The Road to courtown by Michael O’Callaghan
We drove down to Courtown in the third week of September 2021, and I just could not remember autumn weather as warm as I experienced that day with temperatures tipping 21 degrees. People were walking around the streets of Gorey in shorts and t-shirts, the street side cafes like The Book Café, Partridges, Stafford’s Restaurant and The Hungry Bear were all packed with people sipping skinnies and lattes while the 99 brigade were equally busy licking the chocolate topping and devouring their way down through the ice cream cones. Others were sampling the excellent foods available on the menus.
It was surreal to think that we were in the sunny southeast of Ireland rather than a village in the Riviera in southern France. Well maybe we were short a few yachts and a few more bronzed bodies on view but the 21 degrees on offer was most acceptable.
It is so refreshing for body and soul to be living in a thriving bustling town where there is always so much social and business interaction happening.
This was Gorey in September and as we drove down Esmonde Street there were people sitting outside The Coach House, The Bean and Drop café and creperie along with The Cosy Cottage and hidden Garden .They were all enjoying continental style outdoor dining and basking in glorious September sunshine.
I hope that in post pandemic living the powers that be learn from this new mode of living and outdoor dining and expand such facilities for Gorey and other towns. It adds a richness to town living and slows down the pace of life to a relaxed more sensible and healthier lifestyle because people are walking around again and enjoying social contact in a relaxed setting. Maybe we could extend this season and have some covered pathways to shelter us from inclement weather.
Now we progress on to the Courtown Road which is clogging up a bit with school collection time approaching but it is still refreshing to be driving along with windows down for the cooling air. The Costa Coffee unit in the old Tesco car park is busy enough with the ready to go coffee people busily hopping into their cars to consume their midday coffee kick as they motor along. I tried that once and spilled some coffee on a clean shirt as we were on the road going to a funeral and I have not been brave enough to venture into the mobile drinking habit since then.
I notice a new feature on the left-hand side of the road with a very modern coffee and snack shack tucked neatly into the corner of a business premises and he was busy enough serving his clientele.
Now we pass Greens Berry farm and their dining facilities in the form of The Cowhouse Bistro. There has been a major upgrading of their facilities this year and the place glows with an inviting atmosphere. The cars are parked out all the way to the road here, in the newly laid entrance. We noticed that every space was taken, and business was booming. I have been in there a few times myself and it is a very friendly relaxed place. Greens have the most delicious fresh strawberries, raspberries, currants, blackberries, gooseberries, jams and juices in season, on sale, all grown and produced locally, and I just love their 99’s. This is all in addition to their regular food menu with La Piazza of Gorey.
Greens has the added attraction of having a very safe footpath right to its front door from Gorey town. It is planned to extend this to Courtown. It is so heartening in these environmentally friendly times to see people walking out for their fresh fruit or coffee.
We continue driving down the road to Courtown and experience a speed van on top of Ballinatray Hill which takes an anonymous innocuous photo but luckily, we were not exceeding the speed limit and so avoided penalty points.
Following this mini scare, we are driving into Courtown village, and we see the ever busy, ever attractive kiosk in service mode serving up its cones and toppings straight ahead of us in the town square. This is one of the attractions of Courtown and gives it its uniqueness.
I notice the nice new seating and paved area is nearing completion as is the revamp of the ship to commemorate those lost at sea. This will embellish this north pier area of Courtown. It is a very welcome enhancement and with the new lighting it is a nice safe area to go for a stroll. It is particularly popular with older folk who avail of the seats. They also like to sit along the banks of the Ounavarra River and observe its waters as it rushes out to sea. This is a most beautiful area on a fine summers evening when all the boats are in the harbour. The southern pier is also improved significantly since the Sailing Club started renovating an old derelict building. This rebirth and relaunch were long overdue.
We turn left to drive the Burrow Road where we encounter a goodly number of people strolling back along the roadway in the warm September air. We see quite a few people swimming in the sea and they all seem to be enjoying themselves.
