After the Dogs have gone…

The three pillars

As predicted last week,this week turned into another shitshow with a project I had founded and worked on for three years imploding…sigh. So this week was a lot about handling stress levels again. Running, resting, eating, working out, driving like a maniac to Woodies to shop for random, unneeded, kitchen utensils.

On Wednesday I ran with a heart rate monitor for the first time. I was only out the gate when a bin lorry honked me and pulled over, the driver starting to try and talk to me. Jesus wept. I could be at the north bloody pole and someone would appear to wreck my head. It’s enraging how bad times seem to attact such negative energy as if to taunt you into full battle warp spasm. I had to postpone the run until the idiot in question had left the road. It was just a 20 minute run and not very hard, but when I checked my heart rate against a chart it was my maximum heart rate for my age which I think means my heart was on the brink of exploding. Looks like I am going to have to start running like a ‘pussy’. Later in the week I did a slow 20 minutes and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. After 15 years, I think I may have cracked running – I was making too much of an effort. Story of my life.

Puddly evening road

Later in the afternoon went for a walk with my binoculars to my ‘whalegate’. Finally I started to feel relaxed. Then the dogs came. Mr. Entitled-New-To-The-Area- Arse-Face had walked his dogs up the road from his house and let them out in the fields by the cliffs. Again. Can’t be having all that shit on his doorstep I suppose nor all that pesky wildlife, not in a Special Protected Area. Maximum heart rate. Again.

The farmer passing in his car, pulled over to chat. He had been down in the woods that morning and was delighted to see how many wee birds were down there. Bullfinch and goldfinch particularly. The chaffinches he noted were making a comeback after a sparse few years. We discussed the rabbits and he said there were one or two still about but the foxes are now scarce. The foxes here like seagulls – in a culinary way – but seabirds have been decimated by avian flu in the last year. The dogs running about the cliffs where their den was can’t be helping the fox population either. I asked if we had any badgers about. I have never heard of one here, but he surprised me when he said he thought one had passed through last summer. I like the way he is a sort of concierge for the feathered and furry of the area.

Red Shank

Further down the road I saw three rabbits feeding on some new green shoots and in another field three, no four, more rabbits taking flight. Unusually a Red Shank, usually seen on the shore, was wandering around alone in the mucky tractor ruts. I turned back into the purple dusk and felt better than I had for a while. Maybe it was walking in the near dark, in the in-between time and feeling that here no more catastrophes can reach me. Or knowing there were still some animals about after the dogs had gone.

I know the dog owners get upset about anyone saying anything bad about their darling Fidos – “OH MY GOD!! How could anyone not LOVE MY FIDO!” – so I will say I know cats are an issue for wildlife too and there are cats everywhere around here at the moment. I love cats in a way I can’t love the ever-needy dogs but I don’t want them eating my birdies so I chase them off and yell “HEY Catso!I see you!” out various windows at intervals. Most of the cats are black and white farm cats, all probably interrelated, however I saw an unusual lady in the ditch this week. Check out the photo gallery…

A day or so later I walked to a nearby beach. On the way I met and chatted to an old friend with whom I once campaigned against a massive and very stupid development in these parts. We won but as for so many, it took a lot out of him and he is not interested any more – though the windfarms do concern him. We both are feeling at this stage that (unintelligent) development, small and large, is inevitable and basically the next generation can suck it up. We won’t be here. I went onto the beach and trying my best to ignore all the bad dog owners – offleash, shitting everywhere (and the dogs too) – I stuck my legs in the water up to my knees. So cold, so good. I have been neglecting my sea swimming and I must get back into it. On the way home I ran into another old friend with whom I used to swim and who was involved in that same campaign I mentioned. I told her about all the whales and dolphins I had seen in recent months as we strolled for a bit together and she said,

“We are really lucky to live here aren’t we?”

And in the moment I had to agree.

*I was also called out to get tissue samples from a very long dead dolphin on Friday. Sadly (not really) I was working and had to decline.

Rural Dusk

Coast Diary – June 25th

One last reminder that submissions in writing or by email re: Newtown Woods should reach Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford  iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022. Submissions should be clearly marked with “Submission Part 8 Newtown Hill” in the subject line.

