Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 22-26.04.2021 Walks, gatherings, Gorse and May blossom and the source of the Glen

On Thursday I met with students from Cork Educate together Secondary School. We were gathering ideas for our animation project. I had given students instructions to bring a secret object with them and carry it on the walk, bearing it in mind and making connections as we moved though the morning. The day was sunny but brisk, and the birds were making their presence known at all corners of the park. We had a chat at the gate and i told them a little of what I knew about the Glen, and its old name of Gleann na Phuca trying to set an ambience for the walk. Students drew an oval on their paper and were instructed to annotate it as they moved along. We did 3 loops of the ponds. We met at the snake between each round, deciding which way to go – clockwise or wither shins. Our first walk was wither shins, attempting a silent loop, listening, tuning in to the sounds of the Glen and the internal sounds of our own selves. We passed M ‘the Path maker’ in waders up to his neck, sifting through the ponds for last weekend’s debris of bottles and cans, I greeted him, braking (breaking) the silence. Students stopped at the Hazel tree in the cliff, looking up. I wondered why as we all pulled in silently in small eddies at the same stopping point looking in the same direction. As we gathered at the Snake I asked them about this, and they said there was a lot going on there, I asked them if they had heard of the Salmon of Knowledge from the legend of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, eating the hazel nut, some nodded, while others looked blank, it may be appropriate I suggested and left it hanging. The next round we made in reverse, still keeping silent, retracing our steps perhaps remembering and re-connecting elements from our first round, this time students were also to notice visual elements in the loop and pick up anything that might relate to their secret object. This time the Heron was a stopping point at the Bayou. Again we gathered and shared a few more snippets about the Glen, the mills, the fence posts for the Engineer’s house, the Alders for the trench practice of the Great War, and the ruins of the Fleischmann residence. The last round was suggested to be a figure of 8, beginning in counterclockwise motion, but leading students were caught up in the moment and missed the bridges to cross over at the mid point so we didn’t manage this. As we gathered and waited on the arrival of the whole posse students admired the chalk drawings at the Snake, and added some of their own, I suggested one drawing looked like a fairy, a Glen fairy from Gleann na Phuca, and one of the students pointed out a tile that could be the same.

I returned again on Saturday in the evening as the young people were gathering. Boys on the Grassy knoll and girls in the valley. The lads had some hip hop playing and I made a video recording their sounds mixing with the raucous night calls of the birds.

The hogweed is growing up fast and the gothic zone is coming into a different phase in a burgeoning accolade of greenery, applauding another year done. Somehow rejuvinating the dead tree, compensating it for the weary age it had been showing at the and of the winter months, I can’t be sure if it lost some of its lower jaw this season round.

A flower is showing and I am not sure if its a hogweed already coming from ground levle or perhaps the St Anne’s Lace appearing again. This image was posted to the plant identification forum to clarify a querent’s entry about rhubarb. I have copied it here as a good indicator of leaf form in the carrot family of plants…some of which are culinary and some that are deadly (the rhubarb is a bit of a red herring!) I love the way the hogweed unfurls in such a vigorous way. I was curious to see if the fire pit was still there and happy to see it remained intact, I also noticed someone had fashioned a kind of an upside down 3 legged stool placing 4 stakes around a stone to hold it in place.

This was a final weekend of the month and so my Sunday visit was our clean up day – and we had glorious sunshine for the adventure sport it has become. All manner of findings apperared as usual, digging deep a Glen mud larking for springs and hubs, grills and cones, I came home with a break disc that looked to me like it could be a religious icon of our times, (like a relic from one of my favourite books, Riddley Walker).

P the wall was there with his grand nephew raising dust on the steps, I decided to talk to him about the painting he was doing and found out he had already coated the wall at the hatch I was trying to get him to leave alone, I was sad about this but tried to be philosophical. P the W doesn’t want to know what I or any other blowins think or feel about the place and insists he is working on behalf of the generations that have been coming here for 50 years, perhaps he is right about this, but I feel I have my connection too, and there is no doubt that much of his activity is destructive to the natural as well as the built environment he claims he is trying to protect.

Later that afternoon I go with R on a long planned journey to the source of the Glen, just a few miles up the road to near where I used to live and where R once in our early friendship got stuck in a bog, so much of our live has been lived alongside this river. We crossed over the North Link road, there is a small cluster of 3 live and one dead Araucaria ‘Monkey Puzzle’ trees at The Fox and Hounds and we notice from the boundary that this is part of the public land connected to the Glen River. We turned east by the Fox and Hounds, trying out different access paths along the way while R consulted the route on google Earth. We passed gated entrances to the parkland in housing estates and fields with horses and gorse and hawthorn groves. We climbed into the ‘park’ at a spot that looked promising, and found ourselves in magical places amidst the gorse and hawthorn and the string of drinking spots used by young urban dwellers, which are so typical of the edges of cities. One place had some shiny kitchen chairs all of them had bottles and cans, thee was a photo ID I picked up and not wanting to throw it down again I placed in a gorse branch, it seemed appropriate. This was very near the place where the river rises, and the bog where R had got sucked in all those years ago, though then there was not so much proliferation of gorse and hawthorn, 21 years ago it was more open, I wondered why and we guessed the land must have been in use by farmers back then. It’s a truism that so much in nature changes and we notice only when we go back, on this golden day of gorse and may flower it seems optimistic amongst the urban debris in our city hinterland. We didn’t find the actual source of the river, that is a treat perhaps for another day, maybe a winter’s day we say as we lick our wounds from briers and wires and thorns and gorse, each bleeding from different scratches.

Published by @julforres

Julie Forrester, artist based in Cork City Ireland

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