We are returning to beautiful Glenmalure Valley in Wicklow on Friday 22nd September for a short weekend of walking. Please read on for more details.
What a day for a hillwalk. It was warm and windless in beautiful surroundings. The smiling walkers I met along the way agreed. Starting at Shay Elliot means a variety of landscape is assured and lots to admire along the way. Most hill tops have cairns in this area (towered heaps of rock). Please resist the urge to add to them. Remember our saying: “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”. The first gorgeous creature I met was a Peacock Butterfly alongside the track up towards Cullentragh:
As I saw another close by, I realised, as the day progressed, this was going to be a butterfly day. All kinds were to be seen: Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown. Here’s the lovely Small Copper Butterfly:
Mr Raven was making himself heard as I came down Mullacor and I spotted a Sparrow Hawk hunting by the slopes of Derrybawn. The deer were out in force but sheltering from the hot sun under trees and tall bracken.
Homeward bound on the old track below Derrybawn’s slopes, I came across a Fox Moth Caterpillar, sunning himself on a stone. His colours were a lot sharper than this fellow, because his habitat is the cooler region of the uplands:
So….what did you see on your hike?
The Clifden weekend was everything we hoped for, and more than some of us dreamed! The Station House Hotel outdid themselves with the standard of their accommodation, and food. The staff are so kind and helpful. Our stalwart leaders: Jimmy, Hugon, Duncan, Brendan, Conor, Karina, Fiona and Philip outshone themselves in designing walks for every level, making it a weekend to remember. Lots of Maamturks, Glencoaghan Horseshoe, and 12 Bens virgins (“first-timers” to the uninitiated). The weather co-operated, giving us some of the most beautiful views across the mountains and sea, wherever we walked. And the après hikes craic was mega, as you would expect from Glenwalk. There was Jack the Scot who went up the hill……and there were sheep who wandered in for lunch. Oh, and let’s not forget the mermaid seen by some, and pondered by many.
A special word of appreciation to Philip who, as weekend walks co-ordinator, gave up his much of his beauty sleep to haunt and cajole so that all the walks were planned well in advance, so well planned in fact, that we all had the details before we’d even checked in to our accommodations! And then, to facilitate those of us whose brains are swiss cheese, announced the days events each morning, foregoing his chance for a lie-in over the holiday weekend.
The icing on the cake for this organiser was the EUR185 collected on behalf of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council. They had sent us a bunch of tickets to sell at only EUR3 per ticket. When the tickets ran out, the generous Glenwalkers in Clifden continued to contribute. Thank you for your generosity, Clifden Revellers! The IPCC appreciates your contribution to their important work. Delivery of the cash was completed by Madeleine, today, Thursday.
A recent hike up Knocknacloghogue in the good company of Glenwalkers, was enhanced by some great views. The weather obliged with only a few light showers until our return journey, which only encouraged us to find a last spurt of energy to get us back up to Pier Gates. Along the way we saw some interesting flora and fauna.
The hairy mollies I enthusiastically pointed out so they wouldn’t get stomped on were Northern Egger caterpillars. The Northern Egger is a big moth with a spot on each wing, and the female has a lighter colouring.
Another creature we saw, this time displaying amazing flight control, was a Kestrel. This raptor is most easily recognised by its typical hunting behaviour which is to hover at a height above the ground over open country. It then swoops down on its prey, usually small mammals or insects. The kestrel we saw was making optimum use of the air stream coming up from Lough Dan to hover over an area near us, allowing us plenty of time to watch its air display. Later, as we basked in the sun at the shores of Lough Dan, we could hear the kestrel’s loud “kee kee kee” calls, which it does when agitated. I’m guessing other walkers had strayed close to its nest.
Learn from my Mistakes
It a normal Sunday morning, except for a sandwich, I have my bag for my Glen walk ready from the night before. I leave town at 0930. As I have a terrible sense of direction I put on my best friend google maps. She tells me it will take 58 minutes. I was sure it was a 40 minute journey but I trust her so off I go.