Now back to the beach. Sort of. Years ago, when I was working in a hotel Amsterdam, one of the male cleaners took a shine to me. He conveyed this burgeoning obsession in a sheaf of handwritten pages of foolscap that, among other things, compared me to Jesus Christ. At the time I thought he was crazy but these days I seriously wonder if he was on to something because these days I seem to be a magnet for every nut job, ignoramus, and asshole on the planet. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the beach.

Sunday

I walked down to Garrarus in the evening, the little beach about half an hour away. I didn’t go down onto the sand. Instead I went up on the cliff and stared morosely at the water which was like a millpond in the sunset. It was still relatively busy. I haven’t been swimming since January partly because of how annoyed busy beaches make me, but there and then, I decided this week I would tackle my misanthropy to the ground and plunge back in…

Monday

The weather is hot and, after spending some time out on the cliffs looking for basking sharks,(none) and watching the cormorants, shags, kittiwakes, pigeons and gulls – their fuzzy grey chicks tottering about – I walked down to Garrarus. The beach was quiet but by the time I got out of the water, a family of five were bringing their kayaks and boards down the beach and planting them near the water. To give them (me) space I moved up the beach to the large flat rock near the steps. But true to my christ-like magnetism, they followed me and set up camp within five feet. In the spirit of my new magnaminity, I just shifted my towel slightly, put on my shades and hat, turned off my hearing aids and gazed into the distance. I stayed that way until a handsome (well he thought so) muscular man, a long distant swimmer, emerged god-like from the water nearby and began to stare in my direction – god knows why. I am thankfully past my sell by date according to the patriarchy. A few decades ago this might have been exciting but a life time of experience of men and their carry-on behind me, it merely makes it really, really annoying so, before I gained an extra disciple I left. But it was a start.

Tuesday

Encouraged by my newly sprouting tolerance, I went back to the beach with my book. To my horror I realised, too late, that it was midsummer’s eve which meant there were a lot of people about including a band of teens camping and, worse, a circle of drumming meditators. The teens were fine actually and switching off the hearing aids dealt with the drumming, which was quieter than last year. Maybe they heard ‘someone’ giving out about it…There was a scatter of people about near the cliffs, which is where the regular swimmers sit so as not crowd the tiny low tide swim spot. I stopped at a respectful distance and planted my towel. ‘I can do this.’ I thought. Even the couple and their child, hogging the waters edge earned my forgiveness. They looked too large to be able to walk any distance without having heart attacks anyway. As I hobbled over the stones to the sea, two women with swimming gear came down the beach with a big black dog off the leash. This is a pet (ahem) hate of mine but I decided it was none of my business and hurried to take a quick dip in order to leave the water to them. Once in the sea however, I turned around to see the dog squatting near my towel. Rather than scold it, it’s two owners took his toilet to be a sign that they should park themselves right there too. It was at this point my obviously over-stretched magnaminity suddenly gave out and, despite the nearby child floating globularly on the water, I yelled…

For Fucks Sake!

I dashed (hobbled) out of the water and up the beach yelling things about manners and dogs off the lead but the women just looked as bemused as do all those dog owners who can’t comprehend that they aren’t the centre of everyone’s universe. I suppose I was lucky they weren’t the other sort of dog owner – the ones who attack hard on the heels of their mutts. I grabbed my stuff and took it around the cliff to the unfashionable but empty part of the beach. It was a longer hobble away from the swim spot but it was worth it not to end up trying to read my book at bollock-level to a big shitty dog and listen to two wittering idiots. Back in the water the globby child tried to catch my eye. She obviously wanted a sweary friend. She wasn’t going to get one.

