The weather here has turned milder after all the rain, and we have been walking down the boreen beside our house whenever we get a chance. This little road leads down into a valley with a river running along the bottom that flows on one side into Ballinasloe, and on the other into Ahascragh. We are living in an area where the O’Sullivan Beara walk once went through; the village of Aughrim a short distance away has an interpretative centre, and every year there are re-enactments on various parts of the walk from Kerry up through the country.
There once were springs all along this boreen, and Julia who lives up a bit from us, (almost 90!), often tells me how she would walk across the fields every day and over the stile to the well. The day her brother was born, her mother walked to the well, brought home two buckets of water then birthed her baby. We are living in the house where the local midwife, Mrs.Egan, lived: an old stone house built in 1904. Everyone in the area has a memory of this house or the people who lived here; of the orchard and the garden and the card games! Sometimes this house feels like it has a life of its own to go with its lifetime of memories.
The area is a mesh of old, ancient pathways, mass paths and rights of way. We often walk all the way to the river, cross over on a wobbly wooden bridge which has been there for the last century and continue up through the fields to my friend Ness, who always has tea and cake and biscuits! (Needless to say we almost have to strip in her porch since we are generally mucked up to the knees!!)
Half way down, the land turns marshy, and then a forest begins. If we are lucky we might see the deer around there, they venture into the surrounding fields to graze; or hares, pheasant and the air is heavy with the sound of birds singing and calling in the trees. There are ditches on either side of this little road and soon we will find millions of frog spawn. We have been watching the frog spawn progress for years now, the boys are completely fascinated by it.
This week when we went for our walk, Liam ran ahead and found a stag skeleton, picked clean and gleaming white in the evening dusky light. It was quite extraordinary. I took photos and will post them on Flickr! The following day we went down again, as he wanted to bring the skull home, but we didn’t after all, we just took more photographs as it had been moved, and continued to the river. We had seen a swan whose feathers were turning from his cygnet grey to white the night before and were hoping to get another glimpse; we saw mallards and herons last year, and Ness and her husband Mike have spotted otters. Down there, there is no sound of cars or man (apart from us). We sit on the bridge with our legs hanging over the side and listen for ages. Soon the gorse will start to fill the air with its toffee smell and yellow haze, the rushes will grow up in the river and the boggy ground will become dry and spongy. But down here on a mild February day, its like a bit of heaven.
My house lives on the edge of the world
Propped up above a patchwork of grasses, reeds and bulrushes
Looking down to the river
that winds its way along the bottom
of the valley
Before rising to the silhouette of trees and cows and sheds and gates and gorse and deer grazing.