Lough Boora…again

My mum and her dear little dog, Alfie, came over from the UK to stay with us for two weeks at the end of May/beginning of June, and they brought some fabulous weather with them (and then my business got a bit mad busy for a while, hence why it has been a little quiet on here for a while) .

She’d brought her walking boots with her, and was keen to join me on some walks.

It was an impromptu decision.  The sun was out.  The husband had come home at coffee break and decided to take the rest of the day off work.  So we threw together a light picnic, and all piled into the camper van.  We tossed a coin for ‘flat’ or ‘hills’…and then set off for Lough Boora (‘flat’ won!).  Mum had seen my pics of the Sculpture Park etc on Facebook from our previous visit, and had expressed a wish to visit there during her stay.

I decided I wanted to do the longer walk, the Mesolithic Loop, if everyone was happy to do so, but we would have to modify the route a little to avoid the grey partridge research areas which were strictly ‘No Dogs’ zones.  However, that was easy as I planned to incorporate the Sculpture Loop into the route, and then follow the cycle route until it met up with the original Mesolithic loop.  If that doesn’t show that I’m getting fitter and feeling better, then I don’t know what does.  When we came here back in April I would not have even considered doing a 9km loop walk!  I might as well have pledged to walked a marathon back then as to even consider doing 9km!  And here I was, chomping at the bit to get going.

Of course it was a ridiculously hot day, so we needed to bring along plenty of water, not only for ourselves, but also for our two canine companions, Dolly and Mum’s dog Alfie.  I was also going to try my new boots for the first time, outside of the house, so the husband had the very sensible suggestion of bringing my walking shoes and a second pair of socks, just incase I was developing blisters or the boots were becoming intolerably uncomfortable.  Being very confident of my abilities, I offered to play pack pony and carry the rucksack.  Hip belts are marvellous things, and whilst the rucksack felt very heavy lifting it up, with all that water etc, once it was on and all straps secured I could barely feel it there.

The Sculpture Loop did not disappoint.  The few installations that we missed the first time around, and a new perspective on things given by the different seasons, meant that the husband and I were certainly not bored, going around the same sculptures again.

The bog cotton was at its height, and I offer this photo, in a nod to a recent blog post on the brilliant Two Blondes Walking blog…where they came across this curious little plant for the first time recently, and had almost the identical conversation that the husband and I had when we first saw it, shortly after moving over here.

14 - Bog cotton

I know I’m repeating myself, but it was hot.  Really hot.  And I had said that we would stop and water the dogs as soon as we got into the forestry sections.  There seemed little point in stopping to water and rest the dogs in the full glare of the sun.  But we walked and walked, and when I thought the path should turn towards the trees it defied me and took us away from them.  So imagine my delight when we came upon this giant “bog oak” wigwam, and even better we could get inside it.  There were boulders to sit on, a cool stone floor, and a lovely breeze.  If shady dog watering stops on really hot days were designed by a well-known beer company, they’d probably look a little like this!

We continued along the cycle route, and kept spying smashed snail remnants on every bit of flat stone we walked past.  I’m guessing there were some very fat thrushes in the locality, judging by the complete snail-mageddon we saw!  Do other bird varieties smash snails on rocks?

Much relieved to meet up with the main Mesolithic Loop trail at the point where I hoped we would meet it.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and renewed my faith in my sense of direction, which I confess had been starting to falter over the last half an hour or so!  The Mesolithic site itself was chosen for the picnic lunch spot.  There were some shady bushes to ‘park’ the dogs near, and a picnic bench to park ourselves on.  Obviously, despite the fact we had found a lovely shady spot for both dogs, they wanted to lay out under the sun and pant…so I shortened their tethers, knowing it would be all too easy for them to overheat, and I didn’t want to be dealing with canine heatstroke this far from the car park.

Collections of mini stone circles and cairns were evident along the side of trail for the next while.  And at one place it looked like someone had made an attempt to build an Inukshuk…of course, my phone camera let me down on this one, but I will look out for the little fella next time we’re passing!
After the stone circles we found stone direction arrows.  The trail was really obvious to us, but I wonder if at some point during some past trail maintenance (or perhaps at different times of the year?), these were needed to keep folks going in the right direction, and were an interesting variation on the traditional finger-post?

A loooooong, straight section of trail took us along the side of the Grey Partridge Reserve area, and with a beautiful section of wetlands on our left, we had plenty to look at along the way.  I took a photo of a couple of hares, and also of some nesting swans…but once again, my phone just delivered distant blurred blobs of white and brown!

We took a wrong turn at the car park & entrance to the research area.  There was a ‘lost’ bobble hat hiding the direction arrow on the finger-post, and we took what looked like the obvious trail without a second thought.  I even commented on the hat sitting on top of the post, hoping its owner would find it, without it occurring to me that it was sitting on a trail marker post.  However it didn’t matter a jot, as both paths went to the same place, but I’ll remember that for next time.

A quick diversion to the ‘sky train’ sculpture, that we’d missed earlier because mum wanted to go and investigate, and then the final small section of trail bringing us back to the camper van and a well-earned cup of tea (or bowl of cool water, if that’s your preference!)

My Etrex tracker and my Runkeeper app both concurred that we had done 5.96 miles (9.6 km).  Most encouraging of all was that I didn’t feel in the slightest bit jaded, and had even said out loud on the way back to the car park that I felt like I could keep walking all day, and in a way I was sad that we had finished the loop.  I would have been on my knees after doing that distance a couple of months ago, even on the flat…or closer to the truth, I just wouldn’t have done it at all  So I was really encouraged that I felt so good after finishing.

Not only that, but my feet felt great too and my boots had been comfortable the entire way!  I’d just done almost 6 miles, on a hot day, in a brand new pair of boots, that I’d never previously walked in, other than up and down the shop floor/inside the house a couple of times, and there was not even a hint of a hot spot anywhere on my feet or ankles.  So, credit where credit is due, the guys at Tog24 in Kildare Village had done a fantastic job at finding me the most suitable and best fitting pair of boots that I have owned in a long time, thank you!
I had gone in and picked out all the ‘pretty’ boots that I wanted to try on.  The sales assistant promptly told me to put them all back on the shelf and he picked up different boots for me to try instead.  He spent a long time putting boots on and off my feet, and telling me what boots I could and couldn’t try on.  No, I’m being more than a little unfair! He wasn’t nearly as belligerent as I’m making him out, but the moral of my story is, trust the staff and trust their experience and training.  Tell them exactly what you want to do, what you need from a boot, and then let them choose the boots you need to try/buy!  I have never previously had a pair of walking boots that I didn’t have to ‘break in’ and keep blister plasters handy for months on end.  These boots are a revelation and a total delight to wear!

Lough Boora – 30th May 2013

With regards to the Gathering of Stones post linked above…we had spotted a large, but empty,  gravelled area on our way back to the Visitors Centre, and wondered what was going to go in there…well, now we know!  What a fabulous project, and yet another reason for a return visit (as if I needed a reason!)

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