Tramore Beach ~ Ebb and Flow

Tramore, Co. Waterford is probably the best-known seaside town in Ireland and the translation of its Irish name Tra Mhor is ‘big strand.’  I feel extremely privileged to reside in the town and to live just a few minutes away from the beach which has such natural appeal and beauty.

Tramore Bay towards the Metal Man

Yesterday evening,  a tweet from someone looking for solutions to writer’s block caught my eye and my response was: ‘  go to where there is water, ideally the sea, and let the ripples gently re-ignite your creativity. See it as cleansing!  The person tweeted back early this morning to saying:   love this idea, and will be running my bathroom taps asap! too wet outside to go out!!! thank you x.’

This little exchange was on my mind this morning as I headed down to the beach in Tramore. The sun was blazing, and the tide was out. It seemed to me that the three miles of golden sand were like nature’s page presenting infinite angles and ideas and touching every sense imaginable.

Expanse of Tramore Beach

I knew that the tide would be perfect for a swim at around tea-time and also that a whole new vista would present itself when I reached the Prom.  The comforting arms of the Bay, as I always think of them, Brownstown Head and the Metal Man,  seemed to be much closer than earlier; there were more people around ; and the  miles of sand were now covered with the full tide.

Enjoying the Surf

While I was thinking  of how the waves were  turning the page of the sands of morning,  the sky drew my eyes toward an intense rainbow over the Bay revealing a full range of colour which was almost too much to absorb.

Rainbow over Tramore Bay

Swimming in this bliss, I wondered if the bath had sorted out my Twitter friend’s writer’s block or if she should get on a plane or train and come to Tramore Beach tomorrow where I know that more and more wonders and inspirational beauty will unfold.

Tramore Remembers Brave Irish Air Corps Helicopter Crew

The first  friday of July will always stand out in my mind as the saddest day  of  Tramore’s recent history.

Monument on Tramore Promenade, Co. Waterford.

 On that day in 1999,  the  Co. Waterford coast was shrouded in dense fog, just as it has been for much of this week,   and  the four-man crew of the Irish Air Corps’ Helicopter RESCUE 111 were tragically killed when they crashed into the sand dunes of  Tramore Beach as they attempted to land at nearby Waterford Airport.

A monument commemorating the brave crew is a fundamental part of Tramore’s Promenade and this  week  it has been adorned with flowers as the town remembers the bravest of brave men who were killed that evening.

‘From the People of Tramore in Appreciation’

The four who died were so young and from different parts of the country:

Sgt.  Patrick Mooney, Stamullen, Co. Meath ~ aged 34 years

Capt. Dave O’ Flaherty, Tullamore, Co. Offaly ~ aged 30 years

Capt. Michael Baker, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford ~ aged 28 years

Cpl. Niall Byrne, Killiney, Co. Dublin ~ aged 25 years

As the inscription on the monument states, the men had successfully assisted in the rescue of five people in the heavy fog before tragedy befell them.  They lost their lives fulfilling their Unit’s motto, ‘Go Mairidis Beo’ ( That others may live.)

Last evening,  as I was thinking about the men and their bereft families, while looking out to sea at sunset, by absolute chance the Rescue Helicopter came flying across the Bay from the Metal Man direction.  In my heart, I knew that today’s crew would also risk their lives to save others.  Can we ever thank such brave men and women enough and do we fully appreciate what they are prepared to do for mankind?

Midsummer ~ Buckets and Spades

I have been giving a lot of thought to Bucket Lists and Spade Lists in recent times.  A Bucket List, which derives its name from that great 2007  film, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, is about those things you would if  told you only had a short time to live.  Thankfully, I haven’t been hit with news of impending death so I haven’t done much more than think about Bucket Lists in an abstract way. 

Spade Lists, though,  are of a different order, and for me, they are about everyday digging. Such digging can be seen as a daily grind or it can be infused with creativity, colour and connection.  Flashbacks to childhood days on Tramore Beach, here in Co. Waterford,  with a big yellow spade digging happily, hoping to get to Australia, but knowing that I was in a race against both the water coming up from Australia and the tide coming in behind me with its white  lacy edges. 

Those hours kneeling on  the beach, feeling both the damp, heavy sand and taking time to let the hot fine grains flow through my young fingers were all about living totally in the precious moments while planning new creations. Go, gather coloured stones and shells to decorate a sandcastle;  divert the tide with dams and build bridges from one castle to another to enable the  seaweed people with their fancy shell bonnets to party with each other…..

