Category Archives: Environment

A sunny Saturday morning in Curracloe

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Lough Boora Parklands

Walking the Raven Loop


Holy Goose Barnacles Batman!

I’ve walked a lot of beaches, but I’ve never come across anything like this before!

And unfortunately I still haven’t. These images were captured by Kilrane resident Kevin MacCormick (or Mac as he’s better known) ‘s he enjoyed a stroll on Ballyteige Burrow in south Wexford last week.

Kevin, a member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, is no stranger to unusual sea-related sights, but this one had him baffled when he first spotted it.

“I saw it from a distance as I walking down the beach. I didn’t know what it was as I approached it, it was almost like a Christmas decoration from the ocean!” said Mac.

When he got up close for a proper inspection he realised that it was a large piece of washed-up wood covered in goose barnacles. I can only imagine his reaction!

“We rarely see them, I think the only time we do come across them is when they wash up after a storm. I had seen them many years ago, but there was only a very small amount of them – nothing like this,’ said Mac.

He said he was aware that goose barnacles are a delicacy in many countries, but he wasn’t tempted to indulge!

The “green pastoral landscape” of Tintern Abbey

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love.

– William Wordsworth

I have been itching to get back out with the camera lately, but time hasn’t been on my side. That remains the case, but luckily you don’t have to go very far around here to find places that are great for photography.

It takes me less than 10 minutes to get to Tintern Abbey, the one-time stomping ground of the Cistercians.Tintern Abbey was founded by William Marshal after he promised God, in the midst of a shipwreck, that if he survived he would found a monastery wherever he washed up. That happened to be Bannow Bay and The Earl of Pembroke made good on his promise.

If you’re interested in the history there’s lots of information online, just don’t get it confused with its Welsh namesake!

The two – and the link between them – are mentioned in a brief summary of the Wexford abbey’s history here. I chose this post to link to because it comes with an excellent bonus, the extract from the William Wordsworth poem, “Tintern Abbey”, which  I included at the top of this post. Here’s the full poem:

I was mainly there for photography purposes today and unfortunately it was very overcast, but I still enjoyed a walk around the grounds, taking in the mill, the cemetery and generally following in the footsteps of the Cistercians.

The other reason I was keen to go to Tintern Abbey, other than photography and proximity, was that I hadn’t seen the work carried out on the Colclough Walled Garden yet. For those not from these parts, the name Colclough is pronounced “Coakley” – or at least it is nowadays!

This 2.6 acre walled garden, with a stream running through it, will not contain anything – from fruit tress to flowers – that it wouldn’t have in the early 1800s. It truly is a labour of love for those involved and it’s wonderful to see such a faithful restoration project shaping up so well.

Elaine Furlong wrote a good piece on it for the New Ross Standard that gives an insight into the project, its goals and its volunteer ethos.

Barbara Kelly and Alan Ryan were hard at work there when we arrived for a look around and Barbara kindly told us about the project and their progress to date, all of which you can read about here or by following them on Facebook.

Here’s a few shots from the garden:

Heartbreak Hotel

St Helen's Hotel

Sitting on the clifftop overlooking Rosslare Harbour is yet another monument to the “Celtic Tiger” .

St Helen’s Hotel (formerly the Great Southern) was a popular hotel with both locals and the many tourists that visit the seaside village.

It wasn’t the Four Seasons, but it was a good place to stay – a clean, comfortable hotel in a great location in the heart of the sunny south east. It was, essentially, a nice hotel for ordinary families, ordinary people.

It was the location for countless wedding receptions, birthday parties, gigs, family holidays and all sorts of special and not so special occasions. It also provided employment in the locality.

I’m tempted to use the word “modest”, but that became a dirty word in Ireland several years ago. Modest hotels? Modest profits? Modest prices? No thanks. The site was earmarked for property development.

Read all about the “stylish, modern” hotel here and see some photos of what it looked like not so long ago here. These are just two of many websites still advertising St Helen’s Hotel, indicating how swift its demise has been.

