Ireland

Bray to Greystones cliff walk is a scenic and historic delight

Bray cliff walk - View of Dalkey island and Howth Head.jpg

Sometimes over the years I’ve missed out on trying something that is right on my doorstep. I used to work in Bray a few decades ago and I never thought back then of walking the famous 5.5 km cliff trail from Bray Head to Greystones. Better late than never though, so I gave it a go last week.

Directions were straightforward. An assistant in a local pharmacy told a friend and me to go to the beach, turn right and keep going. We had arrived on the DART (the urban electric train) from Dublin city centre and the beach promenade was right beside the station so finding it was no problem. The town of Bray was originally developed as a popular resort in Victorian times and features a long promenade. The bandstand dates back to the 1890s.

The railway was finished in 1856 and full marks go to the adventurous Victorian engineers for their tunnels through the rocky cliff face.

The railway was finished in 1856 and full marks go to the adventurous Victorian engineers for their tunnels through the rocky cliff face.

A beautiful coastLINE with wild flowers and sea birds

A variety of wild flowers scramble along the path and down to the rocks below.

A variety of wild flowers scramble along the path and down to the rocks below.

Some people think the east coast of Ireland tame compared to Connemara or West Cork but the views inspired me. The walk is what I would call moderately difficult. This has a rough stony surface in places and is also sometimes steep. Wicklow County Council has kindly added steps at the toughest parts.

Perhaps what I found most interesting was the way the railway line meanders along the edge of the sea. You can see how close the train goes to the water in one of the photos below. The cliff walk came into being to help men and materials reach the railway construction site.

The story goes that in the mid-nineteenth century the Earl of Meath refused to allow the railway to cut through the land of his Kilruddery estate but he handed over the cliff area for free. The line was completed in 1856 with adventurous Victorian engineers designing tunnels through rocks at the edge of the ocean. It was a costly and sometimes dangerous enterprise, with rocks falling and erosion by the sea. In the photo below you’ll see a second tunnel, now abandoned, on the outside of the one in current use. A dramatic crash took place here in August 1867 when a bridge collapsed and a train with passengers plummeted 30 feet. I’ve put the link below where you can read the history of Bray as a resort and the extension of the railroad, if you’d like to see some illustrations.



On the right is a second tunnel that was abandoned after a bridge collapsed in 1867.

On the right is a second tunnel that was abandoned after a bridge collapsed in 1867.

Greystones is a colourful Victorian village with a strong harbour wall

The town of Greystones features briefly in my novel The Neglected Garden as it is where Gilly goes with her sister when the secrets at Glanesfort and its walled garden are threatening to envelop her. In 2010 it still had a Victorian village feel to it, teetering on the edge of modernisation, with old colourful houses facing a grey stony beach. A new harbour wall had recently been constructed, which people could walk along.

The DART electric train runs along the sea at the bottom of the cliffs.

The DART electric train runs along the sea at the bottom of the cliffs.

I noticed as we rounded the bend and Greystones came into view that the new development is now almost finished. Honey-hued houses with balconies face towards Dalkey Island and Howth Head and their view must be breathtaking. The old village is still there and hasn’t changed much although we had to walk right through the housing estate to get to it. The marina and slipway has also had a face lift since 2010.


An interesting array of cafés and restaurants in Greystones

Greystones has interesting cafés and restaurants. We finished our walk with a bright plate of salad and dahl in The Happy Pear and then took the train back to Dublin. The good news for less active types is that you don’t even have to force yourself to walk 5.5 kilometres: the DART train goes all the way. If you ever find yourself on the train out of Dublin to Greystones, keep an eye out for Killiney Bay. The view is wonderful, especially if the sun decides to shine.

More information ON BRAY, GREYSTONES AND WICKLOW

Unlocking the door of The Neglected Garden

I have a sneaking suspicion that authors get more excited about the arrival of a new book cover than readers. I’ve been waiting a little while for mine and I’m now convinced it’s been worth it. So… tah-dah, here it is! I am grateful to Stuart Bache of Books Covered for his wonderful design.


