Carrick Riverwalk

Published: Tuesday, 26 July 2022 Written by Mary McNelis

 

The Glen river rises in Lough na Lughramán located on the northern end of the Sliabh Liag peninsula, east of Granny Glen. It flows south through Stravally ( Srath an Bhealaigh), Largynasearagh (Leargain na Saorthe) Meenaneary, Straleel and through the village of Carrick into Teelin Bay estuary.

The River walk starts in Carrick beside the Day Care Centre and follows the river to the footbridge for a distance of about 1km.It is hoped that work on the reconstruction of the footbridge, which was destroyed by a flood during Storm Lorenzo in October 2019 will commence soon.

On the new Facebook page Mary McNelis will post photographs and information on the Flora and Fauna of the River Walk and we will update the website as well for those who do not use Facebook. It is a lovely amenity to have so close to our village and provides an oasis of peace and serenity.

We hope you will enjoy the posts and that they will enhance your appreciation of this special place.


 

The Glen river rises in Lough na Lughramán located on the northern end of the Sliabh Liag peninsula, east of Granny Glen. It flows south through Stravally ( Srath an Bhealaigh), Largynasearagh (Leargain na Saorthe) Meenaneary, Straleel and through the village of Carrick into Teelin Bay estuary.

The River walk starts in Carrick beside the Day Care Centre and follows the river to the footbridge for a distance of about 1km.It is hoped that work on the reconstruction of the footbridge, which was destroyed by a flood during Storm Lorenzo in October 2019 will commence soon.

On the new Facebook page Mary McNelis will post photographs and information on the Flora and Fauna of the River Walk and we will update the website as well for those who do not use Facebook. It is a lovely amenity to have so close to our village and provides an oasis of peace and serenity.

We hope you will enjoy the posts and that they will enhance your appreciation of this special place.


Hawthorn (Sceach Gheal)

The Hawthorn is in bloom at the moment. It is also known as Whitethorn or Maybush, and is a symbol of Maytime.

There is a lot of folklore associated with the Hawthorn, particularly the ‘lone bush’. They are often found growing in ringforts or ráths and their presence there and the folk beliefs about them have probably contributed to the continued survival of many of these monuments.

Hawthorn blossoms were also considered to be unlucky, with death resulting if brought into the house. I remember as a child bringing some into the house and my mother quickly chasing me out with them saying they’d bring bad luck to the house.

A recent study showed that a chemical found in the early stages of human tissue decay is also present in hawthorn blossoms. Their association with ‘the smell of death’ might be the basis for this old folk belief or piseóg!

There are other Maytime customs associated with the Hawthorn. One popular one which still survives in parts of the country to this day is the cutting of a Maybush and decorating it with flowers ribbons egg shells and bright scraps of material. The decorated Maybush was placed in front of the house and was believed to bring luck to the occupants. I have friends in Wexford who do this every Mayday.

The Whitethorns were also associated with holy wells. One such story refers to St Colmcille and Tober an Deilg (Well of the thorns). The story goes that the saint had a thorn in his foot which he washed in the well. The thorn came out and grew into a Hawthorn tree.

 

Bluebells and Pignuts

There is a lovely carpet of Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non scripta / Coinnle corra), along the River bank now, complimented by the delicate white flower of the Pignut Conopodium majus/ Cúlarán.

These native bluebells are closely related to the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides Hispanics), pictured below growing in a clump in a garden. This species hybridises (cross breeds) easily with the native variety and can be invasive.

The bluebell grows from a small white bulb which has a gummy sap. The sap was reputedly used long ago as glue in book binding and setting the tail feathers on arrows.

In Irish folklore it is seen as a symbol of beauty. In Classical myth it was linked to the hyacinth which was a flower of grief and mourning.

There is a story from Glenties Co Donegal which states that Gráinne made a concoction of Bluebells and Tormentil which put Fionn and his men asleep before she eloped with Diarmuid.

There is a street song ‘In and out through the dusty bluebells’ which I remember from my childhood.