Corridor

Dining room overlooking the harbour

Fireplace

In the space of a year St Helen’s Hotel has become a significant eyesore and a safety hazard. It has been destroyed as quickly and extensively as our economy was.

I paid it a visit and brought a camera with me, capturing the images you see here. It was sad to see what has become of a once fine hotel. This, I couldn’t help thinking, is modern Ireland.

The hotel was closed after a Dublin-based property development company was granted permission to demolish it and build sheltered accommodation for the elderly. You’d pay a pretty penny to retire in Rosslare Harbour.

However, that plan was conceived in different times – no apartments have been built and the hotel has not been demolished, instead it has been allowed to go to rack and ruin. Maybe the hope is that it will eventually be pulled completely apart.

Mirror behind the bar counter reflecting the damage

Dining room

Broken window - grass and glass

The owners gave the St Vincent de Paul charity permission to take out and sell off all the fixtures and fittings – from beds to radiators and kitchen equipment to mirrors – that were left in it when it closed as it was to be demolished.

The hotel has since been stripped even further, with holes in ceilings, walls and floors, and it is now instead full of all kinds of debris and rubbish – broken glass, beer cans and all the usual suspects.

It is completely accessible from all sides – through a huge amount of doors and broken windows – and, as a result, is attracting plenty of unwelcome visitors and activities.

Swimming pool and playful seal

Stairs

Rear window

There have been plenty of complaints about the hotel and Wexford County Council have carried out an inspection and are in contact with the owners, making it clear what they want to see done – sooner rather than later.

Wexford Area Engineer Craig Innes said that there are two main priorities. Firstly, the hotel needs to be cleaned up. He said this would effectively just be a clear out as “there’s nothing of value in it anymore”.

He said that site also has to be made secure, which will involve boarding it up. Mr Innes said this will have to be done in a particular way. “We don’t want it left as an eyesore either, we want it look presentable,” he said, pointing out that it may be some time before the planned development for the site goes ahead – if it ever does.

To-do list in the dining room

Jacuzzi

Bin

For the full details on this story check out the Wexford People on Wednesday. The photos above and as many more again from the hotel are in the following slideshow.

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10 things I like about Dublin Bikes