Welcome to an old walled garden

Let me tell you a little about the background. When garden designer Gilly Townsend first visits The Neglected Garden, she feels both nervous and excited. Paid projects have been scarce since the recession in Ireland in 2010 and her bank balance has reached depressing lows. When she’s shown into the overgrown mass of tangled briars and weeds at Glanesfort, she is overwhelmed by the walled garden’s potential.

The-Neglected-Garden-Suzanne-Winterly.jpg


Family Secret

But the garden is not the only thing that has been locked away. Its owner, Marc Fletcher, a property developer from London, has a family secret that has been hidden for over a decade and now an increasingly aggressive blackmailer is threatening to destroy both his future and that of his four-year-old son.

If Gilly hadn’t stepped through that door and if she hadn’t found herself falling for Marc, her own future might have been very different.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but the story moves between County Kildare in Ireland and Marc’s property business in London, featuring eccentric characters, a ghostly woman from the old house and a sprinkling of humour.

Valentine’s Day, 2019 is the day The Neglected Garden will be unlocked - the day the action in the novel begins - so if you’d like to find out what happens, please come back.

Wishing you and your families a very happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Suzanne


See the full book description here:

Summer drought brought ghostly reminders of the past

One of the most interesting things that happened during this summer's unusual and prolonged heatwave in Britain and Ireland was the mysterious reappearance of historic gardens and buildings. Outlines of old houses and villages that had been lost and forgotten for centuries emerged and brought the past vividly to life, if only for a short few weeks. Why does this happen?

Apparently it's caused by the depth of soil, or lack of it. Parched grass in extreme temperatures dies off when there is less soil under it. A hard area, such as a wall or pathway, will show up as a brown scorch mark.

The lawn at Chatsworth in Derbyshire displays scorch marks of a 17th century parterre - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

The lawn at Chatsworth in Derbyshire displays scorch marks of a 17th century parterre - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

What was once a 17th century parterre, or formal garden, at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire reappeared and was photographed from above. In this first photo, the hard landscaped areas of Chatsworth's parterre are clearly visible in the modern lawn.

A 1699 illustration of the parterre garden at Chatsworth - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

A 1699 illustration of the parterre garden at Chatsworth - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

In the second photo, we can see the illustration of the formal design dated 1699 and it's obvious where the original paths belonging to this are still lying beneath the lawn today. The 1699 design was covered over when Lancelot 'Capability' Brown created his more natural landscape. I'm grateful to Chatsworth for allowing me to use their photos. They weren't certain whether scorch marks of this historic parterre had ever appeared before. 

 

The lost village of Edensor

What was also fascinating at Chatsworth was the reappearance of parts of the lost village of Edensor, which has only been seen a few times in the last two hundred years. The last time was an extremely dry summer in the 1940's. When a drone camera took photographs from the air during this summer's heat wave, outlines of the high street, a school and other buildings that had been demolished to make way for Capability Brown's new natural landscape in the 18th century were clearly visible. The new village of Edensor was completed in 1842. 

 

 

Prehistoric site discovered near Newgrange in Co. Meath, Ireland

Closer to home in Ireland, a 'giant henge' structure appeared on a tillage farm near historic Newgrange in Co. Meath. Drones photographed the outline of a prehistoric archaeological site approximately 200 metres in diameter. It's thought that this might have been built 500 years after Newgrange, which dates from 3,000 BC. The summer drought provided archaeologists a once in a life-time chance to discover outlines of important sites that we didn't even realise existed. 

 

 

More reading:

An abandoned demesne with walled garden

Abandoned demesne, walled garden, Ireland, Victorian kitchen garden

I’m fascinated by walled kitchen gardens and there are many in Ireland. Some have been restored and some aren’t so lucky: their history of people and plants either celebrated or else fading into oblivion.

