This wasn’t the same day, even the same year when I took all these pictures, but the weather in Ireland hasn’t changed for years, so let’s presume we hop in the car and take a short photo-drive from one village to the other, with one stop in the middle.
We start our trip from the Dunmore East Port that is situated at the western end of Dunmore village. As I walked on the pier to the lighthouse that was established in the end of 1825, the grey drizzling sky suddenly broke open and gave way to a wonderful silvery light. It lasted no longer than a minute, and the scenery quickly returned to its usual grey self.
Construction works around the lighthouse obstructed the view and I turned back. Two young gulls on the rope made me smile – why did they have to stand there is such an awkward position? Maybe it was a dare? 🙂
Regardless of the weather the cliffs are always beautiful. This is an old coastguard station, the most photographed (and then over-dramatically enhanced) building in the area. If you keep walking to the west, after half an hour you will reach the Portally Cove. It is a cliff walk, but not too close to the cliffs, actually. This time I didn’t walk that far.
The silky grass is slippy. I like walking alone, but I believe in taking precautions. Two years ago a cow fell from a cliff in the water, but was rescued.
You can see the Hook Lighthouse on the other side.
This picture of Dunbrody was taken many years ago from the same cliffs.
To get this picture, you have to walk to the park, cross it and walk to the cliffs. The previous picture is taken from the same place – on the left, there is the port where we just came from.
I leave the park and walk down to the village centre. During the winter storms, some giant waves reach the buildings.
This is where we are heading, in the direction of Waterford Harbour and Passage East village, our final destination. Waterford Harbour is formed by the estuary of three great rivers: River Suir, River Nore and River Barrow.
In the Google Earth image below, I have mapped the most significant strands on our way. Geneva strand is a great place for bird watching, but this time we will only stop to visit the oyster farm you see when you enlarge the picture. I don’t know how large is this particular farm (headquarters in Dunmore East), but some farms measure many hectares.
This is what Waterford Harbour and Woodstown beach look like at high tide. The photograph was taken after the sunrise from The Saratoga pub, “#1 of 1 Restaurant in Woodstown”, according to TripAdvisor. Fair enough.
This is the same beach at low tide.
The oyster farm workers are waiting for the other tractor to return.
Here it is, coming from the middle of the harbour.
The higher poles of the fishing weir measure about 3-4 m in height – something like two-human height. I recon the water can reach up to 2-2.5 m at high tide, or even higher. I have never seen it myself, but I have heard that the water in the harbour is leaving and coming very rapidly, as if someone is opening and closing a gate.
The oyster farm is so fascinating that I decide to come another day and check it out. To tell that I have no doubts about this adventure would be a lie. I am terrified, but my curiosity takes over, as usual.
It is a ten-minute walk in the soft, wet sand, between the pools of water. Sometimes my feet sink in the sand, and my heart sinks too. I keep closer to the poles, but have no idea how it would help if the sand swallows me. I just hope the poles are marking a safe path.
I have a longer lens, so I don’t have to come too close, and can take my pictures from a distance. The workers are doing something with the mesh bags full of oysters – inspect them, and flip them over. They don’t pay any attention, except for an older man, who looks in my direction a few times, and then speaks something. I wave to him and try to listen to what he is saying. I would love to interview him for this blog. Then I hear “… shove that camera in your face…” and quickly realise that my time has expired. With the broadest smile, I wave to him again, take a few more shots and walk back.
With no interview, I had to look up the oyster farming in the internet. Here is what I have learned.
In Ireland, they cultivate Irish native flat oyster, available from September, and Pacific Gigas, available all year. The Gigas was introduced in the 1980s, and from what I have seen, this particular farm cultivates exactly the Gigas species.
The tidal waters of Waterford Harbour are flushing the oysters twice a day, providing them with natural food. Bag-cultured oysters mature more quickly than those that are beach grown, it is why the bags have to be regularly thinned and flipped over, otherwise the oysters will develop a wrong shape.
The Gigas oysters take about three years to reach market size ( about six years for the native Edulis species). Oysters are cultivated to the size of spat first, to the point at which they attach themselves to a substrate. Then they are set out to mature.
There were many empty trestles that made an interesting picture.
These are the oyster bags. The holes are very small, but I could say that the oysters were the size of a half-palm.
On my way to the shore, I take some pictures. The distance is quite remarkable.
I am trying not to step on the coiled castings of lugworms. Nearly there!
I found a broken oyster bag in the sand after a storm last year. I didn’t know how long it was there, and were the oysters still alive or already dead, so I let them be.
What made me sad, was the pattern of mesh on the shells.
We are leaving Woodstown, and drive another 5km. Passage East is a tiny village, but it is very important to the locals because of the ferry service between Co Waterford and Co Wexford.
I have already mentioned Passage East village in my blog post Goats and Monkeys. A huge herd of goats is living in the hills, and sometimes they come down and cause a traffic jam. This billy goat is the leader of the herd. His diabolic looks are quite impressive.
Here is the ferry, and some day we will cross the river and go to visit places around the Waterford Harbour.
Thank you for taking a risky hike to the middle of Waterford Harbour with me 🙂 In my next blog post, we will travel up the River Barrow, and then up the River Suir.
Have a wonderful weekend!