We went on a nice little family walk on the canal on today just by way of a day out. We set out from Abbeyshrule heading towards Ballymahon but only did about 4 km down the canal before returning. It was a fine day and there was a nice playground for the kids.
It was nice to see a bit more colour in the flora.
Our very silly dog was trying to figure out if she could get herself a nice duck. Not that she would know what to do about if she did.
The ducks in close-up. Just messing with the camera really.
By the time I got back from my morning’s activities the day had gone a bit nasty but as it wasn’t actually pouring rain, we decided to go for a walk anyway despite the protest of children. It wasn’t really a day for photography with heavy mist and generally not much to see.
We had some of the children’s friends over for the walk. The boys had a whale of a time but the girls were a bit subdued especially after one of them fell into a ditch. We made good time on the loop round but there wasn’t really a lot of interest to report given the various crashing noises that were being made by the children.
It is nice to walk with others as a counterpoint to being alone in the forest but it is a very different experience to the solitude from doing it with just the day. Neither is better or worse, just different.
Another quick lunchtime ramble today using the slightly shorter route as I was a bit late getting out. The weather was a bit of a mixed bag. There were blue patches in the sky but it was really doing its best to rain. I didn’t get a drenching but there were a couple of short showers on the trip around.
I liked the monochrome treatment for some of the textures on my last post so I’ve tried flattening out some of the more drab scenes to see how that works out on this. Hopefully we won’t be seeing trees like this for a lot longer.
Some strange things go on in the woods. Last week, I met a man with a wheelbarrow taking away leaf mulch which he reckons makes an excellent garden fertilizer. I was wondering why some of the path had been cleared up into piles. Anyway, this is evidence of some more nefarious activity. These cable reels and some related discarded insulation have been in the forest for several years.
The heather is getting into full flower at this point. As it was a bit windy, I found it difficult to manage a good close-up. This is as good as it gets I’m afraid
This past autumn have been the most amazing for mushrooms but there wasn’t much to see after Christmas so I’ve not really had anything to post on this blog since that’s when I started. I spotted these somewhat sad remnants today.
Unfortunately, I know nothing about mushrooms so I wouldn’t chance picking any. So that’s another ramble over and I got back to work for the afternoon with my head straightened out. After my big walk last week the forest does seem slightly mundane but I’m getting back into the swing of it.
After my exertions on Friday, I gave it a miss yesterday, but today I was back in the saddle so to speak. I had a bit of a cramp in one leg but I was hoping to walk it out. It was a typical late March day, fierce showers followed by spells of sunshine and we managed to pick a nice hour for it. We even had blue skies and sunshine on this walk.
The tadpoles are doing well and are starting to make a bit of progress. A few of them were wriggling about but mostly still inside their jelly.
There are fantastic textures and patterns in the the small details of forest life and I thought I’d have a bit of a play with the camera settings. This is an ivy leaf that has obviously made somebody a nice lunch.
Here is some detail on a tree trunk.
A close-up of some moss
Some more details of moss and bark
I love the pattern here
It wasn’t a terribly peaceful walk with four children along with us but I’d probably had enough of peace and quiet from my long walk to last me a couple of weeks. I’m planning on trying to do some more chunks of the Royal Canal over the rest of the year with an goal of having the whole lot walked by this time next year. But for now and for the next few walks, it is back to normality.
Coolnahay was a pretty little place that had two picnic areas, a little tea-room operating out of a lock-keeper’s cottage which was even open on a Friday in March. I felt a bit bad in that I was fully stocked with coffee and lunch but I sat down at a bench by the harbour to eat. I had a nice lunch of tuna roll, crisps and coffee. I left the woman a small donation (they had a sign saying donations welcome) as I felt bad about using their facilities. There was water available there as well but I took stock and figured I had enough to get me to Mullingar and didn’t need the weight. I got the map out and reckoned on being able to make Mullingar with about half an hour to spare for the 4:10 train so long as I didn’t faff about.
I met four people walking around Coolnahay and excluding the woman in the shop in Ballynacarrigy, these were the only people I saw for the entire day.
A little bit further on I came across this modern intrusion on the landscape which is Shanonagh bridge. At this point I was getting a sense of being on the home stretch but the weather was getting a bit nasty. It was a little uncomfortable but not a real problem thanks to my rain jacket and moleskin trousers.
After another couple of kilometres I came into Ballina where we joined the disused Athlone to Mullingar railway for the last 5 km or so into Mullingar.
I was getting pretty tired at this stage but with the end in sight I was moving fairly well. As I headed closer to Mullingar, I came across this odd looking memorial cross
When I got home, I looked this up and it turns out the Mary Walker was brutally murdered at this spot in 1909 and a man was hanged for the crime about six months later. It all looks quite gruesome – I will probably read up about it if I can.
Closer to Mullingar, I came across more disused rail infrastructure. I had never realised how big the railway yard was in Mullingar. There was the huge amount there and it’s all just falling apart.
So finally after 6 hours and 10 minutes, 10 minutes longer than estimated, I made it to Mullingar station with about 40 minutes to spare for the 1305 from Connolly to Sligo. I changed into a clean t-shirt and fleece so that I wouldn’t stink out the train and got back to Edgeworthstown in 20 minutes on the train.
At Emper (or at least where there was a sign saying Emper, I think the place itself was a kilometre or so away), I’d been walking for an hour and so decided to take a break as there was a nice comfortable lock to sit on. So I poured myself a cup of coffee and had a little bit of own-brand Snickers bar.