Two interconnecting sections in a walled kitchen garden

Two interconnecting sections in a walled kitchen garden

Back entrance leading to an abandoned yard

Back entrance leading to an abandoned yard

I stumbled across this property last week. It looks like the original mansion from the 17th century was demolished and replaced with a smaller house, now also a ruin. It must have been a fine home centuries ago as there are two entrances. 

The walled garden is made up of two interconnecting sections and vegetables and fruit for the big house would have been grown here. It now appears to be used by a farmer for grazing livestock as the grass is short.

It obviously takes money and time to restore and maintain an old walled garden and some owners can't afford this. Some owners don't need to. An enclosed space is useful for farmers for keeping animals that are adept at escaping from more normally fenced fields, such as sheep, calves and small ponies. The high walls provide shelter from cold, winter winds. 

At least the red brick walls still stand and the property gives us, with its noble gateways, a shadowy glimpse of the lives once lived here.

 

Ivy and brambles scramble up the walls but they remain solid

Ivy and brambles scramble up the walls but they remain solid

The red brick arched entrance leads to a yard and another archway

The red brick arched entrance leads to a yard and another archway

Dramatic setting for two walled gardens at Duckett's Grove

Ducketts Grove ruin.jpg

Duckett's Grove. A ruin of an Irish Victorian Gothic mansion, abandoned and mysteriously set on fire. Home now only to the birds that swoop amongst its turrets (and several ghosts, according to locals).

I love walled gardens and their history. I was fascinated to find Duckett's Grove last week in County Carlow, with its two interconnecting walled gardens built of red brick with curved corners. The first garden has large lawns and long borders with a mix of shrubs and herbaceous planting. The second garden is smaller than the first and includes a row of fruit trees. 

Walled Gardens - Ducketts Grove ruin from garden.jpg

The property oozes romance and mystery. Ghost hunters flock to it and it has also been used as a film set. The dramatic Gothic features were added to a Georgian mansion in the nineteenth century. The Duckett family left it in the early 1900s and, three decades later, the house went on fire one night. Locals managed to put out the blaze but another fire the following week destroyed the property. No one knows who or what started it.

The gardens are being restored and maintained by Carlow County Council. It's an interesting place to visit for a walk and a cup of tea. But perhaps not after dark.

I look forward to further developments there. 

More info here... http://carlowtourism.com/ducketts-grove-walled-gardens-and…/

Old roses and romantic suspense

Old deep pink rose the neglected garden novel Suzanne Winterly

As the sun continues to beam down on Ireland, I'm working hard to finish another draft of THE NEGLECTED GARDEN in time to send it to the copy-editor. A cloudless blue sky and a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade are both difficult to resist when I'm used to summers that usually last about three days, so I'm allowing myself a few breaks with a mug of tea and a stroll around the garden.

The book description has arrived and, if you'd like to see it, click the link at the bottom. If you enjoy reading romantic suspense, why not sign up for the occasional update by email and I can let you know when the novel is published. There'll be an opportunity to buy it at a reduced price. 

 

Our roses are loving the sun

Our roses at home haven't been holding us in suspense. They've been loving the sun. We've certainly had seasons of extremes in Ireland this year. When I was writing my March blog with deep snow outside, I never could have imagined we'd get weeks of endless sunshine with up to 29 degrees. 

Our own well is holding up so far but families on mains water supply have a legally enforced hosepipe ban until the end of July. The drought is tough on local farmers who are struggling to feed their livestock. Irish grass is usually green and lush but this year it has turned brown and dry. Not even our lawns are growing.

Many of the old rose varieties in our garden originated in France so it's no wonder they're flowering with enthusiasm. Here are three of the best:

This is a rambler rose called Paul's Himalayan Musk and it's six or seven metres high. It needs a tree or a hedge to scramble up. I just leave it alone and off it goes. No need to prune if you have the space.

This is a rambler rose called Paul's Himalayan Musk and it's six or seven metres high. It needs a tree or a hedge to scramble up. I just leave it alone and off it goes. No need to prune if you have the space.

Great Maiden's Blush has never been as happy as in this summer's sun. It hates the rain and protests by turning brown but is magnificent this year. A beautiful, old-fashioned shrub rose.

