Back to the Rain

Day 55

The weather broke this morning so it was a bit of shock to be back to the usual dull overcast weather. There was a bit of drizzle when I went out but nothing bad enough to mandate a rain-coat. The views from the top were a lot duller than yesterday but at least I was relatively dry.


At the top of the walk, I noticed that a pine tree had fresh green cones developing which I thought quite interesting. The really odd thing (to me) is that the same tree had flowers, mature cones and green cones so they obviously don’t all develop at the same time.

DSCN1000I continued on with the dogs towing me along feeling quite smug that I had remembered to put on my gaiters which I had been leaving behind for the last while. However, they didn’t do me an awful lot of good when confronted with soaking wet knee-high grass. Wet trousers aren’t really avoidable at this time and I suppose that at least it isn’t cold.


Despite the rain, most of the streams down the bottom were still almost bone dry which is a bit hard on the tadpoles. They should get a bit wetter as the rain makes its way down the mountain over the new few days. It was a nice refreshing lunchtime walk and I even got back with a resolution to a couple of work problems which was quite helpful.


Evening Walk

Day 54

This was a spur of the moment evening walk so I got my boots on and did a quick lap after work. The weather is still holding out but not quite so hot in the evenings. There were a few new arrivals on the flowering front up there today – I thought this was a nice shot.


Aside from that, the view was as for the most part recently fantastic although a little hazy.


Everywhere is so dry at the moment as it hasn’t really rained in two weeks so we could actually have managed the walk in runners. Even the streams down the bottom have dried up and the poor old tadpoles are reduced to a few muddy puddles.

I spotted this bee on a thistle when I got out into our bottom field but decent shots of bees are possibly a bit beyond my camera. But here goes anyway.


You can sort of see her nectar sacs on this one.


So I got a nice walk in for a work evening and I should get out again tomorrow as I am planning on working from home.

Early Saturday Morning

Day 53
I got up early for a Saturday morning walk before the madness of the day started and it was nice to be out in the quiet. The run of good weather is continuing so it is great to be out this early. Not an awful lot to report – I didn’t even bother taking many pictures.


The dogs and I had a grand walk and it was very enjoyable and quite quick. I got home by way of the usual set of bridges.


When I got home, the children were already up and out in the paddling pool so that was the end of my peace for the day.

Almost Too Hot

Day 52

The weather has taken a turn for the rather fabulous and I had clear skies and tremendous heat for my walk today. So much so, the it was time for the summer hat. I was a bit concerned about the dogs as it was very warm but there is still  a reasonable amount of standing water up the forest, I figured they would be ok.


Up the road, there are the most fabulous honeysuckle bushes growing in a hedge as a garden escape. They are flowering right now and really suit the weather.


I took a few more shots on the way around, mainly to illustrate the fabulous blue skies which are such a rare feature around here. The heat really was quite strong and I found myself dipping into my water bottle a lot more than usual.


The view from the top was just stunning today. Hardly a cloud in the sky and most of what was there were high-altitude or drifting contrails.


Both the dogs and I were very glad to get into the shade after the relatively exposed first part of the walk. This part of the walk was punctuated by the occasional blast of sunlight into clearings full of foxgloves. There was even that smell of hot pine that I mostly associate with forest-park campsites in continental Europe.


The bilberries are coming along very nicely and it is looking like there will be a good harvest this year. It is a pity we are going to be away for a chunk of the season when they’ll be ready.


Anyway, after such a hot walk, it will be no surprise that I didn’t exactly set any speed records – I figure it took me over an hour but I wasn’t running a timer. Never mind, it was a nice experience to be up there in such fantastic weather.

More Foxgloves

Day 51

After a relatively early Sunday morning breakfast, we got our act together and headed out for a walk around 10:30. It was a warm but overcast morning but at least it was dry. The forest is becoming awash with colour with various things bursting into flower.


It was a fabulous clear morning with clear visibility right out the horizon 40km or so away. You can see how lush everything is right now. Everything is drying out well with quite a few normally waterlogged areas completely dry.


