Here are some photos from the days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. They can be broken down into roughly three sections.
Hook Head: We took a walk in Hook Head on a very wild day and it was beautiful, with waves crashing against the rocks and the foam and spray creating its very own white Christmas for the visitors braving the elements. However, I had no tripod as I lost it here on Christmas Day after leaving it behind me and, in any event, the wind was so strong it was impossible to stand still, let alone hold a camera still. In fact the first thing we heard on the radio after getting into the car to drive to the Hook was to stay away from exposed coastal areas due to extremely strong gale force winds… but we weren’t the only people ignoring that sound advice! The light was poor too, so hence the pretty awful image quality, which does not even do scant justice to the beauty of the Hook that day. I’ll get it right there some stormy day!
Curracloe: Another walk. This time in my favourite place, which I have blogged about many times before on here. Again my missing tripod would have been a great help due to the low, fading light, but I took a few shots anyway. Plus, tripod or not, they would have been no match for Curracloe on a sunny day.
Round the house: These mostly involved testing my new lens by pointing it randomly at various household objects and patient relatives, as well as taking a few shots of my sister’s family – another of this blog’s regular star turns – when they came to visit.
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.
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’.
I have spoken to two Wexford people in recent days whose charitable endeavours have involved taking to the sea and both of them had interesting stories to tell.
One of these people, 74-year-old Olive Vaughan from Kilrane, shed her inhibitions and her clothes in aid of cancer research.
Olive took part in the “Dip in the Nip” in Sligo last weekend and had a wonderful time. She went there with her brother Cyril and his wife Maureen, who is currently recovering from cancer.
All three took part in the mass skinny dip and their unusual choice of headwear meant they were able to pick their derrieres out of the many that appeared in the photos in the national newspapers today!
You can read all about how Olive got on (and see some cheeky photos) in the Wexford People on Wednesday, where you’ll also find the story of Pat Whitney (see below), who should have worn a bit more when he entered the water in Curracloe recently.
Pat will turn 60 soon, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down and the end of his cycling career last year has seen him switch his considerable energy and attention to open water swimming.
If you are partial to a dip yourself then please support Pat’s swim in aid of the Tracie Lawlor Turst for Cystic Fibrosis at Curracloe next Saturday. I’ve been in there a couple of times myself recently and it’s not that cold, though if you’re staying in for a while wear a wetsuit!
And you thought “golf widows” had it bad…
BADLY disorientated with hypothermia, Pat Whitney heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line when he dialled 999 from Curracloe recently.
Most people would have thought they were hallucinating in the same scenario, but then most people are not married to Ambulance Control Centre workers.
The Enniscorthy man’s wife Marie picked up the phone and couldn’t make much sense of what her husband was saying on the of the line, but she deciphered enough to get an ambulance out to him quickly.
The 59-year-old’s body temperature had dropped to a dangerously low 32 degrees after he had discarded his wetsuit in favour of his togs and went for a long open-sea swim in choppy water.
‘I felt as if I was drunk,’ recalled Pat. He said he got ‘a bad dose’ of hypothermia and was approaching a point where heart failure or slipping into a coma becomes a danger.
He said he was so disorientated it took him half an hour to get from the water to his car and in the meantime he was exposed to a harsh north easterly wind.
He recalled tha he met another man while he was out swimming (from Ballinesker to Curracloe and back) and he had told Pat he must be ‘hardy’ for swimming without a wetsuit. Apparently that’s not quite how Marie sees it!
He was back swimming in a few days and the incident hasn’t put Pat off his newfound passion, after he was forced to give up his first sporting love, cycling, last year.
‘I had to put the bike away last year. Both knees were gone after 35 years of racing and falls,’ said Pat, joking that he and Marie have spent much of their marriage in A&E due to his sporting interests.
To keep fit he took up swimming and quickly developed a love for sea or open water swimming. ‘I’m not waving the white flag just yet,’ said Pat, when asked about his ambitious plans for the coming months as he prepares to turn 60.
First on the agenda is a charity swim he has organised in Curracloe, which will take place on Saturday, July 2 (three weeks before his 60th birthday) at 5 p.m.
Pat has organised the swim as a precursor to, and fundraiser for, a sponsored swim he is doing in aid of the Tracie Lawlor Trust for Cystic Fibrosis next September, when he will be one of a group from Co Wexford who will swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco.
Registration for the Curracloe swim next Saturday will take place at The Winning Post in the main car park. There is a short swim and a long swim. The long swim is approximately one mile the short swim is as long as you are able for or comfortable with.
The entry fee is €25, which includes refreshments in Hotel Curracloe, who are sponsoring the event, after the swim.
Not content with the San Francisco swim, Pat is also hoping to mark his 60th birthday by being part of a team to swim the English Channel.
To qualify as a member of this team he will have to complete a two-mile open water swim – without a wetsuit – in Kinsale, Co Cork, on Saturday July 9. Although he said he’s not faring too bad – those hoping to swim solo across the channel have to complete six hours.
In the meantime, Pat is continuing his training in earnest and when she can Marie now walks along the shore to keep an eye on him!
Contact Pat on 086-8172231 or Ian Lawlor on 087-2696983 for an entry form or further details about next Saturday’s charity swim in Curracloe.
Registration forms can also be downloaded here.