Dear Co. Waterford …

Dear Co. Waterford,

You deserve a thank you letter because you have been incredibly kind to me throughout my life.

I know I left you for longish periods and had love affairs with Co. Louth and Dublin but you never left my heart.

Those first years of my life that I spent here were magical and you introduced me to the sea and the mountains as well as places full of history and antiquity. You also taught me the meaning of belonging and having a sense of identity as a person from this most stunning county that has remained relatively unspoiled.

The Copper Coast

Your allure meant that we never lost touch and came back on holidays every year to make sure our connection was never lost.

I fought hard to persuade hubby to move here when we got married because I knew that you brought me a greater level of health and happiness than anywhere else in the world.

Garrarus, Co. Waterford

Some people long to travel the world but my joy is in travelling your country roads, especially those high above the sea for all the miles and miles of coastline you offer. And how lovely it is to climb into the mountains and take in the vistas all around.

Mahon Falls

Your jewels, for me, include Mount Congreve Gardens, Lord Waterford’s, Curraghmore, and the picturesque villages and towns like Dunmore East, Annestown, Lismore, Stradbally and, of course, my beloved Tramore.

Tramore Beach

You are a county that has lots of pride but humility. You love your sport and sportspeople as well as musicians and creative people from all genres.

I’m glad you haven’t changed too much since I was a child as I love the continuity you bring.

Viaduct, Kilmacthomas

Thanks again for being such a support all these years and I am really looking forward to being able to travel your length and breadth from Wednesday on after the 5km Covid restriction.

Love you always,

River Blackwater, Lismore

Jx

The Bypass

I have it in for bypasses – those ring roads around cities, towns and villages. I feel that they have half killed many lovely places and have knocked their hearts out with the building of out of town shopping complexes and the like.

Yes, I know they have eased traffic jams but …

Anyway, one of my walks that pretty much fits the Covid19  ‘no more than 2km from your home restriction’ is a loop that includes a chunk of Tramore’s bypass.

I never walk on it normally but we’re not talking ‘normal’ at present. I hadn’t quite worked out what exactly I had against it as a walking spot until yesterday when I went in the opposite way to usual and started with the old part of the town. That brings me passed my late parents’ house and the zillions of memories associated with them; across the top of Main Street, which always has me gazing down the steep hill to the beach; across Priests’ Road, with its looming church and houses I have known since I was tiny. It also includes a former sweet shop which makes me think of the day when I was three and waiting so excitedly to see Dad driving Mother home from hospital in our Morris Minor after a very close encounter with death.

On around the corner and there’s the entrance to Love Lane and the tennis club that was such a part of my life.

Up the steep Newtown Hill with its beautiful old walls and the place where there used to be a caravan site with terrific views of the sea.  Mother and Father rented a caravan there every Summer in the early years of their married life as they had to vacate their rented house. They adored the caravan, even though I never saw Father as a caravan type of person as he was big into organising his own space.

As I head up the hill, there’s thoughts of all the roads to my favourite beaches on out the coast but alas it’s time to turn onto the bypass. So, yesterday, I saw how the walls changed from the shapely old stone walls to concrete blocks. The bypass is straight with no twists and turns to keep you wondering.

It backs onto gardens so there’s no keeping on eye on how plants are coming along; just the odd glimpse of clothes flying high on washing lines.

About half way along is a roundabout that makes you think everyone should have at least five pairs of eyes. One of its roads heads to what seems like one of the new town centres. All modern and ‘busy, busy …’

The last lap brings me back to near our place. It includes newish houses and some that have been there for my forever.

This is the key, I think, the bypass holds no memories for me. It isn’t a road of my life as it will be for kids of today who will remember having their first cycle there or a first kiss.

I guess few of us move entirely with the times when it comes to place. Rather, we see familiar places in the guise that evokes the most for us.

If I live long enough, maybe, just maybe, the bypass, now about 20 years old, will become etched into my heart and mind’s eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Back Road

There’s all sorts of ways of getting from Tramore to Waterford – it’s just about 8 miles.

I love all the roads for different reasons and each has its own landmarks. Some are very personal to me and others are much more widely recognised.

The farm buildings on the ‘Back Road’ that you see in the photo below really stand out with the white-washed walls and high up green grain doors.

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Shadows on the Wall

I make a point of taking the Back Road on sunny days just to see the shadows of the trees playing on the old well kept wall.

It’s always  lovely knowing that Tramore and the sea are waiting not far over the little hill in the distance and that you might  well catch a glimpse of a horse looking out over a stable door in the evocative farm yard.

The Slip ~ Tramore, Co. Waterford

There’s few places that feel more like home to me than The Slip down at Tramore Beach. It’s a place that’s all abuzz in Summer when there’s a bit of sun. You see relaxation personified and lots and lots of colour ~ deckchairs, windbreakers, lifeguards, ice-creams, tanning bodies; and there are the scents of coconut sun cream, fish and chips, seaweed; sounds of kiddies’ excitement and freedom, waves splashing, chatter of old-timers …..

At this time of year, The Slip tends to be quiet apart from a few tourists, regular walkers, joggers and sea-lovers.

