Enjoy a loop walk in the Ancient Woods of Courtown here in North Wexford
We are so lucky to be living in the vibrant bustling town of Gorey with so many excellent shops, cultural and artistic centres, excellent hotels and a superfluity of par excellence restaurants and dining areas.
We are equally blessed to have excellent leisure facilities, well maintained public green areas and a lovely town park which is very family friendly .Gorey also has an abundance of free beach and woodland walks in town and within easy reach of our doorsteps. Each day you walk in these areas you are presented with a totally new enriching experience.
At the end of our recent scorching spell of weather, I betook myself to Courtown’s ancient woodlands for my morning constitutional.
I parked up in the main car park and having chatted about the art world with a regular walker I passed through the stile and walked up the path past the seal sanctuary with its distinctive baby seal sounds and fishy smells.
I turned left down along the broad leaf chestnut walk past the wire fence enclosure of The Active Tribe complex where excited children were involved with playing laser tag games in the grounds. People were peeping through the wire to find out the source of the noise and get a visual connection with the activities being pursued.
I progressed up along the path past some fantastic mature horse chestnut and beech trees and sat down to view the peaceful vista opening out ahead of me.
Some runners passed by huffing and puffing up the gentle incline as they made their jogging way around the forest circle.
As I walked along, I heard the muffled sound of traffic passing by on the adjacent roadway to Courtown obscured by the luscious, dense greenery around me.
Now I passed the little woodland car park and bore left down the forest path towards the old townland boundary of Ballinatray where I stopped to view the surrounding forest in this special historic place where the High Cross of Kilbride which stands about two and a half metres tall is located. It is reputed to be there since the 5th, 9th, or 10th century.
Having feasted on the verdant greenery here I strolled down the moderate incline and headed to walk under the huge viaduct that is modern day Ballinatray Bridge. This is an amazing sight when viewed from the underneath and I stopped to take a few photos of this magnificent edifice built in 1847 and designed by James Barry Farrell.
Having absorbed the scene onto my inner memory stick I turned around and began following the Oonavarra River along its banks. It was lovely today to hear the babbling brook sound of water again as the water levels had decreased appreciably during the dry spell. I continued along the bank up and down steps till I came to the Spike Bridge. This timber bridge now was once an Iron spiked bridge which the estate workers on Lord Courtown’s estate used. It was locked by night when the last workers went home and opened again in the morning to allow workers access to their workplace
I crossed over while at the same time observing a few trout swimming around in the clear water flowing under the arches on its way down to the sea in Courtown.
Having crossed the bridge, I turned left and followed the level path by the river observing a lone fisherman trying his luck at fly fishing for trout without success during my brief chat with him. It was his pastime he said where he was lost in fly fishing for a couple of hours.
Further along I met a man who was trying to tire out his dog by throwing sticks into the river where there was a steady flow of water, and the dog retrieved them. He told me tales of dogs being led into stagnant waters and got sick later from the infected waters.
Now I trudged along up a moderate incline and on to the old Ballinatray Bridge where I sat to observe the surrounding woodland and listen to the relaxing sound of the stream underneath. This unique little stone bridge with its two low walls is like one of those little clapper bridges built in times past to allow ponies and carts to cross a stream.
As I resumed my leg stretching exercises, I observed some lovely rhododendrons and a wide variety of native Irish trees in beauteous arboreal surroundings while lurking in the background were specimen lord and ladies or cuckoo pint plants resplendent with their brilliant red berries. They are poisonous because all the plant contains Calcium Oxalate crystals which can penetrate the skin.
I pointed them out to a parent who was walking with her children, and she was grateful that she was now aware of the danger to her of such a lovely plant lurking in the undergrowth.
Leaving this forest menace behind me I crossed the road opposite the water treatment plant and continued the path by the side of The Ballymoney Road. I turned right at the top and down past the walled gardens on my left and started heading up the gentle incline.
Now I was transported to the west coast of America as I saw the Huge Californian Redwood ahead of me. It is such a wondrous sight to view it in in all its magisterium lording it over its forest minions of nearby oaks, horse chestnuts, limes, and ash trees. There is a well-located tree trunk bench underneath where families sit down and have picnics, or some elders rest their weary bones before challenging the final moderate climb on the return way to the Spike Bridge. This spot is an oasis of calm and I never tire of it.
I just love all the young oak trees growing here. There is also a lovely Turkish oak tree. In addition, we have some beautiful pines and sally bushes with some nice sycamore trees. In the rich green undergrowth, there is a vigorous growth of Fireweed, beautiful Old Man’s Beard, Bull Thistles with their prickly purple flower heads and the flourishing Tansy Ragwort with its ornate yellow flowers. This area is any outdoor persons dream with its vast variety of the flora and fauna of the area while a small murmuring stream runs along to join the Oonavarra river. This is truly an enchanted place.
Now I recrossed the Spike Bridge and kept left along the path by the river. This was peace personified with the only interruption being the lowing of calves in a meadow at the other side of the river and the gentle soothing sound of rustling leaves in the overhead trees.
They just disturbed the tranquillity of the place momentarily while I traversed the path back to the car park enjoying the sounds of the river rushing along. I loved the great variety of trees growing here and also the many ferns on view in this moist territory which has its own unique charm.
This was a beautiful hour and a half of sheer enjoyment and relaxation while walking at my own steady pace and observing nature looking its late summer best.
If you are ever stressed out and want to restore your inner sanctity or want to unfuzz and clear your head space, just head for the woods. The therapy and treatment are free.
For further information you can go to wexfordwalkingtrails.ie or get their app or free booklet which details the vast array of walks available in County Wexford. Walking the trails is a wondrous way of healthy living and if you walk in a group the banter and yarns can be mighty.
Keep an eye out also for details of Wexford Walking Trails Festival 2022 from September 23rd-25th details of which will be announced shortly.
Mick O Callaghan 19 /08 /2022