The route feels all wrong. I’m anxious I’m going to be late, but I trust google maps as it has guided me on many an occasion when I was lost. As I drive through Donnybrook it dawns on me. Two days before I had asked google maps to avoid all tolls so, of course, she is taking me through town to the N11. I weave frantically back to the M50. Google maps is now confused and for the next 30 minutes I have to listen to her trying to reroute me off the motorway. I’m driving so I can’t turn her off!! Conscious that I’m running late I dash into a garage, buy a sandwich and some M&M’s, dash back to the car and throw them on the front seat.
I arrive in Roundwood at 1031 stressed from driving and swearing at cyclists. The car pool people are there, I breadth a sigh of relief. After some discussion about who should go in what car, I am driving two others to iron bridge. A last minute change of plan and they are driving me, so I grab my stuff from the boot of the car and put it into theirs. Off we go, I have made it, I can relax!!
Five minutes into the drive I get that sinking feeling and swear silently to myself. My sandwich and bag are on the front seat of my car. I can hardly believe it!! There’s nothing I can do so I hope that someone in the medium medium walk has packed too many sandwiches and won’t be hungry. On arrival to iron bridge, slightly panicked I jovially relay my tale of woe and thrown myself on the mercy of my group, who very generously reassure me that I won’t go hungry.
I have been quite excited about this walk. Being relatively new to the club and having taken heed of Hugon’s advice at the talk in Foleys the week before I had my new platypus. It makes me feel like a real walker. It’s a hot day and I’m appropriately equipped!! As we go along I can’t get any water out of it. I have turned the nozzle right and then left but nothing despite my efforts, not a drop. More silent swearing, I despair and wonder why anyone uses them, I’m going back to using a bottle.
After some fitting jeering over my nonexistent lunch, lunchtime arrives and feeling embarrassed I take out my flask of tea. With the generosity of my fellow walkers I eat very well, cheese and relish sandwich, a mini mars and two chocolate biscuits. I recommend anyone going on the medium medium walk to forget their lunch as a better one is generously donated.
During lunch discussing again how useless my platypus is I take it out of the bag. The first thing said to me is turn it the other way up. Oh dear, I feel a right fool. Of course that’s the way around it should go, the water flows. These platypus things are great; I will never use a bottle again.
It was a great walk and I made it there and back safe, fed and watered. After the walk I take my phone out of my bag to see if anyone has messaged me to discover that in my haste I had forgotten to turn google maps off so the poor girl had been rerouting me for 4 hours to try and get me to Roundwood. 3% battery and then it died.
A mountainous thank you to all who not only fed me but made it a memorable day.
All walking club members know, when you see a sign, as you access an upland area, that says “No dogs allowed” and/or “Animals Grazing”, you are now entering privately owned land. The area may be your favourite mountain, forest or heathland. I never met a dog I couldn’t love! But bringing a dog, no matter how well behaved, can frighten animals, and shows disrespect for the landowner. It only takes one instance of sheep worrying to have “permission to access” withdrawn. So please pass this on to any dog-loving friends who think it’s ok to bring their woofers on the hills.
Something we can all do, every walk, to help the hills By Duncan Aitken
At the recent Glenwalk Leaders’ Forum, we were treated to an interesting and informative talk from Helen Lawless, the Hillwalking, Access & Conservation Officer of Mountaineering Ireland (MI). One of Helen’s topics was how to minimise the adverse effect of our own footprints on our hills and mountains. This is also the subject of one of the Leave No Trace principles, “Travel and Camp on Durable Ground”.
It seems to me that this is an area where each one of us can make a contribution every time we go hillwalking. We’ve all seen wide paths on the hillsides, visible for miles around, and large muddy patches. These didn’t appear of their own accord, of course – they were caused, at least in part, by hillwalkers like us. But the good news is that it’s easy for each of us, individually, to minimise the risk of our own walking contributing to eyesores such as these – simply by where we choose to tread.
And this is, indeed, about choices. One memorable thing Helen said was that in a 12km hillwalk, a typical walker will take around 15,000 steps – so, as she pointed out, that’s 15,000 decisions about where to tread. For most of those 15,000 steps, we will have a genuine choice. So how can we choose wisely?
