Waterford

St. John’s River: Sneaking through town

After crossing the Hardy’s bridge we resume our walk. A few words about the Friends of St. John’s River. They are an enthusiastic community voluntary group founded in March 2014 with the mission to ‘return St. John’s River to its former glory’. Our walks along the river are pleasant thanks to them.

In the Integrated Water Quality Report 2011, St. John’s River was mentioned as the only “seriously polluted’ river in the whole county. And seriously polluted it was. It is obvious that the river has very little friends… Hope this will change thanks to the great example of the volunteers and support from the City. On my memory, St. John’s river has never looked as good as it looks now, but there is so much more to do, and first of all, people have to change their mentality, behaviour and habits.

We are approaching the Waterside. The bridge in the picture replaced the old Gasworks bridge. I don’t like the replacement because it is flat and has no character. The old bridge was a curved cast iron beauty built in the beginning of the 20th century. I also don’t like that the wall has been stripped of vegetation which was a habitat for many creatures.

The other Gasworks foot bridge built in 1870 has been beautifully restored and reinstalled.

The Gasworks were established in the 1820’s. A hundred years later, during the Irish Civil War, something extraordinary happened. I want to share this piece of history, because it seems important to me.


‘A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.’ Inspired by the example of the Russian proletariat, the Gasworks’ workers established a Soviet that lasted 6 weeks! More about the Soviets in Ireland in this article. When I came across the article, it brought back my Granddad’s stories. Both my maternal grandfather and paternal great grandfather were murdered by communists. The families had to hide; the names were changed; none of my parents spoke their mother tongues; generations were affected. But it is not only because of my family history I despise this ideology.

We will destroy this world of violence

Down to the foundations, and then

We will build our new world

He who was nothing will become everything.

Unfortunately, ‘destroying to the foundations’ was the only part of the plan that went ‘well’. Cultural vandalism that started in Russia, reached Ireland. More than 70 Big Houses were burned, many of them of historical importance. The blowing up of the Public Records office destroyed countless pages documenting Irish History. One cannot become ‘everything’ by violence, destruction and ignorance.

History repeats itself when people refuse to learn from it and admit their mistakes. 


We have reached the end of the Waterside. In the image below you see the oldest Waterford bridge – John’s Bridge that was originally built in the 1650’s and widened in 1765. On this side of the bridge both arches are round, but on the other side one arch is pointed.

When the water level is low, you might see unusual visitors, like this Common redshank, foraging in the mud.

St. John’s river is a home to a family of resident swans.

Swans under the pointed arch of John’s bridge.

Swans floating along the Railway Square. You can see a shopping trolley in the water.

The river flows under the Johnstown bridge, and we start a somewhat boring walk around Tesco car park – from Miller’s Marsh to Poleberry.

This is the most uneventful stretch of the river walk. Only once I have seen the ducks and swans, and the bird songs are scarce here.

Still, we can come across a mouse on the pavement ( this is the most littered part of the river walk). I spent at least half an hour watching this cute little fella who seems to be a House mouse living outdoors. He is just a little bigger than a bottle cap.

Tesco is the source of all the shopping trolleys littering the water. Friends of St. John’s River do regular clean ups in and around the river, but it is not a solution. Change in people’s attitude would be a solution.

We walk over the Wyse bridge – another flat bridge that replaced the old humpback bridge in 1980. The river makes its last bend at Poleberry before straightening. There is a group of old trees and shrubbery, a home to some birds. The trees don’t look presentable and I am afraid that some day they will be cut down. Hope not.

This cat didn’t look like hunting. He just sat there.

Crow family is well represented in this part of the river. It is still in the city boundaries, and only a handful of bird species visit this area.

Yet one day I was lucky to capture this cute Bullfinch couple feeding on nettle and butterfly bush seeds.

You will continue the walk towards the source in two weeks. I won’t be there in person, but I am sure you won’t get lost 🙂

St. John’s river post #1

www.inesemjphotography.com

Happy Easter! May your mind be happy, and your heart humble

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!

Midspring

At the spring equinox this year the sky was adorned by the full Moon – the Super Worm Moon. It was so bright that I wondered if the earth worms could actually see the light and wriggle to the surface to gaze up into the sky. This little Wren would love it 😉

If a wren is building a nest it means that the spring is in a full swing. Indeed, according to the ancient Celtic tradition, spring starts at the beginning of February, and by now, spring is half over. Here I share some pictures of what I have been up to for the first weeks of spring.

I went to the Mount Congreve Gardens to take part in the Walk For Life event hosted by Waterford Sports Partnership. The walk was well organized, and we also had a cup of tea afterwards. I joined at the table a small group of quiet ladies. There were many young and old people with disabilities, so I immediately realized what that quietness was about. I sat down and kept smiling. There was little I could do.  All of a sudden one of the ladies reached for jam and butter, passed them to me without making any eye contact, and sat still again. My eyes brimmed with tears and my heart flooded with compassion. A skill to serve others lingers on even when many other skills have faded.