Weaving creative wonder into everyday life is not just for kids on the beach. It’s there for all of us if we just step back onto those beaches and use our bright yellow spades to carve out Spade Lists that will let us savour the magic that can be there in even the most mundane activities – like doing the grocery shopping. Hey, see all the bright yellows staring out from the fruit and veg!

Ireland Calling! May 2012 Slideshow

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The Heart of Co. Waterford

Co. Waterford is my native heath and I am immensely proud of the depth of its history, heritage and natural beauty.

Today has been one of those special days in my relationship with this county in the south-east of Ireland.  After an early morning swim in Tramore and a walk on the beach, I decided to go to Mahon Falls high up in the Comeragh Mountains. The last time I had been there was on an orienteering trip in the depths of winter and I had vowed that day to go back on a sunny summery day.

Mahon Falls, Co. Waterford

The views were magnificent. Sheep and lambs were grazing on the mountainside, the waterfall was gushing down and all the while I could see the blue sea beneath.

View from Mahon Falls towards the Coast

On the way back to Tramore, I stopped at a shop tucked away at a little crossroads just down from Mahon Falls. It was called J. Power and Son, an old-fashioned shop that  reminded me of  the shops my late father used to drop into for ice creams sandwiched between wafers when he would take us kids on mystery tours around Co. Waterford years ago.

The man behind the counter, who was probably in his seventies, greeted me with a warm smile that lit up his kind eyes. He was tall and wearing a grey-green hand-knitted Aran jumper that looked like it totally belonged and had seen a lot of life. Sheer instinct drew me to the ice-cream freezer where I pulled out the first choc-ice that I’ve eaten in about 30 years.  We exchanged a few pleasanteries about the weather and then the man looked at me and just said: ‘ It’s hard to beat Co. Waterford on a day like this, isn’t it?’  I agreed  and told him I was from Tramore and had just come from visiting Mahon Falls.  ‘Ah, so you know the county well, then. Tramore is a fine town. I used to go dancing  in the Atlantic Ballroom there years back. Many a good night we had  when the showbands would come. Mick Del  and …..’

We chatted for quite a few minutes and as I left the shop, I felt like I had glimpsed the very heart of Co. Waterford in those kind eyes at a crossroads between the moutains and the sea.  A special moment when past and future met in a what felt like an eternal present.

Spring in Romantic Tramore

 SPRING IN  ROMANTIC TRAMORE 

This evening I realised that winter is over and that spring has finally sprung. I felt that tingle of excitement at the prospect of new beginnings when I caught a glimpse of springtime down the Prom  shortly before 6pm.  The beach had its spring glow –  that special sheen that one only seems to catch at this time of year.

Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who felt the change in the air. Out in Garrarus, a man was happily looking for treasures in among the rockpools; families were enjoying the mild air and dogs were bounding along the beach. All the while, there was the sound of birds chirping and the fields around Tramore will soon present us with that most wonderful sight, newborn lambs under their mothers’ watchful eyes.

With the arrival of spring, I can’t but think of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s line: In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.’ It is hard to think of a place that holds more for the romantic, than Tramore itself. I challenge anyone to find a ‘A Lover’s Walk’, which is as beautiful and historic as Lover’s Walk out by Newtown Wood. It’s hardly a coincidence that there is an abundance of wild gorse, which shows yellow all year, growing along ‘Lover’s Walk.’ Whenever I pass it, I think of how my late mother would always say:  ‘When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing’s out of season.’

Lover’s Walk, Tramore, Co. Waterford

Or what about Tramore’s , ‘Love Lane’, with its special proximity to the sea and to that den of romance, Tramore Tennis Club. And, come to think of it, Tramore has its very own historic Gallwey’s heart-shaped chocolates.

While there is a lovely predictability about spring, trees in bud, snowdrops, primroses in the hedgerows, daffodils, lengthening days, the comings and goings of St Patrick’s Day, it can be full of surprises and new beginnings.

Without doubt one of the most unexpected things to happen me in springtime was eleven years ago, when I brought my then five-year-old son down to Tramore GAA Club to see if hurling might appeal to him. I had no background whatever in hurling, having spent my formative years, immersed in tennis, in non-hurling counties like Westmeath, Monaghan and Louth. Little did I realise that day, back in spring 2001, that I would be entering a whole new world.

