Magic in Co. Waterford

Today was the big day in Ireland when the 5km restriction lifted to allow travel within our county.

I went to my old haunt, The Anne Valley, on the Copper Coast. It was divine and I spent a good deal of time watching the precious swans out there. The main pair have built their nest so all seems well with their world.

I had just read a little piece about magic that is on the trail:

Anne Valley

As I was standing very still admiring one of the swans, a woman pushing a child’s buggy passed by and told me that someone wanted to give me a present. An adorable little girl had a dandelion in her outstretched hand and I was quite overwhelmed at her generosity and lovely smile. I thanked her profusely and smiled at the mother before returning to the swan. The mother called out that someone else had a present for me and a tiny tot was behind me with another dandelion.

The wild flowers or weeds to some might as well have been big bouquets they were such a surprise.

Perfect Gift

I certainly plan on keeping a close eye on the swan family which has been such a part of my life for years now:

On Guard

Hopefully, I will get to meet my new found magical friends again who brought such unexpected human joy:

Wildflower Children

Howth Castle ~ Re-Visited

Certain places are like ante-rooms in our lives; places where we wait in a heightened sense of awareness for something that seems very significant. Because the adrenalin is pumping, it seems that we remember such places with a vividness and often almost reverence.

Howth Castle in Co. Dublin, is one such place for me. It was the place that a beloved friend brought me as I awaited the results of my finals in College; results which I saw as being extremely important in terms of dictating the whole future direction of my career. I know I had been to Howth Castle before that – always in May or June – to see the rhododendrons. However, until last saturday, I hadn’t been back since that day of days in early Summer 1979 – thirty-three years ago!

I wanted to go back and see the Castle woodland in bloom. I felt like I had never re-paid its kindness to me on that day when I was so nervous waiting for the results to be posted up in Trinity College about eight miles away. The vividness of the colours have been etched in my memory ever since. It was a scorching hot day and the woods had provided shade but also there was a gentle breeze coming in from the sea at Howth. It was the ultimate sanctuary.

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On Saturday, I was alone when I re-visited. Little had I thought in 1979 that the energetic friend who was with me that day would be swept away by cancer less than two years later. The mere thought of such a thing would have put my anxiety about my exam results into much needed perspective!

Howth Castle has a very long history going back to medieval times . Sir Edwin Lutyens, renowned architect, is said to have been responsible for extensive renovations to the Castle in 1911. The there is a wealth of myth and legend associated with the Castle and one of the most intriguing surrounds a dolmen in the grounds which has gone down in folklore as having been erected for heartbroken Aideen, the wife of Oscar, one of the legendary Fianna.

Howth Castle and Gardens were as tranquil and beautiful on Saturday as I had remembered them. It was quite late in the day when I got there so there were few people around. It all seemed so timeless, and the colours and scents that I recalled were there to embrace me. Wild garlic and bluebells carpetted the woodland paths and the rhododendrons were coming into bloom – not quite full bloom – but they had that wonderful sense of anticipation about them. Deep into the woods, it was just me, birdsong and the gentlest swaying of the sea breeze through the fresh young leaves.

I have been wondering since Saturday about places which have this kind of ante-room significance for you, my readers. Are they historic castles, woodlands, sitting-rooms, hotels, bars, cafes …..? Do they still exist in reality or just in memories? Or do you know?

Wild Flowers in Ireland ~ An Appreciation

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One of my most vivid memories from childhood is gathering wild flowers with my mother to enter a competition at Castlebayney Agricultural Show back in the 1960s.  It was a happy, happy time and, even though I was very young, I knew that Mother was enjoying  the adventure just as much as I was.

Mother died almost three years ago, aged 88,  and today I unearthed an article which she wrote around the time that we were collecting the wild flowers.  Reading it,  I became acutely aware of just how deeply she appreciated nature and how it is no coincidence that the re-emergence of wild flowers, especially in spring,  is so fundamentally important to me.  Here is what she wrote:

 Flowers, especially wild flowers, played a large part in my childhood in Co. Meath. In the woods at home grew masses of snowdrops, under the trees, making the winter woodlands beautiful with their dainty white flowers among dark green ivy leaves. Oh, the thrill of the first snowdrop. To know that spring was on its way, and soon my beloved woods would be awakening from their winter slumbers. My birthday is in late January, and perhaps that is why I loved the snowdrops so much. They were my special flower. I would search the woods diligently, and always succeeded in finding enough to decorate the table for my birthday tea. After I left home, my mother never failed to include a tiny bunch of snowdrops in my birthday parcel. Snowdrops have always been synonomous with home to me, and although I have moved home umpteen times, I always plant a few snowdrop bulbs in each new garden.

Then there were the lesser celandines. There was a wood at home which was completely carpeted with them. Surprisingly early in the year, not long after the snowdrops were in bloom, that particular wood was filled with birdsong, sunshine, the tender green leaves of the celandines, and the little golden flowers.

And then came the primroses; primroses and baby chicks are always associated in my mind. They both arrive around Easter time and are the same delicious pale yellow. There was a stream at home which ran between very steep, sloping banks on which great clumps of primroses grew. Primroses abounded in the woods as well, but I loved to pick them on the banks of the stream. There was always a distinct danger of falling in, and of course this added to the fun. There were periwinkles in the woods too. They made a lovely posy, their tender blue toning beautifully with the pale yellow primroses.

In a dark corner of a laurel grove grew a few shy wood anenomes. Never enough to pick, but I had to visit them each year and admire the few precious blossoms.

Bluebells and beech trees go together, and the bluebells are in blossom just as those beautiful fresh young beech leaves unfold. To me, there are few lovelier sights than a carpet of bluebells dappled by the sunshine in a beech wood.

Cowslips were not very plentiful in our part of the country, but there was one field where they flourished. I used to make a pilgrimage to see the cowslips every year. I remember a grown-up explaining to me how to make a cowslip ball. I was horrified.  How anyone could do that to my lovely cowslips!

I always prefer to see flowers growing, and when I do pick them  I like to pick them here and there so that they will not be missed. Lilac grew in the woods, too. There was one big lilac bush in the wood by the river.  Oh, the scent of that lilac with the dew on it, on a warm May morning.

We always went to stay with my grandmother in the early summer. She lived in Co. Kildare, and when I think of going there I think of dog-roses. The road from the station was always bathed in sunshine, with blue mountains in the distance, and the hedges simply covered with dog-roses and honeysuckle. And in the tillage fields on either side of the road, there were wild red poppies. I know farmers don’t like wild poppies much, but I loved them. Oh, let me have dog-roses and honeysuckle and poppies for my holidays. Nothing in all the travel brochures can give me such a thrill.