For once there wasn’t too much moaning from the children and we made reasonable time on the walk. We did a bit of exploring around the point where one of the tracks in the forest narrows down to an animal track to try to find why the track ended at this point but didn’t find anything like a house. We did find this rather fantastic bracket fungus clinging onto a gorse bush. It was so dark I had to use the flash to get a decent picture.


The thistles are just about to come into flower and I always think the flower buds on these look great.


Everywhere you look now the foxgloves are in full flower with some of them shooting up nearly 3 metres high. They absolutely thrive anywhere a bit of light gets to the forest floor and are an amazing sight for a couple of weeks.


It is quite amazing how transient the various burst of colour are. You get things like Daisies and Dandelions for most of the year, you get bluebells for most of a month and the foxgloves are around for a month, yet you get things like the Devil’s Matchstick which only seem to last for a few days. Blink and you’ll miss them.

Half-way Point

Day 50

This is the half-way point for this project and I’m 19 days early. So far so good. Anyway, it was a day for a quick lunchtime walk. The weather was fine but I somehow managed to forget my stick which was a bit annoying. The foxgloves are looking rather fabulous right now with a few spots where they are abundant.


The day was quite overcast but was relatively warm. We took the shorter of the two routes again. There are some rather nice views from there even if they are obstructed by trees.


There isn’t really a lot to say about this walk. It was quite fast and that’s about it. We get fabulous orchids in our bottom field most years and this year is no exception. It will be a pity as our own trees grow to see these overwhelmed by the cover but I’m sure something equally interesting will appear.


Promise of things to come

Day 49

I missed another day due to having been off on a canal stroll with company to recee a guided walk I’m doing in a couple of weeks. So it was back to the regular walk today although the weather wasn’t really up to much. It was for the most part dry but there was the occasional very intense shower. Still we managed to dodge them for the most part.

In between the showers there was a very intense sky with patches of view and it was very warm. There was a fabulous sky up the top.


The foxgloves are starting to make an appearance and it is nice to see them back. They really are quite a spectacular summer flower up the forest although they do need a bit of light to flourish.


The next thing I saw for the first time this year is the blackberry blossom. Although these aren’t that spectacular, they are the harbinger of very good things to come later so these are good to see. They always put me to mind of the Michelle Shocked song of the same name and I quite frequently end up lapping the forest with that playing a loop in my head at this time of year.


I came across these odd-looking summer mushrooms. I can’t remember seeing these at this time last year but perhaps I wasn’t keeping an eye out so well. Anyway, it was surprise to see them at this time of year.


That’s about it for this walk. It was a bit of leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll – really the kind of walk I should have been doing some exploring on but I didn’t quite manage it. I nabbed one more shot of the foxgloves near the end on closeup. My new stick is a real big help with steadying the camera – I cut it about a foot longer than the old one so it is just the right height.


Back in the Forest

Day 48

After a bit of a break due to having to be in Dublin every day last week and the canal walk, I was back in the forest for a quick lap at lunchtime. Not a lot has changed really, the weather has been showery so the water levels were about normal. The main addition is that the buttercups are now in flower. I used to hate these when I was gardening a lot but I guess they are a sign of summer.


The day was overcast but clear enough. I’ve kind of given up bothering with the long-zoom landscapes but this view of the church down the village was quite nice I thought.


We took the longer route around and I managed not to get too soaked despite the recent rain-shower. This tree has been slowly decaying for years but the root ball has provided an interesting habitat. I don’t think it will be there for much longer though as there are a few holes appearing and the soil is falling down.


It was nice to get back out for a quick walk. I have fully recovered from my exertions at the weekend but I think it will be a while before I attempt such a long section again. I certainly won’t be trying it in such hot weather.

Canal Walk – Hill of Down to Enfield

So, suitably refreshed after a nice lunch of Tuna roll, crisps and a can of Coke, I pushed onwards. The heat really was starting to get to me at this stage and as usual it was beginning to stop being fun. But I still had 14 km to go and was on a reasonably tight deadline for a train at Enfield. So I had to just put the head down and get on with it. The railway was pretty much a constant companion at this stage with the odd milepost being visible. The railway is the only transport mode in Ireland still using miles.



