19.4.15

A black cat, another road trip and a resounding YES!





Farmyard black cat in the ditch is a sign of luck


Around here these border collies are all known as Shep

The Cat Shepherd's apprentice says hello


Time to fly away for the Chaffinch too


One of these days we will be leaving this sleepy patch for a bit of a road trip so I'm taking this black cat as a sign of good luck.....

Myself and himself will be heading for France with no agenda and only half an inkling of where we are going. We have always camped out since we hitch hiked from Dublin as far as Greece and Turkey. We pitched our tent on a Mediterranean beach, were fed by local people and didn't even have Google to warn us about scorpions......

We once drove a vintage VW around Germany and Scandinavia busking and creating street art along the way. Later we piled the three kids, a dog, a cat, a budgie and a box of gerbils into a Fiat Ducato and headed off around Ireland. After a few years wet Irish summers, we ended up returning year after year to Carnac in Brittany.  Last time we slept under the stars in a balmy St. Malo. We had intended to drive to the south but ended up spending 3 weeks in the same spot so beautiful was that town on the sea.

Leaving Ireland by ferry  you realise what a tiny island far off the edge of Europe we live on. This time we will be in another VW van taking the ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg and watching the South East corner of Ireland disappear over the horizon once more....

The resident artist who lives upstairs will feed the birds while we are gone. Until then we are both campaigning for a YES vote in the upcoming Marriage Equality ReferendumSeasoned campers, campaigners and now in our 40th year of it, at this stage we have fingers and toes crossed that we are going to hear a big resounding YES echoing across the Irish Sea in our wake........




PS I've just made my photography portfolio "mobile friendly" check out the Rural Life Gallery here should be easy peasy even on your phone! 




11.4.15

Just do it!







Imagine it's a beautiful spring day and you spot a fresh water pool glinting in the sunlight? Imagine wanting to dive right in and feel the water splashing around you, clearing your head and lightening the load? 

Then just do it!! 






6.4.15

Something precious to belong to; home.










Today it is the stillest, sunniest spring morning. 

To the east the hill of gorse is in full flower and the exotic aroma of sweet coconut brushes against my jacket. Birdsong fills the fields as nest making and nest guarding goes on. In the distant sky the Coastguard helicopter is rumbling it's way out over the Copper Coast. 

The golden light smothers everything in streams.  Later the wind will probably pick up from the southern Atlantic, a front might approach from the Comeragh Mountains to the west or from the plains to the north.

For now Waterford on a still spring day, in the golden light of this spring flowering, is something precious to belong to. 

And it's home.





Check out a new gallery called Up close in the Hedgrows here




4.4.15

Things that go bump in the night.


Lovely old window in the Farncroft Mill

The restoration of the mill wheel and the buildings took 10 years

In Memory Antiques in Birr

The 6 acre garden designed and built from a green field by Angela Jupe at Farncroft Mill 
Angela Jupe's design makes use of recycled doors and windows

The entrance gateway to Birr Castle

Leap Castle County Offaly 





In some parts of Ireland, you can still step back in history. From the small neat streets and village shops to the grand castles and gardens, this is exactly what happens in the midlands.

We are on the second leg of our blogger tour (sponsored by Mid Ireland Tourism) and it's dungeons and dragons all the way. In the most haunted of them all Leap Castle, the owner sits in on top of the fire casually recounting yarns about the spirits and beings which he says are living all around him. In the old Farncroft Mill,the water wheel eerily churns into action because of the enthusiasm of the two conservationists who restored it for ten years.

When I ask Irene Sweeney why herself and Marcus took on this project in their retirement, (when they could be putting their feet up) she says that as long as they are able to they will keep working on their passion. She continued that it's not a matter of IF but WHEN they will no longer be able to manage it "then we will stop." Passionate and pragmatic.

Birr Castle and Demesne has been an occupied Castle for hundreds of years. The Parsons family who live here share their home with the public. While we were lucky enough to get a guided tour of the house we couldn't take photos in there. Somehow this made the place feel very much like a family sanctuary. The peace of the library room lined with books including a set of Dervla Murphy's travel tales, the painting of Anne Boleyn a family ancestor in the drawing room, and an enormous dining room with a table set for dinner was understated and peaceful.

This Castle and Garden Trail through North Tipperary and Offaly provided no shortage of photography opportunities. At times I was so busy gazing, chatting or eating that I missed too many of them. 

I'm already planning to go back with himself in tow and take more time to get into the photographic zone.  Light is returning and it feels like it must be time to to hitch up the wagon and head out on the road again........