Pignut (Conopodium majus / Cúlarán has tiny white flowers which occur in umbels (shaped like umbrellas). The roots are similar to tubers or corms and were dug up by pigs, hence its name. In Co Donegal they were known as Síogaí prátaí or Fairy potatoes, and were said to have been eaten by humans and fairies and to taste like chestnuts or hazelnuts!

The old rhyme ‘Here we go gathering nuts in May’ refers to the Pignut.

Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis)

Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) Biolar gréagáin, is also known as Lady’s Smock. It usually blooms around the same time the cuckoo is heard hence its name. It likes damp grassy places and can be found along the river walk now.
 
It is the food plant for the orange tipped butterfly. It lays orange eggs on the plant. Caterpillars emerge from the eggs (which they eat) and then they eat parts of the plant and other Orange tip caterpillars if present.
 

Buttercups (Ranunculus Acris) (Fearbán)

 
Buttercups ( Ranunculus Acris) (Fearbán) are abundant along the river walk now. In folklore Marsh Marigolds, Primroses and Buttercups were used to decorate homes and farm buildings and to bring good luck. The Buttercup was sometimes rubbed on cow’s udders on May Day to protect them. It was also commonly believed that if cattle ate buttercups it would give a golden colour to the milk and produce better butter. This has no basis in science and buttercups are generally avoided by cattle.
 
I’ve seen my grandsons play a children’s game which I remember from my childhood. They place a buttercup under the chin and if there is a yellow glow on the chin then you like butter! They both like butter! 

Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica) Lus an Ghiolla

 
Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica) Lus an Ghiolla. This little plant grows in acidic soils and grassy heathlands. It is flowering now along the river walk on the left near the foot bridge. It is semi parasitic and connects to roots of nearby plants and extracts water and nutrients for its own use. 
 
The Latin word ‘pedicularis’ means louse. It was thought that this plant gave lice to cattle hence its name. However it is more likely that the snails which live on it may be responsible for the introduction of liver fluke to stock. It is also known as Dwarf Red Nettle.

Foxglove, (Digitalis purpurea) Lus mór.

It has been suggested that the name Foxglove derives from Folks glove / gliew . The folk, referring to to little folk or fairies and “gliew” to an Anglo Saxon musical instrument with numerous bells.
 
The Latin means purple fingers. The Irish name Lus mór simply means Great herb. It is aka Méaracán na mBan Sí (Banshee thimbles), Méaracán an Diabháil (Devils thimbles). There is a lot of folklore associated with Foxgloves particularly in relation to breaking the fairy power over children (changelings) and adults.
In parts of Ireland it was believed that Foxglove would nod its flowers if a fairy was passing, as a mark of respect.
 
In Wales it was believed that fairies lived in Foxglove. In Scotland, Foxglove was one of the plants favored by witches along with hemlock and nightshade.
It is known in Ireland as a poisonous plant and is the source of the heart drug Digitalin.
 
 

Spotted Orchid ( Dactylorhiza maculata) Magairlín, Cailleach Bhréagach.

There are about 30 species of orchids in Ireland growing in a variety of habitats.
 
Orchid comes from the Greek word Orkhis which means testicle. The underground tubers of the orchid often occur in pairs and are said to resemble testicles in appearance.
The Irish name for Orchid, Magairlín, is the diminutive of testicle.
 
Not surprisingly folk medicine attributes aphrodisical properties to some species of orchid.
 
The Early Purple Orchid is mentioned in Brían Merriman’s poem The Midnight Court. It was one of the charms resorted to in desperation by the women of Ireland because of the lack of romance in Irish men. ( I’m not recommending it!).
 
The Spotted Orchid is growing in damp ground along the river walk near to the old foot bridge.
 
 

Herb Robert also known as Stinking Bob. (Geranium robertianum) Ruithéal rí

 
This plant is very common along the hedgerows and along the river walk. Robert may come from the Latin word ‘ ruber ‘, meaning red, referring to the colour of the leaves and stems. Another theory suggests that the plant was named after Robert, an early Duke of Normandy, who is associated with an early mediaeval treatise on the medicinal properties of plants.
 