There is lots of canal activity visible in this shot with both cyclists and canoeists enjoying the fantastic weather. I must admit, that at this point I was praying for less fantastic weather and was trying to find shade wherever possible.


The next major feature on the canal was the Boyne aqueduct. This is another landmark I have seen hundreds of times from the train but had never set foot on. There was quite a nice view of the river from here but it was a bit of a major diversion to try to get a picture of the aqueduct itself.


The county boundary took  a bit of a diversion a this point and I had to wait another 5 kilometres or so until crossing the Blackwater to pass into county Meath. My pace had dropped below 5 km per hour by now and I was having to stop to take a rest every hour given I was now knocking on the door of 35 km and was in a bit of pain. I stopped for a quick chat with a couple of boaters at Moyvalley and then came out onto the old main road at Furey’s.



Much as I would have loved to stop for a pint, I was looking nervously at my watch as I was going to be cutting it really fine for a train or face waiting at Enfield for two hours. So I pushed on as fast as I could. After Moyvalley, the path got quite overgrown and it was really pleasant. There was quite a bit of shade about and it was a very welcome relief for the sun.


At about 40 km, I decided to chance another quick rest. I had a bit of a sit down, ate a chocolate bar and drank the remains of one of my (long-thawed) frozen bottles of mineral water that I use for stopping my chocolate from melting. This gave me another burst to finish out the walk.

The next feature was the Blackwater aquaduct which finally marked my transition into County Meath and left me with about 3 km to go.



From there on in I was on the home stretch and the sore legs and feet didn’t really matter any longer. There were a lot of teenagers hanging about Enfield harbour enjoying the fine weather.

All of a sudden, I spotted the bridge at Enfield station and knew that I had only a couple of hundred metres to go. I got into the station about 10 minutes before the train was due but I needn’t have been that rushed as Irish Rail weren’t too rushed either and the train was about 15 minutes late.



Canal Walk – McNead’s Bridge to Hill of Down

So without much of a pause, I pressed onwards from McNeads bridge for a few kilometres. When I spotted a sign for a bar and grocery shop at Killucan, I left the line for a few hundred metres to replenish my water supply. I got another 2 litres of water and replenished my water bladder from what I had. It was turning into quite a hot day and I reckoned I was going to need whatever water I could carry.


Immediately after Killucan I hit upon my first lock of the day and over the next 5 kilometres or so the route dropped through about 10 locks from the summit. I’ve taken pictures of most if not all of the locks but it gets a bit boring after a bit so I’ve not bothered uploading them all.



There were quite a few people about partaking in various canal-side activities.  I met a few local walkers, runners and the odd cyclist. The route in this part of the canal is particularly suited for cyclists with pretty much uninterrupted paving along the canal all the way from Mullingar.

I had done a deal with myself to have lunch at or around the half-way point but then I realised that I had managed to talk myself into doing the walk by persuading myself that it was about 4 kilometres shorter than the 44 km that the walk was planned at. So I left the 20 km behind with this harvesting operation being the only thing of note to see.


The day was getting so hot that I resolved to go for a quick swim when I got significantly past half-way. I wasn’t really feeling particularly hungry so I decided to leave lunch for a bit longer. So at 24km, I had a quick dip in the canal which was indeed very refreshing. It wasn’t as cold as I was expecting but it was certainly a relief from the heat of the day.

While I wait to dry off I had a bit of a rest and admired the various insect life buzzing about. There were fantastic dragonflies but they were too fast for my bridge camera to be able to nab a quick shot. So I satisfied myself  with a coupe of shots of this butterfly which was quite fabulous.



So resting aside,  I got my act together and kept myself moving. Every now and then I would come across a heron who would promptly take off and move elsewhere. This guy was on the other side so wasn’t too bothered about me


So from this point, it was another couple of kilometres into Hill of Down where there was a lovely little harbour and they were setting it all up for a bit of a festival. There was what looked like a nice pub with tables outside but again, I was loaded for the day and in any case it was a bit early for partaking. I reckon you could easily take on this section without too much in the line of supplies as there were a few spots to get food.


So I pushed on for another couple of kilometres until I came to a reasonable looking spot with a bench to have a bit of lunch.