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Life

Take on Nature: Don't need a weatherman

Raging waves swamp people walking the promenade area in Portrush Co Antrim on Saturday last week as Storm Dylan roared across Ireland

WHOEVER came up with the name for the final storm to hit Ireland in 2017 must have been a journalist at some stage.

Calling it Dylan opened up a whole catalogue of weather-themed song titles that lent themselves to newspaper headlines – A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, Blowin' in the Wind, Rainy Day Women and Idiot Wind – although storm Dylan never got strong enough to become a Hurricane.

My all time favourite Bob Dylan song doesn't really lend itself to a weather-type pun, but hey, when you're on a roll.

So anyway, there I was on Saturday night keeping an eye on the old gnarled branch swinging wildly, close to the roof of my house in the high winds of Storm Dylan.

Oh no, I thought, it is… Going, Going Gone, as with a snap it cracked in two and crashed – thankfully away from the roof – onto the ground.

The next day, New Year's Eve, I was expecting wide scale damage as I set off on a long-planned walk through a forest in Co Cavan.

Dún na Rí, translates literally from Irish as Fort of the King has been Anglicised to give the nearby town its name, Kingscourt.

Set along the banks of the River Cabra it was formerly part of the Cabra Estate and is a mixed woodland of not-too-challenging walks, including accessible trails for wheelchair users.

Despite the high winds brought by storm Dylan there were only a few broken branches among the denuded oak and ash and still-green firs.

The river defines the landscape and gives it an other worldly setting, with tumbling waterfalls, swirling pools and and surging torrents. There are log benches along the trail where you can sit and watch the river flow.

According to legend Cuchulain spend a night here during his single-handed battle against the armies of Queen Mebh.

Four walks of varying lengths wend their way through Dún na Rí, criss-crossing one another, with lots of opportunities to throw convention to the wind and just give yourself up to a simple twist of fate and let trails take you where they will.

Dozens of bridges, some hundreds of years old, span the river, stone humped arches, and the remains of an icehouse and a holy well peak through the shrubbery.

Given the time of year, there wasn't that much wildlife on display apart from crawing crows, flitting blackbirds and curious robins.

At one of the highest parts of the forest park is an open grassy glen with a lake at its centre, with ducks and, not seen by me unfortunately, moorhens.

During the warmer weather the forest floor and open areas are carpeted with wildflowers – snowdrops, bluebells, wood anemone, woodrush, foxgloves, wood sorrel and ferns.

According to a display board in the park there are otters in the river and the forest is home to our native red squirrel, and the invader grey, stoats, foxes, badgers, hedgehog, hares and pygmy shrews.

Dún na Rí, is run by the Republic's forestry service Coillte and if you are arriving by car there is a barrier at the entrance: you will need €5 – in coins – to open it.

It used to be free, but the times they are a changin'.

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