Thursday, 1 December 2011

Kerry on my mind

I'm off to Kerry to see family in just over a week so am pondering on my favourite places......................

Rosbeigh sand spit looking out to  Dingle bay with Cromán Creek behind

Waterville Beach

The White Strand looking out to Lough Kay and Beginnish

Puffin Island and Puffin Sound looking to The Skelligs

When I'm there I can almost feel my feet trying to take root with every footfall on Kerry soil .This poem by Sigerson Clifford says it all.............

I am Kerry

I am Kerry like my mother before me,
And my mother's mother and her man.
Now I sit on an office stool remembering,
And the memory of them like a fan
Soothes the embers into flame.
I am Kerry and proud of my name.

My heart is looped around the rutted hills,
That shoulder the stars out of the sky,
And about the wasp-yellow fields,
And the strands where kelp-streamers lie;
Where, soft as lovers' Gaelic, the rain falls,
Sweeping into silver the lacy mountain walls.

My grandfather tended the turf fire,
And, leaning backward into legend,spoke,
Of doings old before quills inked history.
I saw dark heroes fighting in the smoke,
Diarmuid dead inside his Iveragh cave,
And Deirdrie caoining[keening] upon Naoise's grave.

I see the wise face now with its hundred wrinkles,
And every wrinkle held a thousand tales,
Of Finn and Oscar and Conawn Maol,
And sea-proud Niall whose conquering sails,
Raiding France for slaves and wine,
Brought Patrick to mind Milchu's swine.

I should have put a noose about the throat of time,
And choked the passing of the hob-nailed years,
And stayed young always, shouting in the hills,
Where life held only fairy fears,
When I was young my feet were bare,
But I drove cattle to the fair.

'Twas thus I lived, skin to skin with the earth,
Elbowed by the hills, drenched by the billows,
Watching the wild geese making black wedges,
By Skelligs far west and Annascaul of the willows.
Their voices came on every little wind,
Whispering across the half-door of the mind,
For always I am Kerry...

Sigerson Clifford

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Trapped in a Tree

I wonder what this fella did to deserve being trapped in a tree?

Thursday, 17 November 2011


I've taken to my winter routine of running round Caerwys in the dark after  I give Pippin a toy chase on the Marion and it's a great way to see an alternative side to the stony cottage  village and how the amber street lights make the swirly windy trees look so beautiful. I do miss my daily dose of the woods though but its too dark and scary to go down in the evenings.
I hate the thought of going as it is so cold but love it once I start and get some music in my ears.
I love running to Muse- Knights of Cydonia and Problem of the Mathematic, any G+R stuff, Boston's More than a Feeling, KOL and Foo Fighters
....and I feel quite happy about sofa surfing and eating a crunchie after : )

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Tom Crean- Antartic Explorer

I have just finished reading 'An Unsung Hero- Antartic Survivior' by Michael Smith and am amazed at how a boy of 15  years of age who left his remote village in Dingle could succeed in  becoming   a trail blazing explorer in Antartica only to return to Anascaul, Dingle, Co Kerry, Ireland and settle down to  humble, unsung quite life once again.
He accompanied Scott twice and Shackleton once. As a  member of the crew of the Discovery, Terra Nova, Endurance and the James Caird he demonstrated an ability to ensure his survival and that of those around him. He was a giant of a man in body, mind and spirit. In the midst of adversity and ice bound wilderness he was known to keep his companions spirits up by joking and bursting into random irish tunes in the midst of sub zero temperatures.
He saved many lives and he lived his own to the full.
Well worth the read...but you'll feel as if your right there with him in the freezing cold so wrap up in cosy jumpers and a wooley hat by a fire.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Rock and Roll

Tortured anticline rock formation north of Port Dafarch
 A small possie of four hit upon a perfect day in November to paddle from Port Dafarch to Abrahams Bosom and then back to play on the tidal race at Penrhyn Mawr, North West Anglesey.

The bright winter sun intensifies the colour of the rock and weaving my kayak in between small narrow spaces shows off stunning sights around every corner

Snacking spot in the sun

Geo that splits deep into the cliff

John surfing the rucked up races at Penrhyn Mawr

The tidal races off North west Anglesey at spring tides with a strong wind can build up to monster proportions.
We visited at neap tide with light breeze so played in a gentle trundle.
Will on the outside race with Lleyn Penninsula in the distance

Chris and Wil on a glassy sea

Moon over Port Dafarch

A Walk in the Woods

Illiff planting an Ash
 I spent a day as a volunteer with The Welsh Wildlife Trust in Nant Y Gain Woods, near Cilcain in Flintshire, Wales helping out with planting an Ash Dome.  The ancient woodland is owned by Iliff Simey, or should I say the woods are shepherded by Illiff in a way that cares for the wood almost like an entire society of plants and creatures all living in a way that they give mutual support to each other. The result is a place that is beautiful to be in with sounds, smells and sights that vary from ground to sky, small to giant where time seems to pass as slowly as trees take to grow or as fast as it takes a fungus to burst out of the ground.

