The Stoney Man – Ridge of Capard

Last Sunday was a simply beautiful day, and whilst driving back down the M7 from Kildare the day before the Slieve Blooms had been calling my name.  The Ridge of Capard looked glorious under the sun on that bright Saturday afternoon, and I knew that I’d much rather be up there, than down here, driving on the motorway.  Plans were then made, that if Sunday morning was even half as sunny as Saturday had been, we would head up to the Ridge of Capard, and pay a visit to The Stoney Man.

Situated just below the summit of Clarnahinch Mountain, some claim that The Stoney Man is the finest viewing point in the centre of Ireland, and it is often asserted that on a clear day you can see at least six counties from there.  My mother and I had made a half-hearted attempt to visit the Stoney Man previously, but time constraints on that occasion meant we had to turn back and head home that time, without reaching our goal.

As you might expect on such a sunny day, the car park was almost full when we arrived, and the steps up to the nearby viewing platform were full of families, making the most of the beautiful day to visit this popular local beauty spot.  Having been up to the viewing platform a few times, we instead took the boardwalk path off to right, out of the car park, and soon spotted our desired destination for today’s walk, The Stoney Man, way off in the distance.  Dolly had a ball leaping on and off the boardwalk, to investigate the heather and bog holes.  She miss-judged one of the bog holes at one point and, to her surprise, got much more soggy than she expected.

Dolly on boardwalkWe followed the boardwalk until it met up with the Slieve Bloom Way, where we then left the looped trails and joined Slieve Bloom Way to begin picking our way through the firmer sections of heather and bog, from marker post to marker post.  On reaching the spot where my mother and I had  been compelled to turn around on an earlier visit I was relieved to see that some bog bridges had been installed across some of the wetter, deeper sections of bog.  Given the recent dry weather and low rainfall I was surprised at how wet the ground was up there.

At a couple of different points we spotted stone piles off to our left.  I’ve come across smaller ones in various places where we’ve walked, and they always remind me of Inukshuks.  We made a small divert to visit one of them, we nicknamed this one “The Stoney Boy”.  Having seen, from a distance, another walker take a stone from the pile, presumably as a souvenir, we looked for a suitable stone to add to it instead.  The walker had walked past us, on his way back to the car park. with his rock in hand, and I’m never sure whether to say anything in these situations?

Whilst researching for info on The Stoney Man I came across this: [link to original article]

As a one-time resident of the Slieve Bloom Mountains I was always intrigued by the presence of quasi-orderly heaps of stones at various points on the mountains, the most prominent being ‘The Stoney Man’ near Capard.
Carter explains that it was customary for travellers in the area to leave a stone, the symbol of self, as one passed certain points and he references an ancient Irish tradition which tells us that five stones constitute a cairn since they represent the five old kingdoms of Ireland.

It seems that travellers in this area have been doing this for generations, and we unwittingly continued the custom by add our own ‘Symbol of Self’.  That makes me smile.

The boggy ground briefly gave way to these curious rippled rocks, and we spent a while pondering on how they might have been formed.  The Slieve Bloom mountains are claimed to be the oldest mountains in Europe, and it is understood that their height has been substantially reduced over time, by weathering, from 3,700m to 527m.  We came up with several crazy theories on these ripples, which could be totally wrong (most likely), or miraculously correct (unlikely), but neither of us are geologists, so I think there’s little point in sharing our ideas.

Rippled Rocks

Rippled Rocks

Soon enough we were back on boggy ground, but the Slieve Bloom Way trail developers had thoughtfully installed a narrow section boardwalk to take us over the worst of it, and to bring us almost all of the way up to The Stoney Man.

Nearly there...

Nearly there…

Oh boy, what a spot, what a view!  Even on a hazy day, you felt you could see the whole of Ireland, let alone the alleged six counties. Whilst snacking on our snacks and supping on our tea, we sat there…soaking up the sun and soaking up the views.  I had wanted to visit the Stoney Man for a long time, and he hadn’t let me down with his promises.  It had taken us just under an hour to get here, but we had done our fair share of dawdling and diverting to look at interesting ‘stuff’ so I’m sure it won’t take that long, next time!  It was a relatively easy hike to a spot that delivered breathtaking views, and I can see us visiting this place often in the future.

Adjacent to The Stoney Man is this deep hollow area, which previous visitors have sadly used as a rubbish bin for their fruit peel, tea bags and treat wrappers, so before we left this beautiful spot we picked up as much as we could find to bring back with us.  Leaving litter like this really does spoil the area for others, and it is potentially dangerous for wildlife. To paraphrase Leave No Trace – Ireland; if you brought it out with you, take it back with you, please!

