FotG met for our last Sunday of the month clean up in the Glen, after a break in July. There wasn’t much cleaning up to be done, any persistent rubbish is layered below the growth right now, and the surface stuff is under control. So we decide to shift our movements next month West to The Bride.
The Glen river runs into The Bride. They meet in Blackpool, conjoined they flow together as the tiny River Kiln before spilling into The Lee and heading Eastwards to the sea at Cork Harbour. The part where Glen meets Bride happens under the city ground and there are still some places we can see them move, gaps in the concrete.
The Bride has 350 metres of open air at Blackpool, where she is banked by mature trees, a magnificent Willow with her summer curtain of billowing leaves, tall Limes and Sycamores all grand and green majesty, they have at least as much Temple Quality as Seamus Murphy(the celebrated sculptor)’s Mexican influenced Church of the Annunciation in the village. The river is also banked by railings erected to prevent human access to the river in one direction and by a concrete barrier to prevent river access to the human development in the other. These demarcations overlap, and in the intersection bulging nappies and other bits of organic and non organic household waste fill the gap and overflow onto both sides.
This small but significant section of the open river is threatened by development, the plan is to transmogrify the interface between living city and living natural world into concrete. Concrete is the OPW’s default response to the problem of flooding in urban areas. There were once barriers in the river here, grills put in place to stem the flow of mattresses, sofas, bicycles, and other human waste cast into the flow of waters from The Glen. These off-casts gathered at the grills which, once erected, were neglected by the city council and soon the debris built up, creating blockages, and a backlog of water led the Bride burst her banks at the barrier at the Church of the Annunciation at the heart of the village. The flooding caused too much damage for the insurance companies, who recoiled, and local businesses were left in the lurch. Flooding happened again and again and so the barriers were removed. Since then the flooding has stopped, but there is still fear. The OPW have offered their default solution – concrete – cover over the river, culvert the lot, apparently it seems out of sight out is out of mind. All mature trees will have to go and there will be no more open river in Blackpool, no river bank, no visible river life, no otters, dippers, herons and other wildlife and no consideration for an ecosystem above and below the concrete.
This part of The Bride has been an important breeding ground and nursery for otters in the river Lee catchment, the females retreating here with their young to raise them until they are strong enough to fend for themselves among the male otter population. There are strong objections from resident naturalists to the OPW’s plan, they propose a Sustainable Drainage Sytem (SuDS) upstream to regain some flood plain and slow the water, and costing far less in financial terms than the 20 million euro concrete plan. The concrete plan already has the go ahead and the push from some powerful local representatives. Meantime the litter and household waste builds up in an area of natural beauty that is bounded and kept at bay by regulations on all sides.
I was brought here by Glen walker L and her doggie S, we saluted the heron under the bridge and eyed the tabby cat who had hunkered down on the grass for the afternoon. Boy kids of a variety of ages, some of them recent immigrants to Cork, were happily playing ball in the street near what was once the playground, now an empty and unpopulated section of urban play space, surfaced as far as the river bank with its interlocking barriers in concrete. The Blackberries that spill out from all edges remain on the bushes unpicked.