Wednesday

Despite the previous evenings beach-bitching I headed to Garrarus once more. Leaving my house I spotted a sparrowhawk being chased by a tumble of swallows. There was a small, swallow shape clutched in its talons. Swooping across a garden it rose up and over a field and, flapping hard, disappeared into the distance. Thinking of how savage the world is for the little birds cast a shadow over my walk to Garrarus and I arrived expecting the worst but I was dumbfounded to find that I had the beach to myself. This emptiness continued for the bones of half an hour. It has been so many years since this happened that I began to think the world had ended, that aliens had invaded and decimated the population. And I found I didn’t care. If everyone was dead, like the little swallow, I would still have a glorious swim and, under the gimlet eye of the local heron, I did. Perhaps this was reward from the universe for my perserverance.

Thursday & Friday

On Thursday the weather started to change and I wasn’t sure about a swim. I wasn’t feeling so good either. By nightfall my throat had closed up and I was coughing. The universe giveth and the universe taketh away. Perhaps it was too much cold water too late in the day or the stress of spending a week trying to be someone I am not. Or perhaps I was right and people are best avoided. No more people for me. I have learned my lesson. For the next seven days anyway.

Coast Diary – April 23rd

Traffic out my way has gone (more) haywire as part of the road has been closed for a month to facilitate new storm drains, presumably for the new estate down the road. The old wall that runs beside a footpath lined with trees has been taken down as have some of the trees for access. And in nesting season too. I saw a pair of bullfinch in there one year, only the second time I have seen bullfinch in this area. I imagine the lovely old wall further down, the one that runs along Newtown Woods (New Town, how ironic), will be next to fall. The new (mindless) one way system has also been temporarily abandoned for the second time in months to add to the mayhem. All the cars from the housing estate are being redirected out by my house and they are all travelling at speed without regard to anyone along the road. An SUV changed course to drive straight at me to avoid another SUV one evening. I am not sure how I am still here. The choice between an SUV or ‘hedge monkey’ is no contest to some of those housing estate folk. I know because I grew up in one. A housing estate not an SUV…

But there’s good stuff too. We have been having some lovely dry weather with a bit of a chill in the air. I had a lovely walk on the main beach mid-week. There were not as many birds as there used to be in this Special Protected Area, possibly because of the the boom in dog walkers who allow their dogs to run wild here (insert more giving out with swears), but I saw geese and oystercatchers and a snowy egret. Best of all I found a horses tooth (pictured above).

Why would there be horse teeth on a beach? There used to be a race course behind the beach from 1785 to 1911. The land had been reclaimed and the sea held in check by an embankment from the mid 1800s, however this gave way in April 1911 and the race course flooded. The only lives lost were those of three puppies belonging to the local hunt. The racecourse was moved up the town to its current location. While you might not think a racecourse would also be a cemetery, there seems to be precedent for it. The bodies of three famous horses were exhumed at Hollywood Park, the once famous track in California, to make way for a housing development recently. I suppose it makes most sense to bury a horse where it falls, as must have happened more than once at Tramore.

I found a horse’s tooth on this beach many years ago and thought it belonged to some sort of sea monster. They are big, horse’s teeth. I was soon put right but the thought of a sea monster lingered. Then my tooth disappeared, stolen, I think, by another horse tooth appreciator. Now I have found another one, I feel I have some sort of closure. Laugh all you like but I take my consolations where I can. You can’t be depending on any of the big stuff to make you happy…

The new bird hide had its official opening this week too. An initiative of the industrious Tramore Eco Group it’s is situated overlooking the Back Strand on the small nature reserve that has evolved on the old town dump. The nature reserve has its issues with irresponsible dog walkers too, especially in nesting season, as does Fenor Bog out the road, but maybe, eventually, these people will wake up to the rights of others – both people and creatures – and their part in the continuing existence of all. If they do it will be down to those strong hearts in groups like Tramore Eco Group.

I saw my first swallows of the year out on an evening walk (me walking, not the swallows). It was April 20th so I am not setting any records at all – sure they are practically on their way back to Africa now!- the first ones were seen weeks ago and further north. Someone spotted a basking shark too, on one of the sunnier days, down off Kilfarrasy. Yesterday morning I walked down to another of the smaller beaches and paddled in the ice cold water. It was a lovely, grey morning i.e. it was quiet. I saw a lone whimbrel on the beach and sat and watched it until it was chased off. By a dog. Sigh. Then I walked the grey road home.