I managed to get home from work a bit early so decided to do a quick evening walk as the weather was reasonable.
It was a decidedly quick walk and I took a bit of a sort-cut to avoid the more remote parts of forest due to the approaching darkness. There wasn’t a lot new to photograph but I did take a couple of shots of another of the ruins in the forest.
This one is a bit odd as it would have been a fine farmhouse for its time rather than the simple shacks that other ruins were. It had at least two rooms, fine stone windowsills and outbuildings. I guess it must have once been the house of a relatively strong farmer before he sold up to the forestry. I must try to find somebody with some knowledge of the people who used to live up there.
There is an amazing cluster of wood-sorrel just after this ruin. They look particularly pretty in flower right now. There is something quite other-worldly about this I think. I should try to capture it in mist.
This was a quick walk and I was starving by the end of it due it being nearly 9 o’clock and me not having eaten since lunchtime.
After a good breakfast, I decided to get out for a walk early while the weather was still co-operating. After a good long dry stretch the weather is showing signs of breaking and returning back to normal. Unfortunately everybody else in the house was feeling a bit lazy so I was on my lonesome. I decided to christen a new pair of gaiters as the zip on my old ones had really had it.
Anyway, the rain more or less held off for the duration but it was quite windy. It was at a strange level though and was kind of whispering through the trees. The bilberries are coming along nicely – there might be a good harvest this year if the birds don’t get them first.
There are quite a few signs in the forest that it hasn’t been forested for all that long. In times past there were dozens if not hundreds of people living up on the mountain. Believe or not, this is the remains of a house. It looks a lot more house-like from the other side.
There are lots of fine old stone walls in the forest. The forestry people seem to be quite find of just driving through them with machinery when they are in the way but this one is surviving quite nicely. I’d like to see a concrete block wall last so well buried in a forest for 50 years.
It is getting close to the time for bluebells. Unfortunately, they aren’t that common in the forest. When I first started walking there, there were great carpets like this that I assumed were bluebell.
So as spring approached, I was really looking forward to the explosion of blue mist from the bluebells but unfortunately it never happened. I still haven’t managed to find out what the plant actually is but this is its extremely disappointing floral effort.
There are a few stands of bluebells and they are due out in the next week or two so I’ll post a couple of pictures when I get the chance. Bluebells apparently need hundreds of years to get properly established naturally and unfortunately not a lot of the forest is deciduous so they are never going to do particularly well.
I finished up my walk just as the rain was getting serious but not so bad that I needed to get my coat out.
It was another beautiful sunny day at lunchtime although it is still quite cold. So I set off for a quick lap with the gods in a fine mood. There aren’t many bare trees left, but this straggler is still struggling along with it.
There was a fabulously clear view from the top. The hazy hills in the background aren’t far from 40km away so that was how clear it was. The church is about 1.5 km from the point where the picture was taken.
The gorse (whin or furze if you prefer) is really in full flower right now and every now and then you get the most amazing blast of aroma from it. It really is a beautifully heady smell. I often wonder about the idea of adding it to beer as an aroma hop substitute but I guess there would be a bit of an infection risk.
I love this old tree that is deep in the forest. It is so twisted an gnarled that I reckon it has earned itself a reprieve from the forestry people due to being pretty useless for their purposes. I would think that it predates the planting of the forestry which can’t have been up on the mountain for more than 60 or 70 years.
After coming out onto the main forestry track, I had this little beauty to brighten up my day. If you keep an eye out there are loads of pretty little flowers coming out.
So I had a nice walk around the forest with a few more new things every day to keep things different. I’ll finish up with another tree texture.
I was out for a normal quick lunchtime walk today. It was another fine day although it was patchy. It was pretty nice during the walk anyway. Every day more things are bursting into flower. This birch tree caught my eye – obviously still suffering the ravages of the winter storms,
There is great variety in willow and sally trees and their flowers. I found a couple more flowering today
The sphagnum moss also seems to be doing its thing right now – whatever its thing is.
As part of the walk, I have to come out of one part of the forest (which isn’t very well grown at the moment), cross a local road and go back into another part of it. I spotted my first Lady’s Smock of the year growing on the edge of this road.
That is areal harbinger of early summer and was nice to see. I also took another shot that isn’t strictly of the forest but as I spent some time in Japan years ago, I am a sucker for Ohanami. They are such a beautiful flower.
I am writing this a couple of days late as I forgot to get the pictures off my camera. We had fantastic weather over the weekend and I had recovered enough by Sunday to manage a walk at a slightly reduced pace. The sky was almost completely clear but there was a bit of a haze to make taking landscapes a bit pointless.
There were lots of interesting trees in flower and while the flowers themselves are quite dull, they are a bit different. I am utterly useless at identifying trees so I’ll just post the pictures
I am so useless on trees I don’t even know if this is a flower or a bud but it made for an interesting shot anyway.