Tramore GAA Club welcomed us with open arms and there I discovered what can only be described as a dynamic hub of sport, camaraderie and community. Hurling certainly did take the young man’s fancy, and ten years on, I am still stunned by the extent to which hurling and Tramore’s, Michael Mac Craith Club, which has a history stretching way back to 1885, became so fundamental to our lives.

Tramore GAA Club

The stretch in the evenings will soon bring the sight of hard-fought matches down in the grounds at Riverstown, the echo of hurls clashing, team mates calling, coaches encouraging, half-time drinks, supporters cheering, that piercing sound of the referee’s whistle, the clatter of the metal studs as the spent teams – ours in the blue and white of Tramore, make their way to the dressing-rooms to either celebrate or console, but never losing sight of the bonds of friendship that are tightened with every match between both team mates and ‘opponents.’

A tough winter is behind us now. Tramore is already dressing up for spring and presenting us with so much to savour. I’m just wondering what surprises are in store, what new beginnings are ahead in this special town of ours that has such an abundance of human energy and natural beauty.

Galloping on Tramore Beach

The Turning Tides of Tramore

THE TURNING TIDES OF TRAMORE

 The turn of the year in Tramore always makes me think of the turning tides on the beach; those moments when you watch the sea withdrawing to reveal clear golden sands beneath or when you realise that the sound of the sea and the waves are pressing forward to embrace the naked shore. We can either look back and remember, or look forward and hope.

Galloping on Tramore Beach

Two of the New Year rituals that spell ‘Tramore’ in my mind certainly bring this notion of past and future together in very different ways. At about ten o’clock on New Year’s Eve, my son and I make our way out to Newtown Cove to cast what we call our wishing stones. Usually we’re lucky and the moon is bright, allowing us to choose the stones which we feel are just right for us – it’s all about size, colour, texture and finding a stone that feels as if it symbolises those elements of life that are fundamentally important to us. Then in turn, we each cast our stone as far as we can out towards Brownstown and make a secret wish for the year ahead. We’ve always had the Cove to ourselves for this important ceremony in which Newtown is like a perfect amphitheatre, with its sloping cliffs, rugged rock formations, and natural acoustics. Far away, we can see the circling shadow of the light beaming from historic Hook Lighthouse.

Wishing Stones

Back home, we wait for the stroke of midnight, and then it happens. Like an ancient tribe, marking the turn of the year, three or four generations of a family across the road burst forth from their house, banging saucepans with metal spoons. Within seconds, the rest of the neighbours are out and the procession circles once, drawing the community together, and then all is silent waiting for the New Dawn.
Reading a 1940s book called The English at the Seaside that I bought at an auction in Keighery’s of Waterford, I was stunned to find the name Dr Richard Russell popping up in relation to founding the fame and fortunes of Brighton through his advocacy of the health benefits of sea-bathing. Dr Russell has always been mentioned as a key person, along with Bartholomew Rivers, in influencing the development of  Tramore as a popular seaside spa and resort from around 1750 onwards.
This little bit of history, coupled with a nostalgic look through pictures of bathing huts, bands on Promenades and the evolution of bathing costumes, including the ladies two-piece, which seems to have been around since antiquity, but only as a bikini since 1946, plunged me into thoughts of the coming season.

Tramore – Annestown Road

The lengthening days, the first tentative show of early snowdrops and crocuses and the opening of the racing calendar for 2012 at Tramore Racecourse, with the blaze of jockeys colours, give us a glimpse of what is ahead. What immediately springs to my mind are the daffodils that will line the road between Tramore and Annestown, the bluebells in Newtown Wood, people eating al fresco at the Vee Bistro, Gallwey’s Café and Chris’s Pancake Shop; the return of the lifeguards and the flags to advise the multitude of bathers; the colourful buckets and spades of happy children playing on the beach; the reappearance of the newly painted boats at the Pier; the array of kites and kite surfers who will join the hardy all-year surfers in the wavey sea; the whirring colours and lights of the Merries; circuses from all round the world;  blankets of sea pinks on the Back Strand; the ripe sweet-smelling fruit on the familiar table of the Strawberry Man on Priest’s Road, whose big green umbrella and warm smile will tell us that Summer has truly come.

Sea Pinks