I was once told (in a semi naked state in the steam room in Splashworld) that unless your family had been around for at least 400 years you couldn’t possible be called a Waterfordian. After 30 years I am still here and probably will be until I’m carried out in a box, (or in my case, in a mushroom suit, but that’s a story for another day!)
The first time I came to Waterford, we arrived by train into Plunkett Station and I was very taken by the gorse covered rocks and the charming old signal box. I’ve lost some of my romanticism about it since experiencing the regular routine of looking for a parking space there at 7 in morning, or taking the lurch of death onto the busy roundabout that evening.
We brought our bikes on the train that day and cycled out the straight road to Tramore. Himself did a survey of a site, while I sketched in the long grass which has since become Riverstown. Later, we took a meander out to Bonmahon, now the glorious Copper Coast. I will never forget the beauty of the cliffs, the sea pinks blooming on a the ditches, the blue skies. That day County Waterford became our dream escape.
When we finally moved here, I of course wanted to live close to nature, fulfilling a childhood fantasy. I grew up with the occasional pet dog but I can’t say I ever felt close to wild things. That first night in our new home, the silence was deafening and I found it hard to sleep. At about 5 o’clock in the morning I looked out the bedroom window and saw a hare and three leverets sitting below in the moonlight.
The Irish hare is a rare and beautiful creature and I had never seen one before except on the old threepenny piece. Legend has it that the hare is actually a goddess, with the powers to disguise herself in a hare’s body. Years later in Berlin one Easter, I found hares everywhere, a symbol of fertility, celebrated by the giving and receiving of eggs. The magical hare meditating in the morning air must have had the desired effect because soon we were settled into rural family life. I had also found, in nature, a new sense of belonging.
For a city kid, “the country” will always be a place of romance and mystery: the beauty and variety, the sweep of the landscape west towards the Comeragh Mountains, the wild swimming on any number of stunning beaches, the quiet lanes full of sweet honeysuckle. As my neighbour says “you wouldn’t get the likes of it in Killarney.” Sadly I have been here long enough to see the balance beginning to shift and at times I worry that my grandchildren will not get to experience the unspoiled beauty that my kids have grown up with.
Last weekend there was yet another forest fire on the hill behind the village. The firefighters who fought the blaze all through two nights and two days were exhausted and frustrated. It’s heartbreaking to watch trees turn to ash in a place where so many people love to walk, swim, kayak and picnic. Campers, drivers, smokers, who knows how these fires start? I like to hope that they are the result of unfortunate errors….those who know better say it’s not always so.
Walking through the forest later there were the remains of beer parties and the usual dumping of DIY debris and worst of all broken glass on the little beach. It’s hard to know where to start. Himself has the habit of picking up litter wherever we go. I get annoyed about it, but like lots of others, he just gets to work. Our services are totally inadequate and underfunded and you could be waiting forever until “they” fix things. At this stage all that’s left is that each of us starts to take on more responsibility to fix things ourselves.
Today, on a dangerous bend, I see someone has cut back the ditch (only allowed for health and safety and not to be done until the end of August by law!) Whoever it was, managed to manoeuvre around the flowering foxgloves leaving them to bloom and lift our spirits!! Whoever you are….thank you; for nurturing those flowers, for doing that one small thing for nature.
And although I could shout this from the very top of Coumshingaun, I will instead try whispering softly in your ear, is there one small thing you could do for nature? This beautiful, clean and perfect rural County of Waterford that we call home, is precious and deserves our protection. It has to start with each of us renewing our connection with nature and caring enough to do one small thing to make a difference.