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Ballyfad Woods and other walks

Now that the schools ,golf clubs and tennis courts are open once more,there is more space for rambling and chatting in our woods and trails and beaches as the sports aficionados return to their chosen sporting activities.

Last week I rambled along the beautiful Cahore Cliff walk and Old Bawn Beach. This was an amazing breath-taking walk lasting over two and a half hours.

On another day we walked through historic Ballyfad woods outside Coolgreaney on the Wexford /Wicklow Border. This forest dates back to 1536 and is now being developed as an outdoor amenity with lots of signposted trails. There is a lovely bluebell trail with many attractions for young children. You can get details of all these and many more walks in the Wexford walking trails booklet.

On the way home we took the scenic route around Ballinvalley Upper and Lower .There were great views of the Irish Sea and Arklow town before we re-joined the N11.

I will be writing some more about these when I revisit them in the future.

On the following morning I resumed my regular walking route to see how it had changed, The group of people who had temporarily invaded our territory had returned to their golf and other swinging duties.

I parked up in the usual carpark and walked back the road to be greeted by my historian friend. She is currently studying the Roosevelts . This was a refreshing and encouraging start to the day to meet a lady of four score years out walking briskly and studying American History. I was inspired by her enthusiasm.

And so, I headed off into the woods. There was a lovely calm peaceful athmosphere here.One man was exercising his dog. This was so twenty first century. He was plump in nature ,sitting on a big boulder, smoking a cigarette and with the compulsory white ear plugs. He was probably listening to some lofty philosophy lecture. While the fag was firmly secured in the left hand, his right hand held an implement for throwing a tennis ball. The man sat, the man puffed , the man threw the ball, and the dog ran. The dog returned the ball to the master’s feet and the process was repeated. This was great exercise for the dog.

I noted the bloke’s absolute dedication to his strenuous arm swinging routines. I pitied the poor dog.

Anyway, there was walking to be done and so I continued on my merry trail. Up ahead I noted a body shape bent over and wearing a reflective jacket. I presumed it was one of the forestry rangers or inland fisheries staff doing some routine testing. As I got closer, I saw that it was a man picking wild garlic. I stopped for a chat. He told me that he was Eastern European and that in his country they used wild garlic for making pesto . He was going to make some. He told me that it did not smell quite right. He was picking it at the end of a roadway where many people and their dogs first entered the woods. I explained to him that it was the first relief point for dogs and that could be the smell. The bag of garlic he had picked was peremptorily dumped and I pointed him in the direction of safer wee free garlic. He thanked me and so I trotted off .I am sure his family will be happier not to eat dog scented pesto.

As I was progressing two locals were passing by and asked me what the man in the yellow vest was doing. I duly informed them ,and they expounded on the virtues of wild garlic. One of them actually ate some of it each morning from mid-April to late May but they had never heard of pesto. I told them it was a sort of ketchup and they were happy enough with that once the yellow vested one was not looking for wild mushrooms as well.

The senior partner of the trio now launches into a dissertation about the benefits of nettles in the month of May. They are a great source of iron and whenever he is boiling cabbage he always throws in a few nettles. He further told us that when his family left home, they would not eat cabbage. It never tasted the same as mammy’s cabbage at home. They were then informed of the secret ingredient used by dad in their younger days. Isn’t there a sting at the end of every story?

Life and walking must go on and I stroll along with garlic and nettles and cabbage in my head space menu. I meet with one of my friends who had lost her husband recently. We greeted each other and she told me that she was quite worried. She had been walking here a day previously and she found a new brown wellington boot. She looked around and could not see a matching wellington or a human to whom said wellington might belong. Her mind went into overdrive and she wondered if there could be a body in the undergrowth. I saw nothing but she asked me, the latter-day Inspector Clouseau, if I might walk in there. Reluctantly I took a brave few steps in and saw nothing and no undergrowth disturbed. I assured her that all was safe and well . We bade farewell, to each other and the mystery of the Wellington remains unsolved.

As I moved along and heading for the forest exit, I met a young lady looking for primrose flowers . She was filling a bag full of fading flowers and she was going to dry the seeds later on to make her own primrose oil. I couldn’t imagine how many flowers you would need to make a jar of primrose oil. I was going to tell her about health food shops but sure as they say, each to their own. I kept my lips sealed and headed for the home straight ahead of the impending rain .

It was a very thought-provoking health awareness walking session today. I got plenty food for thought and wasn’t too nettled by my encounters.

In the afternoon I explored home recipes for organic nettle soup and primrose oil. I think I will stick to the day job of permanent retiree.

Mick O Callaghan 20/05/2021

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