The view from halfway though a camera doesn’t do it anything like justice.
‘Shure, the older he got, the dafter he became.’ That was the rather contemptuous epitaph given to a man from the village years ago when he offended the sensibilities of the community by doing things like going to the local dances and taking rides on the swinging boats at the carnival when it would have been, according to the locals, ‘more in his line to be saying his prayers ‘ than taking up cracked pursuits far more fitting to the young people of the parish.
I remembered their words the other day when I was suspended between the top bar of a four bar gate looking down on the narrow muddy path below, a path which climbed steeply up to my destination, which was the top of the hill 600 feet above me. Behind me I could hear heavy breathing so I took a deep breath, swung over the bar and landed safely on the soft earth of the pathway on the other side of the gate.
What? Was I being pursued by an axe murderer? Ah Jesus, would you get a hold of yourself? How many axe murderers are so obsessed with their physical fitness that they climb the steepest hills to locate their prey- all for the thrill of the chase, like?
No, the gasping belonged to my fellow climber who was making hard work transferring from the top of the gate to the ground below. Her biggest problem I surmised from my vantage point on the ground was her height. From where I stood, the woman seemed to have three legs and she seemed to be at a complete loss as to what to do with the third one. I closed my eyes while she figured it all out and thanked God that there was no one around to witness our gynmastics except the silent Jersey cow and her calf in the field at the other side of the wire bordering the path.
Dreamy trails and empty fields, well, apart from us!
I’d better start at the beginning, I suppose. It all began when Nora told me that she was climbing Mount Brandon. ‘There is nothing,’ says she, waving her arms about dangerously, ‘to beat the buzz one gets when reaching the top of a mountain with the panorama of spectacular views spread out below.’ I was speechless with admiration. Nora actually sounded lyrical. So rashly there and then, I said I’d be up for the climb (I was always very competitive and getting older hasnt changed that particular trait)
After looking at me dubiously for a moment, Nora suggested that it would be wiser to get a couple of hill walks under our belt before I took on the challenge of Brandon. So that’s why we are here, half way up the Red Trail on the Broadford-Ashford series of walks.
And in spite of the panting and the gasping, it is a beautiful trail, here winding narrow pathways, there wide open splaces, clambering over old fashioned stiles to give one that marvellous feel of adventure, huge old trees swaying in the light wind, leaves fluttering on the branches like the light fingers of a pianist, sounding like the trickling water of a stream. Along the way, we passed long abandoned houses, so very poignant. And way below us, the majestic Gleann na gCapall, the green fields, the cattle tiny as beetles and the view stretching away into infinity across County Limerick and Cork as we climbed higher and higher towards the top.
Mysterious and forgotten houses. What stories they could tell!
For me, it was a spiritual experience and I felt I was blessed that we were lucky enough to witness such beauty and to physically be capable of undertaking the trail. It’s hard to describe the feeling as I looked downwards from the top or as we sat in silence on a bench sharing a snack and imbibing the peace. Way down below, we saw passing cars like coloured, moving dots but up here, absolute stillness except for the delightfully relaxing sounds of nature enveloping us – whispering trees, birdsong, the light breeze caressing our faces.
We met only three people in the three hours or so we spent on the trail, a father and son and Séan Neenan from near the glen, a fountain of information on the area. The organisers of the trails must be congratulated on the huge amount of work put in so that people like Nora and myself can avail of the beauty and stillness of the natural area all round us. I would highly recommend the walks. So enamoured with the trail were we that we and another friend are off again tomorrow, weather permitting, stepping out of present time to lose ourselves for a few hours in the tranquillity and beauty of one of the trails high in the hills above Broadford.
We started from Broadford village, from the car park opposite the church, although tomorrow we intend parking in Killagholehane and setting off from the picturesque back avenue in Curramore.