It belongs to the genus Geranium, derived from the Greek ‘geranus’, which means crane as the plant seed pods are shaped like crane’s bills.
It’s foliage emits a strong odour hence its common name Stinking Bob. It is a valuable source of nectar for bees moths and hoverflies.
 
This lovely little blue flower has an unfortunate name ..Scabious, which comes from its usage in folk medicine as a treatment for scabies.
 
The flowers are rich in nectar and are attractive to many insects and butterflies including the six-spot Burnet moth.
 
It is also called Pincushion flower.

This little plant is very common in Ireland and can be found now along the river walk. Self-heal as its name would suggest, has long been regarded as having medicinal properties.
 
Culpeper (1616-1654) an English botanist, herbalist and a physician wrote of Self-heal as a wound herb... ‘whereby when you are hurt you may heal yourself’.
It was widely used in Ireland as a medicinal herb for a variety of purposes including, treatment for respiratory problems, heart complaints, to staunch bleeding, treatment of worms in children and piles.
 
It is now known to have anti-allergenic and anti- inflammatory properties.
 

Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmia flora) (Feileastran dearg)

The banks of the Glen river are now fringed with Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmia flora) (Feileastran dearg) and Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmara) ( Airgead luachra).
 
Though Montbretia is widely found in Ireland it is not native. It is a horticultural hybrid of two species of Crocosmia native to South Africa. Anyone who has planted it in their garden will know that it is highly invasive.
 
It can completely dominate the habitat where it grows sometimes excluding native plant species. I had a great clump of Montbretia growing along a wall around my house. Overnight it was ‘hoked’ up. I subsequently found out that badgers were the culprit.

Meadowsweet. (Filipendula ulmaria). (Airgead Luachra)

It seems there have been fairies visiting Carrick Riverwalk. I wonder were they picking Meadowsweet which along with Watermint and Vervain were considered to be one of the three most sacred herbs of the druids.
 
I had always thought that this plant’s name derived from its sweet smelling flowers. However it comes from the Anglo- Saxon word - Meade- swete which means mead sweetner. It’s sweet smelling flowers have been used to flavour mead, beer, wine and other drinks from early times.
 
Meadowsweet was also used in Ireland and Britain to cure fevers, colds, sore throats and other pains.
 
There is a medical basis to this as it contained salicylate which has an effect similar to aspirin.
 
You can now see the Rosebay Willowherb along the roadsides and the river banks. Its pink colour is now fading as it is going to seed. It’s Irish names Lus na Tine translates as Fireweed. This is the name by which the plant is known in many countries including America Australia and Great Britain.
 
It is one of the first plants to colonize ground after a fire. In the Fellowship of the Ring, JRR Tolkien lists Fireweed as one of the flowering plants returning to the site of a bonfire inside The Old Forest.
 
In the UK it was also known as Bombweed as a result of its rapid appearance on bombsites during the Blitz of World War 2.
 
Rosebay Willowherb is a late source of nectar for bees and other insects. It is a larval host plant of some moths and butterflies including the Elephant hawk moth.
With Montbretia I associate its appearance with the end of Summer.
 
This is another plant in the Willowherb family. It is a native plant and is common throughout Ireland in damp habitats.
 
It is now in flower along the riverbank.
 
 
Pineappleweed (Matricaria disoidea). Lus an hiothlann Redshank. (Persicaria maculosa). Glúineach dhearg
The larger colourful flowers tend to overshadow plants such as Pineappleweed and Redshank which are flowering now along Carrick Riverwalk.
 
Pineappleweed is not a native plant. It is reputed to come to Dublin around 1894 from North America as a seed contaminant in corn used as a poultry feed. The flowering heads, when crushed, smell like pineapples, hence its name.
 