The walk was very exciting. The first thing we saw was a red squirrel. Walnut trees in the garden attract squirrels, and this one probably had a stash made last autumn.

The squirrel climbed magnolia tree, and jumped when I pressed the shutter.

Hundreds of magnolia trees were in bloom with gorgeous flowers of different colors, sizes and shapes.

This ‘rope’ is wisteria.

Many other trees began to flower, including rhododendrons.

Hundreds, or may be thousands of different camellias with their evergreen dark and glossy leaves were abundantly covered with the most exquisite flowers.

I went to the gardens once more, and walked there alone for five hours taking pictures of birds and flowers. Storm Gareth that came through a week later must have ruined all the beauty.

Another event I went to was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There was no Patrick though, which was confusing and somewhat disappointing.

The parade was led by Grand Marshalls Des and Mona Manahan riding in the back of a vintage car.

A few brass and pipe bands marched, and they did a great job as always.

Our Marines, as well as River Rescue volunteers and firefighters are the most loved and respected heroes.

I also looked forward to seeing the bikers roll through town again. That young girl riding the bike with her father every year is so grown up and beautiful. Time flies, yet the ginger beard and the hat have never changed 🙂

They said that this particular parade would celebrate ‘color, culture and community’. Well, I didn’t notice any difference from the previous parades, except for the absence of St. Patrick, and presence of some characters that hardly belonged to this day at all 🙂

As always, there were different schools, clubs, societies, commercial and community groups presented, and it was great to see familiar faces.

Ukrainian community is one of my favorites. I love the colors of their flag. There were many flags in the parade, including an Anarchist black&red…

Spraoi band didn’t come alone. They brought a bug with them 🙂

John Hayes, the artist who has carved the Dragon Slayer sword, brought a beautiful carved dragon.

There are always vintage cars driving in the parade.

Now, things are getting a little tricky. There were several zombies in the parade, some very cute, but I had my doubts about posting their pictures, so I went through the pictures posted by the official photographer and found out that he also had his doubts 😉 So, this is the only zombie I dare to expose 🙂

Disney characters and Mary Poppins closed the parade. They are all charming, but I would rather prefer a Leprechaun…

Thank you for visiting Waterford with me!

www.inesemjphotography Have a beautiful spring!

Viking Heritage Day at Woodstown

This “fierce viking face” is here for reference only. No photographer was harmed in the making of this picture.

In fact, the day in Woodstown was very pleasant and fun.


Waterford city was established by Vikings in 914, but a separate party of Norsemen settled 9 km upstream and built a longphoirt – Irish word for a ship harbour –  in the middle of the 9th century. During the testing related to the construction of the N 25 bypass in 2003, two lead weights were discovered which was the beginning of archaeological excavations at Woodstown that uncovered an early Viking settlement on the bank of River Suir. The bypass was amended and re-routed following the discovery. Woodstown Viking settlement was declared a national monument.

You can admire the archaeological discoveries from the dig on display in the Reginald Tower in Waterford city.

Take these steps to the second floor that is dedicated to the Woodstown Viking settlement finds.

Among many other finds, over 200 weights were found in Woodstown, which indicates that it was a trade centre where merchants and craftsmen could trade for goods or slaves. They used coins too, but by their weight in silver rather than their denomination. There were many centres like this established by Vikings. Some of them made new cities – Dublin, York, Novgorod. Woodstown Viking settlement didn’t continue into a bigger city and lasted not more than 100 years.

When I arrived in Woodstown, I met James Eogan, Senior archaeologist at Transport Infrastructure Ireland, executive editor of the book Woodstown: A Viking Age Settlement in County Waterford. I joined his guided walk which was a great success.

Mr. Eogan took us to the site – or rather to the part of the Greenway where the site is situated behind the fencing. The site has only been partially excavated (5%), but digging will continue if funded. From archaeological evidence it is clear that Woodstown settlement was a Viking trading centre and a home to craftsmen and their families, but its location was not practical for Viking needs. We learned about the site map, defense trenches, discovery of the stand alone burial site, and many more interesting facts and theories about this unique place.

The site is not accessible to the public yet, but hopefully some information boards will be installed along the Greenway.

The Woodstown book has a fantastic free audio guide that can be found on this page or, hopefully, accessed through this embedded link:

Today I am sharing some Viking pictures of our own very talented Vikings from Déise Medieval and their friends from other countries. From my previous Viking  post you already know about the Vikings and their legacy. Let’s see them in action 🙂

I was fascinated with the work of this beautiful weaver. We used to make a very simplified form of bookmark in Primary, and I still remember the joy 🙂

A charming Viking lady has a terracotta horseman that catches my eye.

A Byzantine physician (my guess) is offering potions and spices.