Stoney HollowOne of the things that caused much of our dawdling on the way up was my delight at finding so much frogspawn.  It was almost literally everywhere!  If anyone is planning on dong this section of the Slieve Bloom Way in the near future, please do watch where you step, because several lady frogs have got a little confused and deposited their spawn in the middle of the path.  It may have looked like the perfect tadpole nursery when they laid them, but the tadpoles might disagree when they hatch out!

I think the last time we got out for a decent walk was in January, with crappy weather and my annoying bad hip interfering with our free time in the interim period.  So it felt mighty good to get back out on the Slieve Blooms again.  The weather was perfect, I felt good, my legs felt strong, and my hip remained pain-free. Long may it continue!

What about the middle bits?

I was absolutely delighted to get these three books as gifts last Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to exploring some new hiking and walking areas on this lovely island of Ireland.

Christmas BooksI’ve been wanting to get my sweaty paws on Kieron Gribbon’s book, “Ireland’s County High Points: A Walking Guide” for ages, and now I have my very own copy.  I don’t think I’ll be setting any records with regards to how quickly I complete all of the CHPs, unless there are records being set for the slowest, but I’m really looking forward to doing some CHP bagging in due course.  Starting with the smaller ones…obviously!

The other two books are Helen Fairbairn’s Ireland’s “Best Walks: A Walking Guide” and Joss Lynam’s “Best Irish Walks“.  These two are so far well-thumbed, but we haven’t had the chance yet to try out any of the walks detailed within, apart from a couple of locations that we’ve skirted close to on our own previous walks.  Presently the road map is being studied, alongside the walking guide books, and I hope that weekends where we’re both free, and the weather isn’t inclement, the trusty VW campervan is going to be loaded up with hiking gear and we’ll hit the road.  Walking guide books are a great way to easily explore an area where the number of walk routes, summits, attractions etc could be overwhelming…so little time, so many options. but there are also a few gems in areas that I didn’t even consider for walking, and I will enjoy discovering those too.  However, another reason I’m looking forward to going on some of the featured ‘best’ walks is to try to determine the criteria used to decide whether a walking route qualifies as a ‘best’ walk.  I say this because I was a little dismayed to find the map page in both books clearly showed a distinct lack of ‘best’ walks in any of the central areas if Ireland?  (The pattern of walking locations does also look suspiciously alike, but I won’t go into that!)

Ireland's best walks: a walking guide Helen Fairbairn - Collins - 2014 http://amzn.to/1B0coiA

Ireland’s best walks: a walking guide
Helen Fairbairn – Collins – 2014

Best Irish walks Joss Lynam - Gill & Macmillan - 2001

Best Irish walks
Joss Lynam – Gill & Macmillan – 2001

What? Nothing in the Slieve Blooms, Ireland’s oldest mountain range; nothing in the Ballyhouras, Silvermines, Slieve Aughty ranges?   No featured routes along the many miles of canals, rivers and lough systems, abundant in the Midlands and Central Plains areas?   There are, in my opinion, whole swathes of central Ireland, that may not have dramatic high summits, or wild coastal areas, but still have a breathtaking beauty in their own right, and plenty to offer anyone looking for a good walk.

Perhaps I should write my own walking guide book, with the emphasis on Ireland’s Middle Bits!  Then again, maybe I won’t…I quite like the fact that many of the places where we walk are quiet and relatively undiscovered, and maybe these treasures of the ‘middle bits’ are more enjoyable because of that fact.

550 miles in 2015 – February update

February wasn’t a great month of walking for me.  Niggling hip pain and atrocious weather slowed me down considerably.  Torn between walking on the sore hip, or resting it, and not really knowing what to do for the best, I walked some days, and rested on others.
Some days I found that walking on it seemed to ease it.  After 5 minutes or so, it would be warmed up, I’d feel a lot more supple, and the rest of the day would be relatively pain-free.  Other days, walking appeared to ease the pain at the time, but I’d be completely hobbling by the evening and sleepless with pain through the night. On mornings where I woke up with a sore hip, and seeing storm conditions outside, the decision to stay indoors with painkillers and a hot water bottle instead was made much easier!

As a result, I only managed to get 38.9 miles under my belt during February, when I was aiming for 46+ miles.  I’m frustrated, but being within touching distance of 39 miles is still a good chunk of mileage towards my end of year goal.  Added to January’s sub-target total of 41.6 miles, I now need a total of 469.5 miles to reach my target for 2015.  In the following 10 months of 2015 I need to average 47 miles/month to reach it.  Roll on spring, and some more settled weather!