It was refreshing and a bit different to walk the forest in such pleasant conditions. It is amazing how quickly it dries up with a few days’ dry weather but a lot of the puddles have dried up and the muddier bits are becoming a lot more passable.
I took yet another shot of the road through it as it is so rare that you actually see it in bright sunshine and the light coming through the trees was amazing.
This was a good bit slower than my usual time due to some residual stiffness in my legs but it wasn’t too bad. I had a nice hour of it anyway.
After I had eaten, I managed to refill my water bottle from the tap kindly provided by the people in the lock keeper’s cottage and pressed onwards. For some reason I came to the conclusion that I had only 10 km to go but on reviewing it later, I would think it was closer to 12 or 13. It was getting to be a bit of a slog as it really was getting quite hot and there was very little shade available.
Before long I can to Island bridge near Kenagh and followed the trail onwards. However, a few hundred metres up the line I came to an open gate with a building site notice posted on it across the way. I checked the map and decided that I had best back-track up to the bridge and go up the opposite bank. I thought that was a bit of a bad show on a waymarked route to just have it blocked by Waterways Ireland and have no detour posted but as it was a bank holiday weekend no harm was done and I guess it would have been different with workers around.
Anyway, I headed off down the other bank and soon came across some parked machinery so it was obviously a site as well even though there was no notice posted. I got past it all and eventually came to a fence at the other end that blocked the way and announced the bank closed. It was just as well I was going the direction I was as otherwise I would have had to figure out a detour on local roads but I can’t help wonder at the strange decision to close both banks with no notices posted.
By now I was starting to get really tired and was becoming quite a struggle The next feature of note was the abandoned Longford branch which meant I had about another 2 km to go to Killashee and another 9 or so overall.
After struggling for another 20 minutes or so I made it to Killashee and had a bit of a rest. I checked the map and figured I had another 7 km to go so another hour and a half should suffice. The rest of the walk was a bit of a blur – really open countryside with very little shade. There were a few interesting features as I approached the end of the line. This lifting road bridge was about 3 km from Clondra – again part of the legacy of Longford Council filling in the canal to make the roads a bit faster.
From here on was a bit of bogland and the first I saw of this was this interesting lifting narrow-gauge bog railway bridge. These narrow-gauge railways are by far the largest rail freight operation in Ireland and the total network is roughly the same length as the main Irish Rail network in the country.
The bog around here is mostly played out and there is much planning under way right now as to what to do next with these vast open spaces, many of which need to be continuously pumped to stop them from flooding. There is much opposition to plans to install large amounts of wind turbines for electricity generation but whatever happens will be preferable to the decades of abuse the land has received at the hands of commercial peat extraction.
This little railway left me with about 2 km to go and I was very relieved indeed when Clondra finally came into sight. The harbour was buzzing with people sitting on their boats and I would guess the pubs were regretting the loss of a fine day’s trading due to it being Good Friday.
The end of the line – Lock 46. This is the end of the Royal canal where it joins the river Camlin and proceeds by way of the Clondra canal to the Shannon. Note the local spelling of Clondra – for some reason the OS spell it Cloondara but as I’m from Longford, I’ll spell it properly. The village is named from the Irish, ‘Cluain Dá Rath’ which means ‘Meadow of the two ringforts’.
So, somewhat refreshed I set out westwards again although I was nearing the point where the canal turns north towards Clondra. The first feature I had to go under was an ugly modern bridge that takes the R392 over the canal. It is only over the last few years that the canal from this point onwards has been navigable. In a fit of madness in the 1970s, Longford county council decided to remove and/or replace 5 or 6 canal bridges and just run roads through the canal. This was the main stumbling block against getting the canal re-opened and was only properly resolved about five years ago.
So this must have marked the old westward limit of the canal because I have childhood memories of having been in the line of the canal with my dad who was a keen botanist and there were lots of interesting things to be found in the marshy ground where the canal once was. The next bridge I came across, Archie’s bridge is burned into my memory for some reason as a place we used to come to walk as children. It is an absolutely standard piece of canal architecture yet like so much else about the canal it is a perfectly functional structure that does what it needs to do and nothing else.
As the day was progressing the cowslips were finally beginning to open out. This specimen was particular awake on the bank at Archie’s bridge
After Archie’s bridge and the lock at Mullawornia, the country started to turn a bit more interesting.
While not quite as twisty as the section near Abbeyshrule, the line started meandering a bit to avoid the need for locks. The canal seemed to be cut into the side of hills quite a bit and I was treated to this vista of Drum lough
At this point, the weather really was getting quite hot. I was beginning to get concerned about my supply of water as I had brought a total of 3 litres with me for the day and I had no idea as to where water was available. It is apparently possible to get water at each harbour but I’ve only ever managed to find the tap at Coolnahay near Mullingar.
After passing the R392 again through a rather elaborate built section of wall and modern bridge, I took another quick rest for a coffee and a few nuts
I changed out my map as I had now walked off sheet 41 and did some estimates of what was remaining. Unfortunately I did manage to mess up somewhat and severely underestimated the distance remaining after Kenagh.
