Yesterday Janet and I explored Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, the “largest primitive coastal area left unspoiled in Connecticut.” It was a cloudy, chilly winter afternoon, with snow flurries starting up just as we were leaving.
If you look closely you will see me peeking from through the doorway. Another enchanted forest lies beyond this wall. This post is going to be terribly long but it was impossible to edit it down any more than I have. 🙂
There were paths and stone steps leading every which way between boulders and gnarly trees. Following the map provided was more than a little confusing.
But an occasional sign would sometimes give us a clue as to our whereabouts.
Said to once be the home of a religious hermit who was fed and cared for by the Jefferyes family… it may well have sheltered many others through the centuries.
The roots of the trees, I think most of them were Yews, were growing around the stones, and their branches made huge canopies over the rock formations.
For hundreds of years, the Blarney Witch has taken
firewood from our Estate for her kitchen.
In return, she must grant our visitors wishes.
If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed — some suggest walking backwards — and without for one moment thinking of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year.
We say only that the steps can be slippery and that we take no responsibility…
Historians will tell you that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers.
But if you arrive early enough in the morning,
you may still see the dying embers of a fire.
Firewood, paid for by your wishes on the Wishing Steps,
is lit every night by the Witch of Blarney,
as she fights to stop shivering on her
nocturnal escape from the Witch Stone.
It takes little imagination to see who is imprisoned here.
The Witch of Blarney has been with us since the dawn of time.
Some say it was she who first told the MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone.
Fortunately for visitors,
she only escapes the witch stone after nightfall — and we close at dusk.
The faerie folk of Ireland are famed the world over for their mischief and charm.
They have of course been here longer than any of us and it is
our duty to keep them safe in this special glade.
They do, however, have a native cunning.
So if you spot one, don’t let it be fooling you.
There is so much to see at Blarney Castle & Gardens! Of the 14 things we could have seen here at Rock Close we saw only 5 of them. Elsewhere on the castle grounds there are more gardens, arboretums, woodland and riverside walks, the Blarney House… I could go on. There’s no way to see all this in a single day. I do hope I get to return here some day.
On our way out something else caught our interest:
Where Two Rivers Cross
Prior to 1870, the River Blarney joined the River Martin near the Rock Close,
but the course of the river was altered and the gradient was changed
to increase the outflow of water when Inchancumain Bog was drained.
The River Blarney was re-directed under the River Martin,
which was channelled overhead via a short aqueduct.
At the point where the River Blarney emerges can be seen
the remains of an old flax mill.
It is a rare occurrence really in that one does not often find
a place where one river passes under another.
As a matter of interest,
the River Martin was known as the River Aumartin in the 1600’s
while the River Blarney was known as the River Whey.
Larisa picked us up and we headed back to her home. My cold by now had reached the runny nose phase and I went to bed early. Later that night Tim’s brother Josh arrived from England to visit with us for a few days. But this is the end of my photos.
The next day we went into Cork’s city center and spent the day shopping and visiting different pubs. It’s all a blur to me now because I left my camera at home and spent the day blowing my nose and feeling miserable. But I did manage to find some connemara marble for my sister!
And the day after that I stayed in bed while the others went to the Titanic Experience Cobh and saw Josh off at the airport later that day. That night Tim & I spent our last delightful evening with Katherine and her wonderful au pair, Anna, while Dima & Larisa went out on a date.
We arrived home on a Thursday and flew down to Georgia on Friday. Not pleasant flying so much with a clogged head! As it turned out Shannon had a sinus infection so we sat around talking ~ misery loves company. Tim and Nate were puttering around tending to techie projects and bringing us food. One afternoon we got ourselves out to a flea market and then a nice dinner out. And it was good seeing Julius and Dominic again ~ I cannot believe how much they have grown!
We flew home on Tuesday and I had my final radiation treatment on Wednesday. Phew! That was quite a vacation!
Today old man winter came back for a morning visit and left us 4 more inches of snow. A perfect day to snuggle in and finally finish these posts about our trips to Ireland and Georgia.
Waking up Monday morning my cold wasn’t too bad, mainly a sore throat. Katherine had to go to school and her parents had to work so Larisa dropped us off at Blarney Castle. It was another damp and chilly day but we had fun.
The usual path to the castle was blocked off because they are in the middle of some major renovations.
When we got close to the castle we stopped and had the most delicious and warm bowl of Irish Stew at the Coach House Cafe. It really hit the spot. In spite of my sensitivity to wheat I took a bite of the warm brown bread that came with the stew. Yummy! 🙂 It’s not often one finds something that tastes so good at a cafeteria!
The cafe was in the old stables and we ate in the main room. As we were leaving we saw that in the summer there was space right in the stalls for overflow dining. My only complaint was (again) no heat in the restrooms! Brrrr….
Because of the castle renovations we could not take the usual stairway up to the Blarney Stone. We never made it to the stone at the top because, well, the alternate steps were very small and continued to narrow the higher we went. We made it about 3/4 of the way up before we called it quits and retreated. We had to return home without our gift of eloquence. Notice in the picture above that the only railing we had was that wobbly rope. I’m only 5 feet tall and I had to duck to go through that doorway. And going down was even harder to pull off for these senior citizens. Phew!
On the castle grounds there are several other things to see. For this trip we chose the Rock Close. Pictures of that magical place in my next post…
Our last stop for the day was at Killarney National Park where we walked a trail leading to Torc Waterfall. The forest we walked through was enchanting and wild. Unfortunately, it was here that I first felt an ominous scratch in my throat. But I was able to enjoy the hike and push away that nagging feeling that I was going to be in for it, a least for a couple more hours…
I think I love the woods as mush as the sea. It was a wonderful day!