Another fascinating stand – Viking cutlery and all sorts of knives (The Catfire Forge)

Endless choice of pendants and a beautiful merchant – alone and deep in thoughts.

This lovely lady has a collection of Viking weaponry for sale.

She explains the great qualities of the battleaxe to her customer, and even shows where to aim 🙂 The other Vikings are hanging around, just in case. Safety first.

Day to day life in a Viking camp looks relaxing and wholesome.

And this is no doubt my favorite picture 🙂

Speaking about love. John of Wallingford, a Benedictine monk, complained about the Vikings and their ways to lure the local ladies from the straight and narrow. It came out that the invaders were a big hit with the local women because ‘they combed their hair every day, bathed every Saturday and had many frivolous devices about their person’.

Walking around the camp I take a few candid pictures of the Viking warriors. There is a battle between two Viking clans scheduled today.

Let’s the fight begin.

I am rooting for the redhead Viking lady.

No luck this time.

“Call upon the dead to rise! ”

And another fight begins. Then another.

The winners cannot hide their excitement.

Finally the war is over.

Thank you for reading about Irish history and camping with Vikings. Check your DNA – you might be surprised.

Have a wonderful weekend!

An Coinigéar, part II

One more blog from my long walk. You can watch a video about the Cunnigar in my previous blog post

Centuries ago, An Coinigéar was owned by the Duke of Devonshire, and was the site of the first golf course in West Waterford where the Duke and his prominent buddies used to come and play. In the 1861, the strip of land was bought by John R Power. The tenants of the only dwelling house on An Coinigéar were the Walsh family. As it was so far off the road, the local postman was paid some extra cash for every time he delivered a letter.

It looks like there were trees growing on An Coinigéar in the past.

Michael Sheehan, Irish priest, educator and scholar of the Irish language, was a young boy when he first came to An Coinigéar to play croquet with his schoolmates. They somehow moved fencing out of its place, and the son of original Mr. Walsh came out of his house and gave them a piece of his mind. Young Michael in astonishment asked his friends what language was the man speaking. Irish, was the answer. Michael was so impressed that he dedicated the rest of his life to studying and promoting the language of his ancestors, and was the author of many books in Irish.

I am glad that there is no golf course on An Coinigéar these days. My favorite coastal plant Sea holly can grow undisturbed, and feed armies of different insects.

Male Common blue butterfly is added to my list of species discovered on An Coinigéar 🙂

This Sea holly is hosting a party – male and female Common blue, and an unidentified wasp.

Female Common blue.

I love the fragile beauty of these little pieces of sky.

Another form of unhurried life.

I noticed the recent presence of cows on the Cunnigar, but didn’t see them. They probably crossed from west to east  behind the dunes that are several metres high. Finally I saw a herd moving towards The Ring in the low water some two hundred meters from the shore. Two cows – a huge pregnant and a young one – were way behind the herd, but the incoming tide didn’t seem to bother them. This is a heavy zoomed picture. The cows looked like two dots to me.

The western part of the estuary began filling up too, forcing the birds to relocate.

The tide was well in when I reached the dunes.

I crossed to the eastern part and was pleasantly surprised to see this male Wheatear. You can see the hallmark tail pattern. Wheatear has one of the longest migration routes of any songbird. I have read that the birds breeding in north-eastern Canada fly almost non-stop across the northern Atlantic to North Africa. My main resource of information about birds is this page.

The dunes on An Coinigéar are beautiful. I wish people were mindful about these fragile ecosystems and didn’t walk off trail. I took some pictures of birds from a distance – Pipits and Linnets.

There were seven Herons standing on the other side of a marshy area, but when I tried to sneak up closer, five of them took off. I got a couple of good pictures of herons in flight, and already used one in my New Years post.

Finally I reached the Point! Dungarvan quay doesn’t look too close. At low tide, the distance is much closer, and it is possible to walk across.

Here is a link to the Dungarvan Hillwalking club website where you can learn more about the annual event of the Cunnigar Crossing, and possibly join it some day. Last year, 359 people took part and €1961 was raised for charity. If you think you might do the crossing, check out the Hillwalking Club homepage and join their Mailing list. The Crossing event will take place in July or August.

The photograph from the website is linked back to the page.

In bygone days, An Coinigéar served as a shortcut from the Ring peninsula to Dungarvan, and women went to market with their baskets on their heads, and some students crossed to attend school.

In the 1880s, it was proposed to build a bridge, but thankfully it never happened, and the automobile era put an end to the use of An Coinigéar as a shortcut.

In later years, a local family run a ferry service to take the picnic-goers over in two rowing boats. If you needed the ferry, you stood at the point and waved a white handkerchief.

On my return journey I watch the birds and enjoy being surrounded with water.

Summer is almost over, but I find some samples of coastal flora.

Near the car park I see the herd and immediately spot the brave mama.

Good bye, An Coinigéar. It was good to spend time with you 🙂

Thank you for joining me on this walk.

 Have a wonderful weekend!