Coast Diary – May 21st

I’m back – what did I miss?

May is in full swing – its been sunny and rainy and occasionally even warm. The big field below is a sea of green barley, the swallows are gaining strength and numbers while the rabbits continue to proliferate. I have found out that, as I suspected, rabbits are not usually so numerous here and there’s no real reason for the recent influx mentioned in a previous post. The foxes are still about according to a neighbour, as are the buzzards – though I have not seen Buzz in his tree in a while. Hatching eggs I suppose. The ditches, all a-twitter with wrens and tits and robins, are green and bursting and the whitethorn has blossomed, its flowers like exploding popcorn. It is even on the wane already in some places while I am still awaiting for the tree out the back to take off. When I was younger I used to think of summer as a time where everything stays at its peak for the set number of weeks we call ‘The Summer’. Now I know that change is constant and even as I watch this peaking I see the other side of it – the green yellowing, the flowers wilting, the swallows gathering and going. Nothing is constant.

And down the road the change is even faster than I had thought it would be when I started this diary. Recent roadworks have caused traffic havoc, but now the new storm drains are in, the local council have published further plans to cater to the latest wave of housing. If all this building I am seeing was solving the problem of where to live I’d probably keep my silence – but somehow none of us can afford these houses. Since the Celtic Tiger, successive governments have pushed the house as an investment opportunity rather than a necessity, and buying-to-let has pushed prices up to ensure profits for global investors. There has not been a concurrent evolution in renters rights either. But I digress – if you want to read more, you could do worse than follow Rory Hearne, a local lad, on these issues https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/ireland-investment-housing-5428746-May2021/

Anyway, once this side of Tramore bay was more or less rural but since the eighties the red roofs have spread like a rash that is now tipping the edge of the little woods I have mentioned here before. From afar you can see the tops of the trees of Newtown Wood springing from the narrow glen that runs down to Newtown Cove. Off to the left and right of the woods stand two tall pine trees, perhaps the remnants of a once larger forest. Down in the glen, the trees are ivy covered and tall and fragile looking. An unlit road curves picturesquely through it as the leaves above shiver and coo and croak with pigeons and rooks and robins, coal tits, grey wagtails, magpies, gold crest and others, many of them feeding on the insects living in the cracked, old wall that edges the woods. In May it is carpeted with bluebells. In summer you might hear the creak of an owl and in the evening, at dusk, you will see for certain the little bats whirling about.

As yet I have only skimmed the plans for the woods but I do know that streetlighting is planned for the road along the wall beside it and it is likely that that wall will come down to make way for the planned cycle paths and pavements – which are no use to bats or owls and just as well as the light will see them off. It is unclear whether trees will be taken down – the language is typically oblique. And I imagine, as the houses have approached the wood, the street-lighting will soon enough make its way down the road that runs through it. Apparently there will somehow be a reduction in traffic but how this will happen when there are more houses than ever is beyond me. There is a four week consultation period – which started this week – and I will be making a contribution. I suggest if you care about these woods you do something too.

Here is the link to the plans https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/05/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme/

Watching the rabbits this evening, I thought again of that book Watership Down and how a superstitious person might take their curious proliferation in a place they were once so scarce as an omen. The book begins just before high summer. The rabbits notice a new sign near their warren as the sun sets red, the field seeming to run with blood, and they know it means something, perhaps even something bad, but do not forsee the scale of the destruction that will be very shortly visited upon them to make way for the houses of men.

National Drawing Day: If you’re in Waterford city today, Saturday May 21st, myself and my artist pal Julie Cusack are hosting a Drawing Day at Garter Lane Arts Centre in the Courtyard. Drop in (and drop out) any time between 11 am and 4pm for as much or as little time as suits you and try your hand at drawing or mark making to salsa music, or just for a look. All levels welcome. Free tea and coffee (and biscuits!)

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Windy Wednesday: An Artist’s Impression in Progress

When I started looking into wind farms a few months ago, I wanted to visualize them. The developer’s artists impressions aren’t exactly telling us anything. So I set about making images. It turned out to be more complicated than I thought.