Redshank is a native plant. It is also known as Lady’s thumb or Spotted Lady’s thumb. (Back spot on the leaf). It is invasive and is generally regarded as a weed. Like ‘beauty’, a weed is in the eye of the beholder.

Japanese Knotweed. (Fallopian japonica) Glúineach bhiorach

 
Japanese Knotweed. (Fallopian japonica) Glúineach bhiorach
This plant is often referred to locally as the Coffey plant.  It is native to East Asia, in Japan, Korea and China, Japanese knotweed is listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s most invasive species. It can crowd out any other herbaceous species. It’s success has been partially attributed to its tolerance of a wide range of soil types, ph, and salinity.
 
It’s rhizomes (root system) can survive temperatures of -35 degrees C and can extend 7 meters horizontally and 3 meters deep.
The invasive root system and strong growth can damage concrete foundations, buildings and roads. The County Councils efforts at eradicating it have been quite successful along the Teelin Rd. Let’s hope similar efforts will be made along the Riverwalk.
 
Holly trees (Ilex aquilfolium) Cuileann.
Did you know that scientists have discovered that holly leaves are more prickly lower down the tree where herbivores (eg, cattle and sheep) can reach, suggesting the spines have evolved to protect the species. An ancient tale, tells the story of Colmcille, when he came to what is now Glencolmcille.
 
The devil threw a holly spit at him. It killed his servant Cerc. Colmcille hurled the holly spit back at him. The fog which shrouded the valley lifted and the devil was cast out. The holly spit sprouted into a holly tree which reputedly survives to this day!!?

February Morning Walk

 
February 6 2022: I enjoyed a walk this morning, between the showers, along the Glen Riverwalk. I didn’t spy any Spring flowers but the yellow Gorse is flowering, resilient as ever. I noticed some lichens growing on the Hawthorn branches. Lichen or Crotal was widely used as a dye material in homespuns in the past. The presence or absence of lichens is an indicator of atmospheric pollution.
 
Down near the footbridge is an abundance of Sphagnum moss. During both World Wars a soap using Sphagnum (Sphagnol soap) was used by The British Red Cross to treat facial wounds and trench sores.

The Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) Grán arcán

 
March 5 2022
This post is dedicated to Seamus McGinley who sadly passed away during the week, in recognition of the work he did as Chairperson of Coiste Forbartha na Carraige.
He was one of the ‘Good Guys’, who gave his time and energy for the betterment of his community, including the creation of the children’s playground at the start of the Riverwalk and the replacement of the footbridge over the river. Mîle buíochas Seamus. R.I.P
 
The Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) Grán arcán , is the first flower I’ve spotted along the Riverwalk this year. The flowers are similar to the Buttercup but it has twice the number of petals and has heart shaped glossy leaves. In wet windy weather the petals close. It is also known as Pilewort. The roots consist of white bulbs, not unlike piles! These roots were used in the past to treat this ailment.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) Lus na gaoithe.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) Lus na gaoithe.  This lovely little flower is a member of the buttercup family. You can see it along the Riverwalk now.
Wood anemones are named after the Greek wind god Anemos, who sent flowers ahead of him in Spring. It is also known as Windflower, in Irish, Lus na Gaoithe, possibly a reference to the Greek god or maybe for its flexible flower stem which allows the flower head to bend with the wind. 16 April 2022

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg) Caisearbhán

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg) Caisearbhán
The poor old Dandelion is not a popular wild flower and is generally considered a weed. A weed has been defined as a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants. So like Beauty, a weed is in the eye of the beholder. There are over 70 species of Dandelion in Ireland.
 
Dandelion comes from the French word dent de lion meaning the lions tooth, presumably referring to the shape of the leaf. In French the name is pis en lit.. piss in the bed, referring to its diuretic effect.  In Irish folk medicine, the humble Dandelion is associated with cures for warts coughs colds and respiratory problems. The roasted roots were used as a coffee substitute during the Emergency. Dandelion chains are also much easier make than Daisy chains! 24 April 2022
 
 
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