The first thing to be aware of is that “best practice” in this area depends on whether there’s a track or not.
Most of the time on our hillwalks, we tend to be on a track of some sort – anything from a tarmac road (or even a concrete one!) to a narrow line through the vegetation. That narrow line is, of course, usually the result of human (or animal) impact. So do we avoid walking on it, to avoid making the impact worse?
No – on the contrary. A track tends to be less fragile than the land around it, because broad-leaved vegetation (most fragile) wears away to leave grasses and more resilient vegetation, which in turn may wear away to reveal soil (less fragile) and, ultimately, rock (least fragile). So if we stick to an existing track wherever possible, we are minimising the additional impact of our passing.
Are the people in the picture sticking to the track? No, they’re not. “Stick to the track” means “right ON the track itself”, ideally as close to the centre of the track as possible. And, in particular, avoiding walking on the grass right next to it, because this will widen the damaged area – and that’s what causes those eyesores I mentioned earlier.
Of course, this means we will often find ourselves walking on rock or mud – even if it means getting our nice new boots muddy! But rock and mud are usually safe and practical to walk on (although, of course, we must always use our own judgement in those respects).
In addition, there are a few simple things we can do to make it easier for ourselves to stick to the track:
– In her talk, Helen mentioned the use of gaiters to protect against mud.
– Using poles can minimise the impact on our joints when going downhill on rocky ground. And when we’re not walking downhill, is it really any more uncomfortable to walk on a rocky surface? Especially if it’s over only a short distance.
– When there’s water lying across the track, it may be possible simply to step over it, or safe to walk right through it – avoiding lengthy diversions (which also, again, widen the damaged area).
So much for when there’s a track.
But if there isn’t a track, each walker in a group is usually faced with a choice – do I follow directly behind the person in front, or not? Normally it will make little or no difference to us. But from the point of view of the hills themselves, it does make a difference.
In trackless areas, we’ll usually be walking on vegetation such as grass. And vegetation is much more likely to recover from one footprint than from many.
So the guidance from Mountaineering Ireland and Leave No Trace is to adopt a different approach where there’s no track. Instead of following directly behind one other, as we might when following a track, it’s best to spread out sideways in this case, to avoid damaging vegetation irreversibly or creating new tracks. But again, safety is important, so we must make sure we don’t spread out so much that we lose contact with the group, either visually or audibly – especially in adverse conditions such as fog, strong wind or heavy rain.
Of course the hills are infinitely varied, so we will sometimes come across unusual or borderline situations where these simple principles don’t give a nice clear answer and we will need to use our judgement. But most of the time, the basics will be enough to guide us. None of us is going to get it right 100% of the time but, regardless of whether a judgement call is needed or not, an awareness of those basics will mean more of those 15,000 decisions are good ones.
I’d like to thank both Helen Lawless and the Glenwalk Committee for reviewing this blog entry before publication and suggesting improvements. And thanks also to Helen for permission to use the pictures, which were taken from her presentation.
Ticks are a comparatively recent threat to our hillwalking enjoyment. Why? Because some of them cause Lyme Disease. While it’s not a common infection, it’s a very serious one and, undiagnosed, it can cause serious health problems for sufferers, including joint inflammation, numbness and temporary paralysis. In the latter stages of the disease it can cause, amongst others, memory impairment and personality changes.
While this may explain some of your more bizarre behaviours, it is still wise to take some simple precautions and be vigilant. After all, ticks, like unpleasant people, can make a nuisance of themselves in crowded woodland and heathland areas.
Covering up and wearing light coloured clothing is the best defense. After a hike, check around your neck and hair line, behind ears, waist line, groin and behind knees too.
What do they look like? Have a browse here: http://www.ticktalkireland.org/ticksweeppics.html
Be safe out there!
Your faithful Environment Officer Madeleine
The toss up at the beginning of each year…. which Glenwalk weekends to do!?
I decided to hit Killarney this year. I was on the Killarney weekend only once before and felt it was high time to give it another visit.
