. In the image below – Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium).

Ireland

And of course there is a beautiful yet nameless stream.

Ireland

Ireland

I will be back!

Ireland

Hope you enjoyed the woodlands.

inesemjphotographyHave a happy week!

Bluebell day in Jenkinstown woods

My Grand Canyon memory trip worked very well. In spite of the bad forecast I woke up early and boldly went off to Jenkinstown. To my surprise, the weather started getting better, and by the time I arrived, there was summer.

Jenkinstown Park is a gem. At any season. It is sad to see that so many trees are cut down, home for the owls, pine martens, stouts and squirrels… I didn’t see any animals, but crossing a tiny path I felt a strong odor of a small carnivore. Might be a weasel…

Today I came to Jenkinstown Park for a special purpose. Early May is a season for bluebells, and this is the place!

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

A breathtaking carpet of  blue overtakes the forest floor and glorious smell fills the air. Photographers of all kinds make their annual pilgrimage.  Like today. The sun is shining through the leaves ( the sun and the copper beech tree have special relationships); a little robin is singing his simple fluting song… I wish I had time to stay here all the day, walk all the trails, catch a glimpse of a badger, find a sleeping owl or watch baby foxes playing… I only have two hours: one hour for photography, the other hour for having a marvellous time while walking back to the car park…

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstownThis year the bluebell season started late. I could come here next week and get a brighter blue, but I think that this delicate hazy shade is lovely.

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

I met a good few photographers, and even took a picture of a couple  by request. Young and old, they came here because  people need beauty. It is so wonderful that there are places like this one where you can come and fill yourself with beauty and peace.

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstownHeraclitus said that no man ever steps in the same river twice. I got caught twice in the same rain today – does it count? First time it showered me after I left the woods, on the way to Freshford, and then it got me when I was leaving Clonmel. Fresh, aggressive, dedicated to wet you to the bone… My bluebell season is over for this year, but I will visit Jenkinstown later in summer again.

Photography tip of the day: When taking pictures of bluebells try to either get down low to the ground or position your camera as high as you can.

inesemj_photographyHave a great weekend!