Illiff uses natural forestry practice to support a woodland habitat rather than 'farm trees'  for further info see this link....
 Our little gang used picks and mattocks to dig holes into a hard limestone plateau which has been surrounded with arena like seating with a rope cobweb over head.
It will take decades for this to grow into a dome shaped through cutting and weaving to shape the trees to create a living arena.
Old fallen trees are a food source for fungus, insects and birds as well as providing shelter

wood for warmth and ..

wood for music..children play on giant xylophone
I find it a relief to put work into a project like this and support small local conservation work as sometimes  worrying or complaining about  'The Environment' is too distant and large scale to deal with.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

The onset of Autumnal Evenings has encouraged me to write a new post. Somehow, |I don't feel the need to blog about all the amazing outside things I get up to in sunshine  but captured moments in the midst of wild weather seem like moments to treasure and think about.
I walked with Tim and Pippin (dog) along mile after mile of unsurfaced shrub lined lanes from Lixwm to Rhes y Cae. The lanes were joined by field and woodland. We only occasionally could see the beautiful landscape rolling off to the Clwydians Hills but being closed in focused my attention to the microcosm of songsters and scurriers that live in our hedgerows....what a cosy way to be sheltered from the wild wind that whipped over our heads as we walked along the ancient lanes of Flintshire.
Robin's Pincushion or aka Rose Bedguar Gall- contains larvae of small gall wasp

Monday, 18 July 2011

Hen Caerwys: Archaeology Dig Last Day

The archaeology digs at Hen Caerwys Woods today finished and as both sites were covered up I felt a little sad to see all of what we uncovered closed up like a book to be opened to read again some other day.

The first site which comprised of a huge embankment of loose limestone, possibly once face with dressed blocks in places, enclosed a large rectangular clearing in the woods. Not a lot was found except for a possible shin bone of an animal discovered in some fallen inner wall and a early (likely)  medieval horseshoe. The archaeologists on site though it to be from the 1200s or thereabouts. Also in the box of finds was a flint and a whet stone found by the landowner a few years ago. The limestone pavement that the embankment sits on is beautiful and has smooth curvy hollows and pits carved out by weathering and reminds me of the Burren in Ireland. The experts on site thought it quite a positive thing that not many finds turned up as it suggests the site is indeed very old and makes it likely to be early medieval or older...who's nice just to wonder about it.

The second site where I spent most of my time was on the site of a long disappeared late medieval house which is though to be one of four close by each other sitting on a limestone bank overlooking pastureland with a stream on the lowest part of the landscape. We kept digging down in waterlogged root infested soil trying to find floor but just came across layer on layer of fallen stone and it was hard to make sense of why the stone wall had fallen in every direction. Subsidence was one theory, an earlier botched dig by amateurs in the 60s was another ( apparently the two men involved did not get on and were thought to have hidden finds from each other..indeed the one big collection of pot and domestic bits and pieces found around that time  has been 'missing' for many years..intriguing stuff!
While we were digging we chatted and pondered over how these people lived. We thought them to be poor families, the kind that work hard for not a lot and prop the richer layers of society up. We wondered if the stream which is quite a walk down and up a hill was there only water supply or whether it came from a limestone spring , one of the many that come and go without warning leaving people without a water supply. Someone suggested that these people were not farmers but were a small mining community possibly mining limestone for an unknown nearby kiln......we were left with more questions than answers but then again that is what makes the past so magnetic as it appeals to our instinctive curious nature.
Butterfly Orchid I found at Hen Caerwys a couple of years ago

Needless to say I am achy this evening from digging, trowelling, carrying bucket after bucket of soil and stones to waste heaps. Everything I wore is caked in muck. On day two I have never seen so much rain fall in one place while people carried on happily working away. No one seemed to mind the horrible weather but buzzed all day about what an amazing place Hen Caerwys is. The devotion and determination of the family who own the land to discovering more about the history of the place and their generosity to making the space available to the community is remarkable.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Archaeological Dig at Caerwys

This weekend I have volunteered to help out with a dig organised by the landowner and Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust to explore some extensive earthworks, lumps, bumps and mysterious embankments in woodland around Caerwys  where I live. I walk through these woods a lot and love to wonder about the strange unnatural shapes that I walk over and who built them and how they lived.

The woods are simply beautiful and the man who owns them has spent years clearing out much of the trees and overgrowth to uncover the archaeology and after years managed to persuade the archaeologists to pay attention to what is there to discover.
The clearing has  allowed light to get to the wood floor and all sorts of wild flowers have grabbed the chance to do their thing and fill the place with colour.

we removed top layer of vegetation using mattocks ( a heavy pic), shovels and hands-hard work! This is thought to be a medieval house and there are 3 or 4 houses in a row overlooking fields

section of trench with limestone rain sculpted paving (though to be natural surface) Cleared this using trowels and brushes

higher manmade huge embankment made of limestone enclosing a massive rectangular area- may be roman or iron age
 Nothing has been found on this dig apart from a piece of flint and a bit of red brick or pot but the uncovering is amazing to be part of and it's fascinating to listen to all these experts surmise about what is the story of  this huge area of human habitation.