I pushed on for a bit and came to one of these strange bridges which doesn’t seem to have a purpose. I went up on it to take a look and saw this farmer walking around a field staring at his feet. As I was whistling, he must have heard me and came down to have a chat. He had obviously also been on his own for the morning and felt the need to explain that he was trying to find out where his fertilizer had run out. We passed the time of day for about 20 minutes and he offered me some well water if I wanted to walk up a few hundred yards. However, heedful of the aforementioned slurry spreading, I politely declined. He did explain that the bridge had been built for farming and that the canal company had offered the local community (or more likely the gentry) £100 not to build the bridge but they had refused.
Anyway, I pushed on for another few kilometers to Lock 41 which I decided was a nice spot for lunch so I took a break there to have a tuna sandwich and some coffee.
The time had come to set out on my next chunk of canal walk which was from Abbeyshrule to Clondra but I have broken it into a couple of posts to avoid them becoming overly long. I set off from the Whitworth aquaduct at Abbeyshrule with Clondra as my planned destination for a walk somewhere between 35 and 40km – it is difficult to be more accurate because the canal is quite twisty of a good section of the route.
I had a foggy start at about 8 AM and the weather app on my phone was showing -1C as the temperature although I think it was a few degrees higher. I set off at a good pace and was soon through Abbeyshrule without much fuss. This section of the canal is a lot less remote than the section the other side of Abbeyshrule and there were plenty of houses and roads nearby. Indeed, close to 10 km of the route is actually on minor roads.
I saw a couple of cowslips making an appearance although they hadn’t really managed to open out yet thanks to the heave dew due to the fog.
I stopped for a coffee after an hour at Guy’s bridge and had to drink it standing up as there was nowhere to sit. This section of the route is exceptionally flat. There are only 5 locks over the whole walk, one of these is at the very end and two of them are within a kilometer of each other, so the option of having a coffee while sat on a lock gate rarely presented itself.
After that quick break, I kept the pace up and passed the N55 at Toome quite quickly. The countryside here is not spectacularly interesting – it is all good pastoral farmland and for large tracts, given the time of year, the dominating smell was that of slurry as the farmers are spreading in earnest now that the heavy early spring rains are done with. By now the fog had lifted and it was turning into quite a nice day.
At Toome bridge I had to take my chances with a herd of cattle who had set up camp on the path. I saw this kind of thing a few times where farmers had obviously annexed sections of towpath during the long years the canal was completely closed. There were numerous fences to be crossed on this section of walk and in places it got quite irritating.
It was a relief to make it to Ballymahon harbour for around 10 AM which was a good pace to start the day off with. I make the distance around 13 km so that was a good start to the day. To celebrate I had a cup of coffee and a snickers bar.
It was nice to sit there at the harbour and watch the place wake up. There are a few houses around Ballymahon harbour and people were slowing getting themselves started for the day and I’d already done 13km. The day was beginning to warm up so I stowed my winter hat in my bag as I wasn’t really going to need it. It really was looking at turning into a fantastically warm day.
There were a few swans and ducks to keep me company.
So I packed up and set off on the next section which I probably won’t get around to writing up until tomorrow.
I’ve now reached the third-way point of this little adventure in trying to find something different to write about the same thing every time. It has been quite a good exercise in observation as I find myself keeping myself much more alert for things to note down or to take photographs of. Anyway, today was a glorious sunny day but there was a bit of a frost overnight. This was long gone by the time we went walking and were presented with scenes like this. It isn’t too often you see clear blue skies around here.
It was bordering on being uncomfortably hot while wearing a tee shirt and light fleece but I suspect it would have been a little too cold for shirt only. This pretty little flower had just made its first appearance at one point under fairly heavy cover.
I haven’t managed to get out much this week but after a fairly manic week, I did manage a sunday stroll. The weather is taking a turn for the better and so although it was a bit windy, it was a fine spring day for it. On the way up the hill, we came across this which had rather spectacularly burst into flower. At bit of internet searching revealed that it is probably a Barberry which produces a fruit that can be used for making jam. So I’ll need to keep an eye out for that later in the year.
The forest is so alive at this time of year. The paths are rapidly drying out and the entire place just rings with birdsong. Today, we also saw the wood sorrel coming into flower.
Most importantly, the bilberries have flowered as well. These are a real staple of the mid-summer. There is nothing like a forest walk fuelled by the occasional foraged bilberry. Ardagh woods aren’t quite high enough for the bilberries to really flourish but they do well enough for a bit of a picking. Anyway, that is all to look forward to in a couple of months.
Anyway, we had a nice gentle walk. I’m hoping to get one or two more walks in before the next stage of my canal epic which I have planned for next Friday. It would be good to have hit the third-way point a couple of weeks early.
Walking forests and trails in the midlands of Ireland