  1. Not driving. Driving in a big city is generally a pain. Dublin is no exception. Parking can also be hard to find and expensive. Cycling is easier, often quicker and altogether better for your mental health. Incidents of cycle rage are few and far between and statistics (that I don’t have to hand right now) have also proved conclusively that errant, frustrated motorists are to blame for 88.2% of them. Potholes account for the other 11.8 per  cent.
  2. Baskets. They may not be (okay, they are definitely not) macho, but they sure are handy! There was a time in this country when a man could have a basket on his bike for carrying essential goods (e.g. the turf he had just cut or his pet Collie) and not be judged unfavourably for it. Dublin Bikes are helping men to break down the sexist bicycle barriers that have been thrown up in front of men in recent years, as well as helping us transport essential goods (e.g. baguettes and flowers) and avoid the sweaty backs caused by manly, load-bearing backpacks… or accidents caused by getting our man bags caught in the pedals. Okay, so maybe things have changed a little since baskets were last butch in Ireland.
  3. Exercise. No need to labour this point. Cycling is good for your health, there’s no impact on your joints and if it’s a nice day in Dublin you can pedal for a very long time without even noticing – it’s a pleasure, not an effort.
  4. Low expectations not being met. I remember clearly when this scheme was first mooted, and later introduced, there were plenty of sage warnings about what a savage people we are and how these bikes would quickly be second only to traffic bollards in terms of canal dwellers. We weren’t ready for this namby pamby European carry on we were told and the bikes would be quickly wiped out in a spate of thefts and vandalism. But, it turns out we’re not all hell bent on anti social behaviour and given a good public service the citizens of Dublin (drum roll please…) simply used it. In great numbers. Shocking, really. We are now closing in on a total of 2.5 million journeys on Dublin Bikes since the scheme opened in September 2009. I’m sure there have been some incidents where bikes haven’t fared too well, as one would expect in all major European cities with such schemes, but I still haven’t seen one swimming with the bollards and I see a lot of the Grand Canal these days.
  5. Cheap. They wouldn’t be so well respected or used if they were expensive, but crucially they aren’t. The three-day ticket is €2. The year long subscription is €10. All journeys under half an hour are free. The average journey time for a Dublin Bike is 13 minutes so clearly the vast majority of subscribers are not spending anything bar the signing up fees, which are pretty good by any standards. If you go past half an hour you are charged on a rising scale (50 cents for an hour, €1.50 for two hours etc), but if you don’t want to do that you can always stop back at a station before the half hour mark, put your bike back, wait a minute and take it (or another bike) back out. If you attempt this thrifty practice just be sure there are enough bikes there to pull it off! With Dublin Bikes you also save money on fuel for your car, parking, public transport and taxis. That means more baguettes and flowers.
  6. Sturdy. I like the bikes. I have had some enjoyable journeys around the city recently on my trusty three-speed steed. These have varied from leisurely jaunts with my better half to simply getting to where I need to go in a timely and hassle-free fashion. The bikes are easy to handle and sturdy too, following the same successful model as pretty much all city bikes, with the usual features you’d expect, from the comfy saddle to the handy lock. They are suitable for all shapes and sizes and seem to be maintained quite well too.
  7. The wind in my hair. Cycling is fun! Not so much when it rains, but otherwise it is fun and there’s pretty easygoing terrain in Dublin too. As long as you’re careful in traffic, cycling is also a great way to discover a city, not just getting from A to B. In a car you are severely limited in terms of where you can go, stop and what you can see, never mind the characters you might meet! If you’re like me – structure is your enemy and whims beg to be indulged – than cars are out for exploring. Walking is great, but the one drawback there is there’s only so much ground you can cover and it’s generally more tiring. Sometimes cycling is the happy medium. Funnily enough, even though they say we never forget how to ride a bike, a lot of us forget why we ever wanted to in the first place. Rediscover the joy!
  8. Going green. We’re going to run out fossil fuels at some point, right? You may as well get with the programme now. Plus all the positive effects of cycling on your physical and mental health can be augmented by that smug feeling you get from the FACT! that you are saving the world with every rotation of your pedals. And however bad your emissions may be, they pale in comparison to the damage to the environment that the cars flying by you are doing.
  9. Cycling community. The Dublin Bikes have been a real shot in the arm for the much maligned cycling community. This once marginalised bunch of seemingly kamikaze Stephen Roche fans and hippies have seen their numbers swell in recent years thanks to both this scheme and the Bike to Work scheme, which has seen a great surge in people buying their own bikes. The cantankerous Irish weather notwithstanding, there just seems to be more and more people cycling in the capital every week and motorists (despite my sideswipe at them in no 1) are now well used to them and (the vast majority) treat cyclists with the respect they deserve. That’s certainly been my overwhelming experience at least. Plus, for the cycling community, with greater numbers comes greater legitimacy, lobbying power and, hopefully, facilities. The Dublin Bike scheme has almost 60,000 members, and about two thirds of those (including yours truly) have taken out a year long membership. The great thing about the bikes is that you can clearly see in Dublin now that men and women of all ages, classes and creeds are using them. Making it not just one of the city’s most effective public services, but one of its most inclusive too. It’s also great for our visitors and boosts our tourism offering. More cyclists also just make the city feel like a more social place for me too.
  10. Plans for expansion. There are 550 Dublin Bikes operating from 44 stations in the city. They are increasingly well used. There was a new record set for daily journeys on July 13. 6,280 journeys were undertaken on Dublin Bikes that day, compared to 6.043 on April 15, the previous benchmark. When I was staying in Dublin for a week recently I cycled to my course and back every day, but I used to walk (the indignity of it!) past two empty stations (Charlemont and Portobello) every morning, hoping there would be one left at Grantham Street. Thankfully, there was always at least one. On a sunny day available bikes can be as rare as hen’s teeth. There is also the issue of all the current stations being too close to the city centre for many. To address both these issues Dublin City Council is planning to increase the fleet almost tenfold, so there will eventually be around 300 stations and 5,000 bikes – out as far as DCU to the north of the city, UCD to the south, Inchicore to the west and Sandymount to the east. Progress has been relatively slow so far, but I’m sure they’ll continue to do their best give the people what they obviously want.