Thanks to everyone who made this Midland Blogger Tour so delightful! Special mention to Emmet HouseBirr Theatre and Arts CentreMemory AntiquesOldfarmSilver Line Shannon CruisesLough Boola Discovery ParkTownsend House Tapasand there were so many more.......

30.3.15

Angela Jupe



Angela Jupe's Georgian home Bellefield House

In March the garden is full of daffodils and hellebores.

Wild woodland planting around the house

The stable yard stone out buildings have been transformed into rental properties

Even the potting shed is beautiful!

The gardens have some strong architectural features built around reclaimed and salvaged materials

Blue anemones follow me around these days!

And we got a sneak peek through the back door and into Angela's home, Bellefield House



I'd say for sure there isn't a square inch of Angela Jupe's life that isn't some expression of her inner creative spark. While I could write about her amazing garden and Georgian home at Bellefield in County Offaly, it is the woman herself as an artist whose work I feel deserves the appreciation and recognition here.

Now retired, she has illustrated her philosophy through 8 transformative personal projects- and the many other houses and gardens she has renovated and re-designed over her life time. As a landscape designer and architect, she is that rare commodity a female visual artist of the outdoors in Ireland. 

I had stored up in my rusting memory an article about Angela describing how catmint is a great substitute for lavender in an Irish garden. That was probably 20 years ago, so it was wonderful to chat to her about design, collecting art you love and experiencing first hand one of her projects.

While travelling in the Midlands this week on an organised blogger tour I was struck many times by the passion of individuals creating beautiful worlds through collaborating with nature. From our blogger organiser Margaret from Oldfarm, passionate about food, the workers at the Birr Theatre lovers of the arts, to the restorers of Fancroft Mill lovers of engineering and history, pure inspiration.

The Middle of Ireland has a soft tranquility about it. Off the beaten track, there is space and time here. There are many kinds of travellers and tourists. I'm the kind who tries to avoid crowds, queues, fast food and bikini opportunities. I'm looking for meandering paths, gentle unspoiled landscapes and local specialities-with maybe some of that elusive fairy dust thrown in.... 


For me Angela Jupe's influence on the treasures of the #magicalmidlands is one of the best examples I know of going through life and adding a fair sprinkling of fairy dust to everything you touch along the way......






More posts on the Magical Midlands Blogger Tour next week. Also thanks to Mid Ireland Tourism for sponsoring the tour and inviting me to participate. 










26.3.15

Heavenly anenomes














Can I just go totally over the top here for 5 minutes? Can I share with you the exuberant joy of lying in these woodland anenomes at Zwartbles farm in Kilkenny on a spring afternoon in dappled shade? Can you soak up the colour and the light and the magic of it with me?

If contemplative photography is about anything it is getting close to the essence of the life force. One minute we are having a cup of tea and the next we are stretched over these tiny blooms of blue, opening and turning towards the sun on bed of green. Quivering petals expressing their full potential. Layers of light and shadow, turning to blurry colour through the photographic process. 

Just myself, Eadaoin and that dog with his nose in an earthy hole. 

Bliss all round!




For more spring colour check out the Purple Hyacinth Gallery here













22.3.15

Welcome little Zwartbles lamb!











We met on Twitter. Many people find it hard to understand how Twitter even functions, but in our beginning, a short few years ago, a small group of bloggers in Ireland discovered each other there. All with individual interests and reasons for blogging, eventually, here in the South East we bonded offline, over cups of coffee, camera phones and Wordpress v Blogger. 

Today myself, Eadaoin (City of Blackbirds) and Susan (Vibrant Ireland and Travel) are at Suzanna's farm in Kilkenny where she breeds Zwartbles sheep and makes dark chocolatey blankets from their wool. Four nerdyish females in the photography heaven of Irish Spring sunshine!

Could it get any better? Well it did.

Straight after lunch Suzanna led us into the orchard where there was a ewe in labour. Here we witnessed the birth of the last lamb of the season. It was the first time I had seen this up close, an everyday event full of wonder. In the shadowy light under the trees, with the rhythmic circling of the ewe, the wet lamb stands up in seconds having being licked and nudged by her mother. 

Later we brought some new babes for a walk through the daffodils planted by Suzanna's Grandfather, we lay in the wood anenomes to photograph the dying light and fed lambs from bottles in the farmhouse kitchen. 

I'm left with the warmest glow of gratitude. Passionate women, cuddly lambs and sunny daffodils, a perfect kind of day..........