Sunday happened to be Imbolc, Groundhog Day, Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It marks the beginning of spring, which I now see comes a lot sooner in Ireland than it does in New England. Our first stop was at these fascinating beehive huts.
Also known as the Fahan Beehive Huts, Caher Conor (Cathair na gConchuireach) is located on the south side of Mount Eagle west of Dingle. The complex consists of five structures.
The clochan (beehive huts) in Caher Conor were probably single family dwellings and were attached to each other with a doorway leading from one to the other. They were built in the form of a circle of successive strata of stone, each stratum lying a little closer to the center than the one beneath and so on up to a small aperture at the top that could be closed with a single small flagstone or capstone. No mortar was used in building, which is called corbelling.
The hillside at one time had over 400 of these drystone, corbelled huts surviving, prompting one antiquarian in the 19th century to refer to the area as the “City of Fahan”. Dating the huts is difficult because the skill of corbelling has been used in Newgrange (3100 B.C.) and as recently as the 1950s. The huts at Fahan along the Slea Head Drive may well date to the 12th Century when the incoming Normans forced the Irish off the good land and out to the periphery of the Dingle Peninsula.
~ Saints & Stones website
It was good to get warmed up in the car and drive off for our next destination.
So… there were other treasures waiting to be discovered while we were on our long hike Saturday. In 1907 the mountain laurel, a lovely native American shrub, was designated as the official state flower of Connecticut. They are just starting to blossom and we saw loads of them.
I was raised by the melody
Of the whispering grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
~ Friedrich Hölderlin
(Odes & Elegies)
Now, the staff at the arboretum is keeping a meadow open for habitat for several kinds of animals and birds. They also erected several bluebird houses and we did see a few bluebird parents feeding their young ones. They were moving too fast to catch on film but I did manage to get a few shots of a baby waiting for the next food delivery from its folks.
These shots were very hard to get because they were taken from so far away. I didn’t have a tripod to stabilize the camera and the zoom lens. I climbed a bank on the side of the trail, through a thicket of plants and saplings, and then leaned one arm on a tree to steady my grip, trying to avoid the gypsy moth caterpillars. (I wound up bringing at least one tick home – I hope I won’t find any more…) Even though I had to delete most of the shots I took it was a thrill to get home and find that these three came out!
Sing strong and clear, O bluebird dear!
While all the land with splendor fills,
While maples gladden in the vales
And plum-trees blossom on the hills:
Float down the wind on shining wings,
And do thy will by grove and stream,
While through my life spring’s freshness runs
Like music through a poet’s dream.
~ Maurice Thompson
I love all the orbs I captured, along with that adorable little bluebird head. My guess is that it will fledge soon.
We were just thinking of turning around and retracing our steps when Beverly was beckoned by yet another tree growing through the rocks. So we left the path and carefully navigated our way through uneven terrain of rocks and bushes. I found a spot to take the picture. More orbs!
After finding our way back to the trail I finally put away the camera, took a long drink of water, sprayed on some more bug repellent and enjoyed the long walk back, hands free.
On Saturday afternoon my sister and I did some hiking in the uncultivated part of the Connecticut College Arboretum. It was like being in the woods we played in and rambled through as children. We encountered a doe along our path, she stopped short when she spotted us and then darted off sideways into the woods.
Nature — sometimes sears a Sapling —
Sometimes — scalps a Tree —
Her Green People recollect it
When they do not die —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #457)
When I was at the doctor for a check-up last week he said it seemed like he was treating nothing but rashes from these little villains. Why do people even touch them, I wondered? But they can dangle from invisible threads and I was startled when I walked right into one. No rash, so far…
Death is like the insect
Menacing the tree
Competent to kill it,
But decoyed may be.
Bait it with the balsam
Seek it with the saw,
Baffle, it cost you
Everything you are.
Then, if it have burrowed
Out of reach of skill —
Wring the tree and leave it.
‘Tis the vermin’s will.
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1783)
For some reason I am drawn to trees that seem dead, but sculptural, and yet still have a few green leaves up near the crown. Sometimes dying is a very gradual process.
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
~ William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)
One will see roots while looking down (photo above), of course, but also when looking up (photo below). The tree below decided it could grow sticking out of a rock face, high above the ground. There must have been just enough soil between the layers of rock for it to sustain itself. Maybe it is strong enough to move the rock some to give the roots more space.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
~ William Wordsworth
(The Tables Turned)
Ferns (above) with visible roots growing on the rock face. Plenty of moss to soften the surface, too.
A tree (above) seems to have been blown over in a storm and left with a large cavity between its roots and the rock below. Stones and boulders, dumped by receding glaciers eons ago, are so ubiquitous in Connecticut and it seems the trees have no choice but to grow above, below, around and between them.
I wondered if someone might have set this stone deliberately pointing up as a benchmark for future hiking adventures. It’s amazing to contemplate that these stone walls deep in the woods once surrounded fields and pastures in colonial days. Farmers used the stones cluttering their land to build the walls but in the end, growing crops was difficult. Many eventually abandoned their homes and headed west for better farmland. The woods slowly came back and claimed the landscape once again.
The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.
~ Gertrude S. Wister
(Women Know Everything!)
I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Oh! where do fairies hide their heads,
When snow lies on the hills?
When frost has spoiled their mossy beds,
And crystallized their rills:
Beneath the moon they cannot trip
In circles o’er the plain:
And draughts of dew they cannot sip,
Till green leaves come again.
~ Thomas Haynes Bayly
(Songs & Ballads, Grave & Gay)