The first image shows the height of the turbines proposed relative to Brownstown head, 5km away in this photo. I did this by finding out the height of the towers on Brownstown (c.20metres) and stacking up towers to the height of 250 metres at their very tip. I got a turbine graphic from Blue Horizon’s page. This gives a good impression of size and I know how big a turbine 5km from me – if I am standing 60metres above sea level – will look. (See post on elevation here). I measured the turbines at 10km using the container ship. But of course, the turbines are not going to be right next to Brownstown (I think I hope) so I figured I needed to create a more realistic view before causing a mad panic.

I tried some 3D modelling software but I didn’t last long at that because even if I got more ‘professional’ measurements, I still had some problems. How many turbines will there be? How far apart? And then how do I allow for rows of turbines moving diagonally away?They will appear closer together. I can place them on the horizon relatively correctly but what about the ones closer than the horizon? Or the ones beyond the horizon but still visible?

The second images show turbines a lot further out than the 5km or 10km that Energia and ESB are proposing and a lot less than the 60-80 turbines Energia are hinting at (they are a bit vague). It is an impression of 19 turbines in 2 rows, the first row about 22km away, the second row (every second turbine) further away. 22km is the minimum distance Blue Horizon are suggesting for the windfarms. I have also made them around 200 metres high rather than the max 260 metres. There is the issue that ships on the horizon will look bigger than they are…but then again so will the turbines. There is a larger version of the main image with one row of turbines at the end of the post.

I stress that this is a work in progress but I have erred on the smaller size and dulled the colour of the turbines (usually white) which I believe will be more visible in reality. And keep in mind images are not reality. In reality, the impact is usually much stronger.

I’ll work on a 10km wind farm impression next. See you Saturday with another post…probably on what turbines are made of.

Other posts on #windfarms on this blog: The Winds of Change: Introduction to a series Windy Wednesday: The distance to the horizon for Dummies Windy Wednesday: Some Windfarms The Winds of Change: Block Island

(New!)Image of the Week: Hare

Whoo hoo. I’m back. Again!As I wrote in my last post in April I had thought of deleting the Mermaids Purse blog but I still want to publish a book of illustrated essays connected to the work here before I move on and – full disclosure – I neeed a place to advertise it. But I don’t want to regurgitate old posts and, as it turns out I am a bit too busy for new posts so, inspired by my blogging pals Rocking Fraggle and Traci York, I am going to kickstart my posting with an image of the week. If I write at all I will hopefully keep it to a minimum – famous last words! These photos will not be technically brilliant as I am notorious for my bad treatment of my cameras but they will be wide ranging of subject. First up an early morning sighting of a hare.

Incidentally this week a disease which is fatal to rabbits and hares but of no risk to humans, has been confirmed in the wild in Ireland for the first time. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) causes death within a few days of infection, with sick animals having swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth. This disease emerged first in 1984 and can spread quickly and devastate hae and rabbit populations. The public have been asked to report any incidents of it they see or any unusual behaviour. It has to be said I was surprised to see this hare being so visible for so long after the sun came up and behaving a bit like a ‘mad March’ hare. Fingers crossed that its only a sign of high spirits…

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DUNHILL CASTLE : MORE POWER TO YOUR ELBOW

I often cycle down the coast to Annestown then up to Dunhill castle where the Anne Valley walk begins. There are views to the sea and the Comeragh mountains from the long, free wheeling hill to the coast while the narrow grey road that meanders north to the castle is, in contrast, sheltered from the wind and fringed by water meadows on one side and the gorse bobbled rise of the western side of the valley on the other. Ducks and swans paddle about on the water which, on a sunny day, is a deep silky blue against luminous green banks cross hatched with ochre reeds. You may see one of the local herons ponderously flapping down the river from its nest, following the lazily snaking watercourse looking for a good spot to stalk. Last week I saw a buzzard, which are becoming more common here, circling above while wrens, sparrows and finches swooped and twittered among the branches like feathery dropped stitches in a tapestry of gold and blue and green.