All booked and paid for, it wasn’t long before it was time to hit the road. After organising a car pool with 2 other companions, I was looking forward to a road trip consisting of catch up chats, laughs and a lunch stop along the way.
As we left Dublin, it wasn’t long before we slowed down to a crawl with all the other cars escaping for the long weekend. All in all it took us the best part of six hours to get to Killarney – YES 6 hours of traffic crawling, chatting, lunch stops and technical stops! The car chats went from general light chit-chat to deep confessional, very upfront and candid stuff!! Rules are rules of course and at the end of the day as we all well know “what’s spoken in the car stays in the car” so my lips are sealed! I must admit by the end of the weekend I was quite confused. After travelling in different cars I began to get confused at which conversations belonged to which car, who had spoken about what and who I could or couldn’t talk to about certain things!
Stopping off in Adare for lunch, we weren’t in the least bit surprised when we strolled into the café and saw 2 other Glenwalkers sitting having lunch. Sure its Glenwalk after all… we are everywhere!
On arrival to the hotel, the fires were lit and the hotel was feeling cosy… after dumping the bags and doing the obligatory scramble with the roomie for the double bed, we headed back down for a beer to a growing circle of arriving Glenwalkers around the fire.
Later that evening we headed down town for dinner to a restaurant (recommended by Tadhgs friend) called “The Stone Chat”. A cosy restaurant, friendly staff, lovely food mixed with light banter & craic with great company. I would well recommend this restaurant for anyone heading in that direction.
A beer back in the hotel, meet and greet kind of thing and then everyone started heading off to their rooms preparing for the walks ahead. Of course you will always find some late night stragglers reluctant to head off to bed just yet… the famous last words “sure just one more..”
Over the weekend there was a fantastic mix of walks available. From a walk in the park with Jean, 20ft drops and rope activities with Hugon, while Roger and Brendan were hanging out of the Ridges at Coomloughra Horseshoe and the Cummeenapeasta Ridge.
I chose to do 2 MS walks this weekend:
One very questionable “MS” walk with Phillip who brought us from Kate Kearneys to the right of the Gap of Dunloe – Strickeen – Cnoc an Bhráca – Cnoc an dTarbh
and on Sunday a MS with Denis to Mangerton
As always we were spoilt with an alternative choice on Sunday. Tony gathered some troops and headed off for a relaxed cycle of the area.
Both dinners as always went great. Lovely food, good chats and laughs, a few too many drinks followed by, on Sunday a trip into the heart of Killarney to a pub where we stood shoulder to shoulder unable to move! Good times!! Haha. A Session on Sunday night where Conor, Leon and Duncan providing some great music and tunes along with other Glenwalkers led us into the wee hours of Monday morning.
I have noticed in the past many months some changes in Glenwalk.. Changes in a positive manner. Moving forward its exciting times. Members are now being encouraged to get involved with events, weekends, becoming leaders and more… This is good for sure.. This weekend Marie stepped in and organised the weekend in Killarney while Tadhg stepped up and took on the speech at dinner. Well done to you both and to everyone else involved.. Especially to the leaders who gave their time, coming down early to recce walks for us, making sure everything was accessible and running smoothly on the day.
I have to say, I missed a lot of the regular faces that were not able to make it but at the same time it was really great to get to know the newer members. It was a thoroughly great weekend and I’m glad I went.
Its always a little sad leaving a weekend and leaving the camaraderie that has being built over the weekend.. but sure hey ….there is always the Donegal weekend looming in June!
Something a little different….
Speaking of change folks… This year I have offered to organise both the Summer Party and the Halloween Party on the October b’hol weekend. I have been conferring with some team members and I must say Im really excited about both events!
The Summer Party will be taking place on Saturday 19th of August… Pop it into your diaries and maybe even go as far as getting ahead of the game and organising your team of 4/5 people. I will tell you more soon but for the moment just to know – You will be out around the streets of Dublin competing against the other teams in Glenwalk… Its going to be the Craic! There will be plenty of laughs and maybe even a pub stop or 2 along the way if you get thirsty…
But most important…
WHO will be crowned the WINNER….
See you all out in the hills