We Park the car in the Burrow and my wife decides she wants to test her aquatic skills in the Irish Sea while I saunter along through the woods for that lovely walk from Courtown to Dodd’s Rocks.
The feeling in the woods was one of utter peacefulness albeit some muggy conditions. It was ideal butterfly weather and the hedgerows and surrounding paths abounded with painted ladies, peacocks, cabbage whites and a variety of other species. I snapped several of them in such beautiful calm peaceful greenery.
Ahead of me I saw a squirrel scurrying up a tree with his usual skill and dexterity. I just failed to snap it because of a lowering glancing sunbeam cutting across my lens angle.
I press on with my walk and I am now about to leave the autumnal woods where the leaves are just beginning to fall, and all the stinging nettles are turning a sickly colour of brown as they fade back into their winter hibernation. Meanwhile I am heading down the recently laid concrete path with a loose covering of sand deposited by incoming tides. Its gentle slope has roped supports to assist people on their way up and down from the beach.
This is different territory in contrast to the shaded woods. There is an immediate visual adjustment and I don my sunnies. I see a lovely low sun glistening off the waves all the way to the Welsh coast. The sunshine and sand give a person a new oomph for walking and so I quickly up my pace and make progress towards Dodd’s Rocks.
On my way I met two friendly fishermen who are down from Dublin for a day’s fishing. They have just caught a gurney and are examining it. They tell me and show me that it is the most colourful fish in the sea. I took several photos to recall it later. This specimen was too small so having unhooked it and displayed its colours to me they returned it gently and safely to its maritime home in the crystal-clear waters of the Irish Sea. They were going to stay fishing there for the day as this is their main pastime.
Having chatted with them I proceeded to walk to Dodd’s rocks on this glorious September day. The beach was soft underfoot because the tide was gentle, and the sand was nicely settled on the shore which made it ideal for walking. I rested awhile on the rocks and then commenced the return journey. Luckily, I had brought my sunnies as there was a glancing dazzling low sun striking across the azure sea. It was sheer bliss, and I was soaking it in as I ambled along. I met a neighbour who was out exercising his dog and himself. He was advocating the proper use of this fine weather by doing lots of walking. And so, say all of us.
Next, I meet three regular walking colleagues who were speed walking on their third lap of the woods, I admire anyone who can do that sort of exercise. The logic is that they want to do their 10,000 daily steps, but they prefer to do them on a small circuit near the parking area so that if they get tired, they can quickly return to base. I prefer the long walk with a bit of variety thrown in. I would find the circuits boring.
Now I am back to base where my wife has emerged from the blue waters of the Irish Sea, and she is very pleased with herself as were quite a few fellow bathers who all ventured into sea swimming. They assured one another that the water was warm. I know people love that refreshing dip in sea water, more people like to paddle along the shore. It is super exercise for those involved in swimming in this lovely quiet cove.
As we progress over to the car, I ask myself why anyone would need to travel when we have such a great variety of walks in our own area and county.
It is unimportant what exercise you take once you do some daily routines and keep the legs and arms in motion. I must say I just love walking and being in the great outdoors. Courtown woods and beach have a huge variety of walks of whatever duration you desire, and they can be walked in all weathers.
One piece of friendly advice for all short or lengthy walks at this time of the year is to be prepared for all eventualities and observe your own safety rules by never taking undue personal risks.
Clothes & Equipment: Walking boots recommended; raincoat, warm clothes, mini backpack with hat & gloves, except on those rare 21 degree days,water/drink, snack etc. Tell someone where you are going and expected return time, bring a walking stick, if you have one and always bring your mobile phone.
Stay active, stay alive be happy and always remember that exercise is the best medicine. It was Lord Byron who said “Always laugh when you can, It is cheap medicine” so there you have it ,exercise and laughing and you will survive.
Michael O Callaghan