Dunhill castle, or the ivy covered ruins of it, sits on a rocky outcrop above the Anne River which meanders down to the sea at Annestown, a focal point in a gentle landscape. The entrance to the new and beautifully maintained Anne Valley Walk, a pedestrian path which continues on further up the river, is at its foot. The name Dunhill comes from the gaelic, Dun Aill, meaning fort on a rock. The castle, which was more than likely predated by a Celtic fort, was built during the golden era of castle building inaugurated by King John in the 13th century. Additions in the 15th century are also still visible.  It was a seat of the Power family. The Powers-or le Paor or de Paors-meaning ‘the poor’ possibly in relation to some vow of poverty (Name Origins, 2017) perhaps connected to the First Crusade, came over with the Norman invasion. Robert le Paor was awarded much of the land that is County Waterford by Henry II in 1175 on the back of a papal bull which was said to have been obtained by false pretences. The Power land in effect ran from the Tramore/Waterford meridian in the east to the Comeragh Mountains in the west. The Power name is still dominant in these parts. Many of my neighbours are called Power. Tyrone Power, the movie star of the golden era of Hollywood was a Waterford Power.

The Power family’s raucous history has all the legendary elements that would be the downfall of the Irish:the fighting and the drinking. There are two stories of the Powers with which I am some way familiar which capture I think the nature of our history. The first is a matter of historical record.

In 1368 the Powers joined forces with the O’Driscolls of West Cork, some 120 miles away to launch the first of over a century worth of attacks on Waterford city, a mere 10 miles to the east. It is an Irish historical truth that life would be far too boring if you weren’t at war with your neighbours. Waterford city was bloodied, no match for the galleys of the O’Driscoll’s, but untaken.  In 1461, Waterford defeated the same alliance but in 1537 all hell broke loose when a Waterford ship full of wine was taken by the O’Driscolls in Baltimore, West Cork. The outraged people of Waterford sent a small force to get the ship back and then launched a larger invasion which decimated the O’Driscolls after which, according to Canon Power’s history, they were not heard of again, at least in a war-like connection. To this day three galleys adorn Waterford’s coat of arms in celebration of the victory (Power, 1933).

The second story is a legend attached to the fall of the castle to Cromwells’ troops in 1649 though it has the ring of an Irish truth to it. The lady of the castle, variously named as Lady Power, Lady Gyles and Countess Giles, was in charge of the defences while her husband John Power was helping defend another stronghold at Kilmeaden. The defence was succeeding when a gunner asked for refreshments for his tired men. Lady Power supposedly supplied buttermilk instead of the usual beer. This could have been because of low supplies, religious conviction or a desire to keep the men sharp, no one knows for sure, but this substitution upset the gunner so much that he surrendered the castle to the invaders in a huff. He was immediately hung by Cromwell as a traitor (Walsh, 2016). The moral of these stories perhaps might be…

… don’t mess with our beer.

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These days Waterford is bustling city while the Anne Valley lies still under the arc of sky, its rhythm dictated by the slow flap of the heron and the spiral of the buzzard. The only drama now is the kestrel diving on an unfortunate mouse or a fish flickering briefly before a long slide down the grey gullet. But if you stop for a minute the wind might bring the tramp of soldiers feet, the clatter of hooves, the clash and crash of steel on steel and the drift of smoke as our fighting ancestors launch themselves, still, into joyful mayhem, faces shining as brightly as Cuchculain’s did when he jumped into the light.

This original illustration of Dunhill Castle and other watercolours are available on my Etsy shop. Please feel free to browse.

References & Further Reading

For further reading you could do a lot worse than Canon Power (naturally) famous history as well as his other writings. Fergus Walshs’ (another Waterford name) piece on Dunhill Castle is also a good read.

Discover Ireland (2017), Dunhill Castle, [online], available at http://www.discoverireland.ie/Arts-Culture-Heritage/dunhill-castle/71130 [accessed 14/04/2017].

Name Origin Research, (2017), Last name: Power, [online], available at http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Power [accessed 14/04/2017].

Power, P., (1933) A Short History of County Waterford, online, available at http://snap.waterfordcoco.ie/collections/ebooks/95153/95153.pdf [accessed 14/04/2017].

Walsh, F., (2016), Fearsome Past: The History of Dunhill Castle, [online], available at http://www.theirishplace.com/948/fearsome-past-the-history-of-dunhill-castle/ [accessed 14/04/2017].

Walton, J., (2000), The Power Surname, [online], available at http://www.lynskey.com/projects/new%20zealand/Information/Power%20Surname.htm [accessed 15/04/2017].