I was always of the conviction that my hip pain was a muscle/soft tissue issue, and not a hip-joint issue.  I cannot describe how I came to this conclusion, it just didn’t ‘feel’ like a joint issue.  I know I probably should have gone to my GP, and I would be the first to suggest this to a friend complaining of the same, but I think that my ‘take each day as I find it’ attitude with this hip has worked somewhat.  I know I can barely feel a twinge now.  I can walk a few miles, and not feel increased pain in the evening, and I think it’s finally sorting itself out.  I dare say my GP may perhaps have been able to fix it more quickly, but perhaps she might also have simply said rest it and take painkillers.  The last few days have been mostly pain-free, for the first time in over 6 weeks!  Hopefully I can get back on track and hit my monthly targets now 🙂

 Woodland path

Better late than never I hope!

Now that I have (mostly) sorted out my layout/theme woes, and can finally compose new blogs posts with half an idea that they will actually post properly, and my layout won’t go mad on me, I feel I can at last review how 2014 went for me.

I set myself the challenge of walking 500 miles in 2014, and finally hit that number on the 17th November, more than a month ahead of the year-end date that I’d set for myself.  My final miles for the whole of 2014 finished up at 528.6 miles in total.  I’m not quite sure what happened in those final 6 weeks, as my daily miles diminished, with December giving my lowest monthly total of the whole year, at a measly 26.3 miles.  I dare say the Christmas festivities, travelling between Ireland and the UK, visiting with family etc., all played their part in reducing my mileage.  I also had a week on the sofa, after a minor hospital procedure during that time.  All that aside,  I can only hope that reaching my target distance the previous month didn’t result in me relaxing my walking schedule, albeit unconsciously!

Just for fun I stuck ‘526.8 miles’ into Google and have since learnt that just by walking a couple of miles a day, 5/6 days a week, I could walk from Coolangatta to Brisbane in a year.  Obviously it’s highly unlikely to be something I’ll ever do, but knowing that I could made me smile!

An unexpected bonus of all that walking was losing 46 lbs over the year, without really trying.  That has also made me smile, really smile! 🙂

For 2015 I have decided to up the mileage a little more, and have set my goal at 550 miles for the year…or roughly the driving distance between Le Havre and Biarritz if you prefer! 😛

In January I only managed 41.6 miles…not helped by slipping on some ice during a recent hike and twisting my hip.  I tried walking it off for a few days, which didn’t have the desired effect. I then resorted to making myself take a week off from all exercise to give it a chance to heal properly.  Frustrating from an exercise point of view, but I did get lots of knitting done for my craft stall! [How very rock’n’roll!] “Every cloud…” and all that.  My hip is now feeling 99% good but that enforced break now leaves me with 508.4 miles to cover in the remaining 11 months (an average of 46.2 miles/month).  Wish me luck!

To finish of ‘my’ review of how 2014 went for me, I’d like to share some of the fun/strange/bizarre search terms that brought people here…welcome all!  But if some of the following brought you here, then I’m not entirely sure this is where you were hoping to end up…

  • the fat hiker – close but no cigar!
  • curvy pics – those pics are that way ->
  • buy tadpoles in Tipperary – I don’t think that it’s possible to buy tadpoles anywhere, let alone in Tipp?  Happy to be corrected though!
  • curvy blonde life – curvy I may be, but blonde I’m not, sorry.
  • mature curvy fencing – I don’t know, I just don’t know?
  • naughty hiker wife – when she just won’t do as she told!  Bad wife!  Actually, maybe that IS me?
  • going mountaineering in campervan – unless it’s a VW Syncro or a Unimog, I don’t think it’ll get far up the mountain?
  • curvy boy – Alas the husband is a slim jim, so they weren’t looking for him!

The number of search terms finding this blog, looking for curvy / large / xxl / 4xl /  plus size hiking gear is a very sad lament to the fact that the majority of outdoor gear manufacturers have very little to offer us, but that is a whole ‘nother blog post! So I’ll leave you with my favourite search term of 2014:

  • can you drink savlon – I think I’ve mentioned this one before, but it *always* makes me laugh out loud! But, if you’re not sure and you’re here looking for the answer, then no, you can’t drink Savlon!  That’s not what it’s for.
Sugarloaf Hill - Knockmealdowns - Summer 2014

Sugarloaf Hill – Summer 2014 ©The Curvy Hiker