I love the solitude you find there in Autumn as the sun is rising. There is the company of the seagulls and the familiarity of it all as this is the place where I spent hours and hours as a babe in arms, with a babe in arms, readying myself for a swim, or just whiling away the hours watching the ebb and flow of the sea.

All this was on my mind as I stood their very early last Saturday morning, having been woken at all hours by the dogs barking at I know not what.

The thing about The Slip is that you can generalise about it all you like but it is never, ever the same as it was even a moment before or after. This is how it was while I was there on Saturday for that stolen hour or so half in my pyjamas, half in in winter woollies:

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Lighting Up Time

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Day is Dawning

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The Golden Slip

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The Incoming Tide

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Early Morning Paddle

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Daily Constitutional

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A New Day

 

Hasta La Vista

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My Garden of Eden, Mount Congreve, is closing on Sunday for the Winter. As regulars here on Social Bridge will know, the world famous garden, which is just a few miles out the road from Tramore, is a precious haven of mine.

I’m very fortunate to have been able to visit Mount Congreve every week throughout the season and savour its ever-changing colour and light.

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Today was bliss but tinged with a sense of melancholy as I wandered through the walled garden and then the glorious woodlands. Much has happened in the period since the Gardens opened back in March and I’ve done a lot of contemplating, celebrating and pure ‘being’ in this place that never, ever fails to bring colour, calm and awe to my mind and heart.

Here’s a glimpse of what drew my eyes out there this morning on one of those ‘pet’ days that you always hope for as September draws to a close in Ireland:

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Tramore Tonight

I sped out of the house around eight o’clock as the sun had just set and found myself down at the Prom looking out over Tramore Bay.

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Tramore Bay, Co. Waterford

It was one of those balmy September nights when locals and visitors were trying to eke out the very last of the Summer. The ‘Merries’ have closed down, on weekday nights anyway, but there was a big queue at Dooly’s Fish and Chip Shop which is a landmark place by the Ladies’ Slip here in Tramore. Even when you’ve had supper, it’s hard to resist at least a ‘small chip’ wrapped in steaming paper with that distinctive salt and vinegar smell that blends so well with the salty sea air and the splashing of the waves.

Tonight, the Prom seemed to be all about lines. The horizon was sharp, in stark contrast to the dense fog that hung over it early this morning; the waves were like dark pencil lines as they crested; the three pillars out at the Metal Man rose up to lend their shape to the scene; and most of all the Prom railings marked out Tramore as the place that has held me since I was a babe-in-arms.

Just to run my fingers along those railings anchors me like nowhere else. I’ve leaned against them in all-weathers for over half a century now and they always make me think of the millions of hands that have held them as Tramore has won the hearts of people who could be just about anywhere as I write.

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Railings of Love

 

Water Flowing Under the Bridge

The River Suir is one of the longest rivers in Ireland. It has been a part of my life in various different parts of the country.

Here’s how it was as I stood on Fiddown Bridge one evening recently.

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Back towards Clonmel, Co.Tipperary

Clonmel was ‘home’ in my student years and the place where I met up with hubby.

The Suir enters the sea a few miles from Waterford city. I see it almost every day and feel it is part of my stream of consciouness as Co. Waterford is my birthplace and home now for over 25 years.

I love the bends in this wonderful body of water. They say so much about the unexpected; and the hidden beauty that lies in wait.

But that evening on Fiddown Bridge, I wasn’t thinking about past or future. It was more a deep appreciation of the flow of life and being able to take in the fullness of the river at high tide as it brought a calmness with that gentle glow of pink as night fell.

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The Suir heading towards Waterford City and onwards to the sea.

Is there a river that wends through your life?

 

 

 

A Tramore Landmark

The feature of Tramore that you see long before you reach the town from pretty much any direction is the steeple of the Roman Catholic Church ~ The Church of the Holy Cross.

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Holy Cross Church on Tramore Skyline at Sunset

I was Baptized in this church back in 1957 ~ and even though I’m no longer a believer, I love the building as it is such a part of the town that I proudly call ‘home.’  Speaking of ‘home,’ the church is very close to where we live and I have a full view of the steeple just standing in the kitchen.

The foundation stone for the Holy Cross Church, which was designed by Mr. J.J. McCarthy,  was laid in 1856 and the tower and spire were completed in 1871. Before that time, a thatched chapel close to the existing church served the people of Tramore.

The Holy Cross Church reminds me somewhat of the sea as its appearance changes very much depending on the light and I find myself drawn to it in all weathers and at different times of the day and year.

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The Holy Cross in Early Morning Light

The Church has a Rose Window which was supplied by Messrs. Meyer of Munich and it is quite stunning from both inside and out:

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The Rose Window at Sunset

Here’s how it looks from the inside:

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The Stained Glass Rose Window 

The colour of the brick work is ever changing and I love its warmth in the evening sun

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as well as its shapeliness when viewed from the side against a blue sky:

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Tramore has a population of around 10,500 people and it is a source of constant fascination to me that it should have a church that it so imposing.

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Soaring Spire

What sort of church building is part of ‘your’ home place?