“Walking is good for our muscles and posture. It helps to protect and repair organs and can slow or turn back the ageing of our brains. With our minds in-motion we think more creatively, our mood improves, and stress levels fall” [In praise of walking by Shane O Mara]
I read the above book and attended a talk by Shane in Gorey Library, and it has really spurred me on to continue walking and challenging myself to keep reasonably fit.
When I started the above walk, I was conscious that I was treading the same bachelor and ladies walks as the Courtown gentry did in days of yore when they went back to the cricket pitch.
I joined the new yellow arrowed sand path from the board walk carpark. Here it was nice to see the progress of all the new saplings planted along the Burrow Road by Jeshua Taucher, Project manager and Horticulturalist with Seal Rescue Ireland and his crew. The trees they planted are all growing through the rich undergrowth. In future years this planting will mature and greatly enhance this area of Courtown.
While following this relatively new sand path I noted the sign telling us that native trees mean healthier seas. Trees also fight climate change by storing carbon, provide food and habitat for wildlife, prevent erosion, and clean our air.
As I am walking along, I note the rich vegetation on either side of me. There is also a great variety of mature trees growing in this enchanted little place with darts of sunshine shining through gaps in the trees glinting off leaves and rich green undergrowth.
I note some fading but still nice examples of fireweed, the delicate common nipplewort and lovely Herb Robert still in its summer finery but beginning to wilt, fade away and nearly ready to go into winter hibernation for another year.
On my left and right there are lots more saplings planted by Jeshua and his crew, and they will add greatly to the arboreal beauty of the area in years to come.
It was James George Henry Stopford,5th Earl of Courtown, born on April 24th1823 who originally planted so much of Courtown Woods with over 400 varieties of trees from all over the world. He died in 1914 and was buried in Kiltennel.
I now climb up to the top of this path and The Old Cricket pitch opens out in front of me.
Here you have three options. You can turn left to go out on the road or go right to get on to the seaside path.
I chose the third option and went straight ahead up the sandy path and down the slight incline again continuing to follow the yellow arrows as you pass through a forest of magnificent specimens of sycamore trees.
The undergrowth here is full of briars with some not so ripe small blackberries. A lady who was out picking them for making home-made apple and blackberry jam told me this was because of the lack of rain during the berries formative period.
There was no such growth and development problem with the very mature stinging nettles, growing along the verge of the paths, but their season is nearly finished too.
There are lots of new ash and beech trees emerging and hopefully the dreaded ash dieback disease, caused by the hymenoscyphus fraxineus fungus will not kill them.
Now I continue to follow the yellow arrows and turn right to walk along by the sea to the car park at the Burrow.This sandy short walk was created when the harbour was dredged and all the muck, excess sand, rocks, and rubbish was dumped here to give a nice short, elevated walk overlooking the Irish Sea.It also gives some protection to the road and forest.
I love the contrast of this coastal walk to the other side of the ancient forest. Here you hear the sound of the breaking waves on the rocks while the other side of the river has more subdued gentle sounds of babbling brooks and streams.
Now that I am at the Burrow carpark, I cross over the bridge, avoiding some dog poo as I go, and turn right following the yellow arrow along the forest path in perfect peace and harmony with nature. The only sounds are the very gentle flow of the stream on my right and the bang of a golf ball as someone tees off in the Courtown Golf Club on my left.
There is a gentle autumn breeze which provides a nice relaxing sound of rustling leaves. I note the underfoot conditions have an autumnal feel about them with lots of brown leaves falling and settling down to provide a soft leafy carpet for walking.
As I stroll, I peep into the red bricked Lady Charlottes Well on my left and listen to the therapeutic sound of the crystal-clear water dripping steadily into the well. I think of all the people, who over the years would have come here with their containers to get their daily drinking water.
I am now joined by a regular walker whose dog does a tasting of said aqua pura and he seems happy enough to yap and taste again until his thirst is quenched. We admire all the ferns growing here in addition to some lovely giant horsetail plants in all their delicate greenery.
We noted a few sweet chestnut trees enhancing the woodland paths with their nicely shaped leaves and greenery. This ever-changing natural forestry must be seen and experienced regularly to be fully appreciated.
Now we continue our little incline walk till we come to the next yellow arrow which is at the end of this section of the sandy path.
We take a left turn and walk through a short track of rough terrain to view the most magical enchanting piece of the walk in the form of the waterfall with its lovely narrow little bridge in front of it. We did not venture down the path to the narrow bridge leaving that to the younger more sure-footed generation. It is spectacular after a period of rain to watch the water cascading down the waterfall as it rushes along on its path to the sea.
Having satisfied our curiosity, we retraced our steps to continue our walk on to the beach and back to Dodd’s Rocks for a rest and an opportunity for a bit if mindfulness as we
took in the breadth of the Irish Sea in front of us and listened to the sound of the sea birds.
We took the seashore walk home and were totally enraptured by the calming sound of the gentle waves rolling on to the sandy beach and gravel.
This walk was in total contrast to my recent walk when I strolled along the Oonavara river with its greater diversity of trees, vegetation, and walking conditions.
Meanwhile in the past few months I have enjoyed Cahore, the Rathdrum Loop walk, The Glenmalure Trail, The Vartry Trail, Glendalough and many more.
Winter walking season is now upon us, so it behoves us all to get up and keep walking for our health’s sake. Get your hands on the Wexford Walking Trails booklet and start walking.
Join an existing walking or hill climbing group or start your own group. Put one foot in front of the other and off you go. If you are walking by night, please wear reflective clothing. It is also worth noting that walking is free and is open 24 hours a day with no appointments needed
You will feel much better once you get into the habit of regular exercise. Get Walking Now.
Mick O Callaghan