After this little break, I packed up and headed on towards Ballynacarrigy which would be the only village of any size I passed through until Mullingar. The terrain was rising a little at this point and there were another two locks to pass through.
I left the path for a minute in Ballynacarrigy to nip into a shop as I was concerned I didn’t have enough water and fancied a banana. After buying some water from than must have had gold in it considering the price from a strangely bare shop, I pushed onwards without another break. This is Ballynacarrigy harbour.
I did another couple of kilometres until I came across another convenient lock to take a break on and had another cup of coffee and helped myself to a handful of nuts. While I wouldn’t say it was getting hilly, the terrain was certainly a lot less flat and I came across a sequence of three locks in a few hundred metres near Kildallan bridge.
There were a few beautifully kept lock-keeper’s cottages on this stretch although some had fallen into complete ruin.
At this stage, I was starting to get hungry and I reckoned I was around the half-way point so it was getting time to stop for lunch. I resolved to give it one more lock before stopping and the I came across the beautiful little harbour of Coolnahay and stopped there.
I’m not counting this as one of my days but I’ll post on it here anyway. As I’ve been having a pretty rough week and was pretty seriously stressed, I decided I needed a big walk to clear my head. So as I’ve been toying with the idea of doing the Royal Canal way for the last while, I decided that it was a good time to get started on it. So, I took a day off work and got a few snacks and got myself ready to go.
I’ll break this into a few posts as the entire walk covered about 30km, took 6 hours and I took 120 photographs. The plan was to walk the section from the Whitworth aqueduct in Abbeyshrule to Mullingar. I toyed with the idea of bringing one of the dogs, but as I didn’t really know what to expect, I gave that idea a miss. It turned out that I probably could have managed to bring the younger of our two dogs. Poor old Sally probably wouldn’t have been up to 30k since she generally has a few hours’ kip after the 5k local loop.
Anyway, it was an overcast but reasonable morning when I got dropped off at the aquaduct. There was some messing going on where some muppet with a truckload of avgas for the local airfield had tried to go across the aquaduct but thought the better of it and was reversing out but once he sorted himself out, I was on my way.
The aquaduct carries the canal over the River Inny and makes getting in and out of the village of Abbeyshrule impossible without crossing water – or at least it makes it very confusing. Just after that I met a woman who was walking her dog who was the last person I would see for some time.
I’d walked a couple of kilometres up from Abbeyshrule, to the point of this very odd bridge which is in the middle of nowhere, has the remains of a road going up to one side and nothing at all on the other side. Perhaps there was a great house there at some point.
The next few kilometres were pretty featureless with only the occasional bridge to break up the view. But I quickly realised that it was an amazing perspective on the countryside as I was in utter solitude. Where I normally walk and in pretty much all of the midlands, humans generally intrude upon the soundscape in that there is always the distant rumble of traffic or somebody running a chainsaw. But out in the middle of this stretch of canal there was no human sound aside from one or two overflying airliners at cruise altitude. So I pressed on for an good hour or so in glorious solitude with only the sound of the wind and the birds.
So for the rest of this section of walk, there was a lot of views like this. For my first 5km or so, the ground was dead flat until I came across my first lock at Emper. I’ll stop this post at this point as it is getting a bit long.
I’ve made it to quarter-point of my hundred days with 10 days to spare before the same of the year so I guess this is good going. I still have a stupid row going on but getting into the forest to clear my head is the best thing for it.
It was a relatively nice day for it – a bit grey but not raining. My wife came with me for the walk and it was nice to have the company. Sometimes, I’d rather use my walk for alone time but this was not one of them. Nothing much out of the ordinary to report on this walk and I barely bothered with the camera.
This is the stick I’ve been using for the last 8 months or so. They tend to last a year or so before wearing down too short. I can then cut a new one out of the hedge at the back of the house. Some of these days, I’ll be organised enough to do one a few months in advance because they are really heavy when new due to the green wood. This one is just perfect right now.
I always like the way the light bleeds between the rows of trees – particularly when there is a gap. You could have some fun here with monochrome film and colour filters. I guess you could do the same with Photoshop but somehow it isn’t the same when the results are so predictable.
We had planned on having a walk elsewhere after going into the parade in Longford but events conspired otherwise. So we set off into the afternoon with two mildly grumpy children who weren’t thrilled with being dragged around the forest for a second time in three days.
Anyway, as usual the histrionics evaporated once we got into the forest. Unusually for St. Patrick’s day, it was quite a nice day with clear views to the horizon.
The dogs needed the walk anyway, and they were quite delighted to be getting so much exercise – three walks in three days is pretty good going for them.
You could also see that some of the frogspawn is starting to make a bit of progress with nubs to tails appearing on the tiny blobs. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep posting photos of these as they develop.
We got around in a reasonable time considering we had the children and we all had a grand walk. It is really nice to see things coming to life at this time of year.
One of the great things about walking alone in the forest is the ability to think things through in peace. I generally bury my phone in my rucksack so that it is for emergencies only. So the routine of looking where to put your feet so that you don’t fall over tends to disengage the brain in a way that is fairly refreshing.
Anyway, I guess this walk went in a bit of a blur as I’ve got a bit of tricky situation to resolve so I was thinking that through. Aside from that, I say my first primrose of the year on a bank so it is nice to see things progressing that way.
There is also a hardy little daisy poking out in the middle of one of the gravelled forest roads.
Anyway, I had a productive walk. I arrived home after an hour with a plan to shave my beard and a general of what to do next about my troubles.
Walking forests and trails in the midlands of Ireland