I'm back for a full day of digging tomorrow and day after...I'll have muscles on my muscles after!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

a refreshing run in the rain

I found myself caught out in a downpour at the bottom of Maes Mynan Woods this morning. I had run down to the bottom of the gorge  and was throwing Pippin's ball in the river for him. Before it really got going it had been spitting away and the river that had felt stagnant and dead a few days ago was coming alive and the smell of earth and sweet pine sap and garlic was becoming intense. The air was full of sound with birdsong and tingly rain on leaves.
The water showed no mercy and as I ran up again I could hardly see but it felt so good as all the smells became liquid in the air..passing the meadow full of clover was just delicious. All sound was drowned out by the deafening rain. The path became more liquid too and I slithered along and envied Pippin's in built paw grips. The 'dado rail' path at the top was lethal as it is criss crossed with roots. I have learnt a knack to run down here- use jig like steps-small, fast with pointed toes.
What a way to start the day..aromatherapy and a shower in rain infused with pine sap essence.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Seil Island Scotland June 11

The rain stopped and Monday brought sunshine...yes!

Liz and me headed off to the Bridge over the Atlantic aka Clachan Bridge to enjoy scenes like this all day...
Some days in my kayak feel unreal..I have to pinch myself to make it feel real as the sea can be so heavenly beautiful. There are days when the sea is a challenge and it puts me right in the moment but when the sea has an ethereal feel it makes me melt away to dreamtime.
map check to find Cuan sound

scontastic-Oyster Bar/Easdale

experimenting with portage technique on slippy seaweeed

another fine mess you've got me into

Easdale pier-world skimming stone championships held here

experimental paddling technique with too much slippy weed and not enough water

leaning and pulling on 2 boats works well if you can stop laughing

view of Kerrara from Oban campsite
We missed trying oysters for lunch as Easdale Oyster Bar as we spent too much time floating about in Cuan sound waiting for it to get lively....(we did go back next day to console ourselves with another downpour day to have oysters and I had a scallop/mussel/fish chowder-yum)
After a day of sun and silly shenanagins we set up camp and our midgenets helped stopped being eaten as we ate.
We did plan to kareer in kayaks round Kerarra next day but did it rain..where and how does all that water come from...................we bailed and drove home!

All photos by Liz Jordan..I'm still saving up for a new camera.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Gigha June 11

Myself and my paddling pal Liz who has taken these photos took the high road to Argyll in the hope of island hopping in a sunny Caribbean like Scotland...many of the photos I have seen of paddling around Scottish islands seem to be of blue sky, white sandy beaches and azure seas. Now I know that photoshop has a lot to answer for.
loaded up to catch ferry as sea too wild-wide stance is to stop being blown away

Once we got to the island we put tents up in high wind and faceburn rain on a tiny campsite at boathouse cafe..and along came a platebearing Scot with an offering of scallops wrapped in Italian smoked I was not hallucinating this actually happened. However, our constant 'I think it's brightening up' phrase was a bit delusional.
The scallops were in fact a peace offering (we didn't know that at the time) as a large gang of Dads and lads from Glasgow were having a 'bonding w/e' and food/drink/football fest right beside our tents...but who can complain after scallops?

...and yahoo the wind had dropped by the next day and rain moved on so we set off to glide over glassy seas around the beautiful isle of Gigha.

 The sea around the island is shallow and alive with all sorts of seaweed, scuttling and shimming creatures, seabirds including mergansers, scoters ( I think) and we saw 3 otters that day.  Our pace was meandering as we did not want to miss isn't how far or fast I go it's what I see makes my day.

Still, 26k later we hauled out back at the beach of the campsite and just in started to rain so it was back into the tents to make tea.

As you can see the Dads and lads inticed us over to their cave with an offer of a warm fire and as they were a loud lot we did as it was either sit in our tiny tents with rain pounding on us or ..if u can't beat 'em join 'em...and they were good craic too...and helped us dry (burn really)  our socks.

The next morning we headed out to explore the island on foot along wildflower lined lanes and visited the community run gardens. Many of the lovely plants were damaged by 100mph winds that hit a couple of weeks ago..even some trees looked autumal due to salt burn.
The garden was full of intoxicating blooms and after sniffing our way around it this weird sign with a list of rules told us not to smell the plants....whaaat?

Liz got an asbo for this criminal act

After stopping of at the community run hotel for yummy scones boats were packed and  we headed off again to visit Cara island and surfed back to mainland .
tucked into fudge bought at a  housegate honesty box on Gigha while waiting for ferry to get out of the way before landing.