Curracloe

I met some Wexford people who have been giving generously of their time and energy to preserve a place that I – and many others – love.

The story is below some photos I took at The Raven/Curracloe on my phone earlier this year. It’s probably my favourite place and I can’t praise the “Friends of The Raven” enough for the work they have been doing.

They won’t get a warden, but hopefully they will raise awareness and engender a greater sense of ownership and pride in a paradise on our doorstep.

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CALLS have been made for the by-laws governing one of Co Wexford’s most popular beauty spots to be enforced before it is spoiled.

The Friends of The Raven Coastcare Group have said that anti-social behaviour and littering are getting so bad in Curracloe that it’s now getting to their point where their voluntary efforts to clean the area are becoming ‘futile’.

The Raven Wood Nature Reserve, adjoining the hugely popular Curracloe beach, is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and by-laws there include no camping, no fires, no littering (including dog foul) and that all dogs must be kept on leads.

In a letter to Minister Brendan Howlin, their most senior local representative, the Friends of The Raven said: ‘as we embark on the coming busy summer season, we are increasingly concerned that the degree of camping and littering within the wood and its environs is seriously escalating’.

Sunny weekends attract visitors from all over Ireland and on the June Bank Holiday Weekend the local volunteers counted 19 tents in the area, ‘with a number of camp fires having to be put out and the garbage left behind having to ne gathered and hauled out by us’. The Friends of The Raven also made their case in person to Minister Howlin’s cabinet colleague Jimmy Deenihan at Wexford’s Wildfowl Reserve last Friday.

Dave Costelloe and Pat Burke are two of the longest serving members of The Friends of The Raven and carry out regular clean-ups and litter picks there. They are part of a small core group of volunteers that has become increasingly busy since the summer season kicked in.

The group was formed out of a love for the area, but Dave said the level of rubbish there at the moment, from campers and people littering as they walk through the woods, is ‘heartbreaking’.

Pat said one of the problems stems from the fact that the area is governed by a number of authorities. ‘The enforcement of the by-laws falls between a number of stools. This land in the woods is governed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service; Coillte are responsible for the trees and when you go out onto the dunes or beach or into the car park, that’s Wexford County Council’s area,’ he said.

‘It’s easy to write by-laws, but enforcing them is another matter,’ added Dave. He said that they are a small group and the mounting rubbish is becoming too much for them.

‘You could go on forever through other people’s dirt,’ said Pat. ‘We’re getting towards the quitting stage, we’re beginning to feel that our efforts are futile,’ added Dave.

Pat pointed out that The Raven Wood was one of five locations in Ireland recently chosen by the National Biodiversity Data Centre for its ‘Bioblitz’ initiative and is a site of national importance.

Senan Reilly, another Friend of The Raven, said they want to increase awareness of the area and ‘encourage a sense of ownership and pride’ among local people.

Pat pointed out that the majority of the regular users of the area are fully supportive of their efforts, but the problems there continue to escalate nonetheless. ‘There’s great good will out there and people really do appreciate this place and we can’t let a small number of brats ruin it for everyone,’ he said.

‘The by-laws are there, it just requires political will,’ said Dave. The Friends of The Raven have called for a full-time warden to oversee the area.

However, they acknowledged that funding is a major issue and at the very least want to see ‘joined-up thinking’  between the Gardaí, the Department of the Environment, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Wexford County Council and An Taisce.

The Friends of the Raven hope that this would lead to ‘more frequent weekend monitoring and policing’ of The Raven Wood and ‘more stringent application’ of the by-laws governing the area.

The Friends of The Raven also pointed out that many cars are broken into, on an ongoing basis, in the car parks adjoining Curracloe beach while people are out walking and that anti-social behaviour in the woods is also ‘causing some members of the public to avoid the area out of concern for their personal safety’.