Great Maiden's Blush has never been as happy as in this summer's sun. It hates the rain and protests by turning brown but is magnificent this year. A beautiful, old-fashioned shrub rose.

Madame Isaac Pereire is a Bourbon rose and was named after a French banker's wife in the late 19th century. I keep this one in a large container by a garden bench where I can sit and appreciate its huge, deep pink blooms and divine scent.

Madame Isaac Pereire is a Bourbon rose and was named after a French banker's wife in the late 19th century. I keep this one in a large container by a garden bench where I can sit and appreciate its huge, deep pink blooms and divine scent.

If you'd like to share your own rose photos, please send them by email or upload them to my Facebook page.  And if you've got any tips for keeping garden plants happy in drought conditions, I'd love to hear them!

March roars like a lion

March has come in like a lion this year and, as I write, the wind is battering our house and hurtling rain at the windows. It's 10 degrees outside - an average temperature for this month in Ireland. 

 

Irish obsession with weather

Visitors often marvel at our Irish obsession with weather. I think it's the top national conversation because we get such variety and, if we had several weeks of snow, we'd soon tire of talking about it. The same with sunshine. A hot summer day is exciting in Ireland, usually ephemeral and always to be celebrated because there might not be another one for a week or a month. We just don't have the experience to handle days of endless snow or sunshine. No point in our local councils buying snow ploughs to use once every ten years and very few commercial horticultural growers or cereal farmers need to install field irrigation.

 

Personification of storms

Since the naming of storms became the norm (we share our storms with the UK), extreme weather events have been elevated to drama. Storm Brian sounded more engaging than a gale force wind. Ex-hurricane Ophelia became a viscous personality who prompted a Red Alert national emergency. She lashed our country last October, knocked trees and power lines, and ripped off roof slates. Storm Emma, a colleague of The Beast from the East, disabled our infrastructure when her winds blew snow into deep drifts that brought the country to a standstill.

Our dog sitting in a track left by a tractor wheel

Our dog sitting in a track left by a tractor wheel

Camaraderie and care

The Beast from the East stole in silently overnight and was at first beautiful, entertaining and fun. Children who hadn't seen snow since 2010, or who had never seen snow, were given a holiday from school and enjoyed snowball fights, built snow people and igloos. Our dogs loved it. We got a break from being busy and concentrated on caring for others, checked on older neighbours, helped to dig each other out and shared stories and cups of tea. Fortunately The Beast took no human lives. Our Met office and Government issued a curfew type warning for everyone to stay indoors during the worst Red Alert hours and it worked.

 

No unnecessary sandwiches

One thing we hadn't bargained for was a shortage of bread. Our local supermarket bread shelves were bare 24 hours before the first snowflake fell and buttermilk sold out (used in traditional homemade brown bread). One #snowjoke meme doing the rounds depicted a well known TV reporter warning us "not to make any unnecessary sandwiches."

Empty bread shelves before snow arrived

Empty bread shelves before snow arrived

Birds were victims of the Beast

The Beast from the East made life tough for our birds. Snow is easier on the little ones that can flock to garden feeders but thrushes and blackbirds had a hard time. Their less frequently seen cousins, the Fieldfares and Redwings, came closer to houses searching for food. 

I tried to revive this Redwing

I tried to revive this Redwing

I found this Redwing flopping about under a hedge and brought it into our house in an attempt to revive it. A friend who knows about rescuing birds advised me to put it in a cardboard box with air holes in a warm, dark place as this apparently helps it relax. Sadly, exposure to cold and lack of food proved fatal. I also came across a dead thrush on my dog walk later.

 

Snow drama on the front page

Everyone old enough to remember talked about 1987. Our neighbours remembered skating on frozen flooded land while I have vivid memories of 2010 when we actually had snow on Christmas Day and frozen water pipes in the stable yard for several weeks. We're so used to mild, wet Irish winters, it's no wonder serious snow made a front page story.

 

Hornbeam walk to stable yard

Hornbeam walk to stable yard