Autumn Glory

Outward Bound

Heading out onto the Irish Sea at Skerries Harbour

I snatched a piece of glory for myself on a long, slow, Sunday run by the coast. It was one of those very bright October mornings with the moon a finger-painted smudge in clear blue skies over the bobbing boats of Skerries harbour.

returning

Skerries Harbour

White sails dazzled in the clear, calm waters, as the members of Skerries Sailing Club busied themselves with their yachts.

And there were plenty of land lubbers about delighting in the crisp clear air or, like myself, taking pictures of the pretty scene…

Long shadow..

…and silly shadow selfies…

Oh, I could feel my old enemy, Procrastination, setting in. It was time to go.

The Skerries-Balbriggan route is very popular with runners and walkers. No doubt, it’s spectacular views have a lot to do with that. And of course, hugging the sea as it does, it is entirely flat. Always a plus for a plodder like me.

The downside though is that the footpath is very narrow, and its surface is dangerously rough. Three miles in, loose gravel got the better of me. I stumble. Almost saved myself. Then, horror of horrors, slam onto the ground.

It’s the classic little-kid fall, featuring two grazed knees, two skint hands and lost pride. I hobble to a nearby gateway to assess the damage and recover my composure. And, apart from a hole in my leggings (damn, my last good pair) I am good to go.

As it turned out, this wasn’t the worst of my pathway woes…

I had to step off it several times to let pedestrians by, always, of course, with an eye out for a car careening round a bend. And, worse still, there is a patch just outside Skerries where the path runs out entirely.  Possibly to encourage runners to up their tempo a tad.

It had that effect on me, anyway.

It would be really good to see this pathway widened and resurfaced. A lot of people enjoy it and, with a truckload of health problems festering in our overfed and depressed population, this investment would do the world of good for both Skerries, Balbriggan and their visitors.

But otherwise, the mild autumn temperatures and sea air made for perfect running conditions. And, even though I love to listen to talk radio during these long slow runs, I took frequent earphone breaks just to enjoy the sound of the sea and its accompanying birdlife.

Here and there I’d catch a glimpse of redshank, oystercatcher or snipe, while the gulls, announced their abundance with raucous cries.

Soon, I was heading into Balbriggan. A solitary red bricked chimney declared it’s industrial heritage. This was the ancient chimney of Smyths’ textile factory.

The town was built on tights, balbriggan being a term used to describe a fine knit textile which was once manufactured in that town and turned into hosiery and underwear.

Lighthouse

Balbriggan Harbour

 

Balbriggan hides its glories well.  One of the joys of running, of course, is that it tends to sniff out these charms, and so brighten even the most tedious of trots with sparkling gems.

The harbour glistened in the morning light. After the hideous railway perimeter and ugly jumble of buildings, it seems all the more surprising. And, a little further along there is a Martello tower, yes, another one to match the ones I’d seen in Dalkey,Sandymount, Donabate, Portrane, Loughshinney and in Skerries itself.

Winding back through the town, there is the interesting court house building, and a beautiful Carnegie library opposite.  But little else to delight the eye.

I was homeward bound at this point, however, looping back to Skerries and already looking forward to the return journey, trotting along between the railway line and the sea, and enjoying ever second of it.

I met more friendly runners on that route than any other I had encountered. I figured that was because they were as happy as I was, enjoying the scenery and the glorious autumn day.

Ten miles done. I barely felt them. Not, I hasten to add, because I am super fit, or even fit.

But, because some runs just are sheer joy.

A Tale of Two Chimneys

Ringsend Chimneys from Blackrock

View of Ringsend from Blackrock

Just as Odysseus was drawn to the Sirens’ song, I am drawn to the chimneys at Ringsend. So,with business to attend to in Blackrock during the week, I caught a glimpse of the iconic landmark and decided to get a little closer.

Seafront Sandymount

Seafront at Sandymount, Dublin

Sandymount Promenade

Promenade, Sandymount

I drove along by Dublin Bay, I came to a halt at Sandymount, and followed the Siren’s call.

With my bulky Nikon onboard, there was no question of me jogging on this occasion. But I envied the natives with this fabulous promenade and glorious views in which to enjoy their regular runs.

Sandymount beach

Sandymount Beach

There was ample parking along by the promenade, and, as luck would have it neither of the ticket machines nearby were working either which augured rather well for my walk, I thought.

Sandymount tower

Sandymount Martello Tower

Ringsend from Sandymount

Poolbeg Chimneys from Sandymount

I passed Sandymount tower along the way. One of sixteen such towers in south Dublin, it was built in 1804 to defend Ireland against a possible invasion by Napoleon. There are twelve such towers in north Dublin and fifty in total around the Irish coast. Not that I could tell all that from looking at the Sandymount tower though. I am not quite that clever. No, I got that information here.

The chimneys were looming ever closer now as Sandymount beach gave way to the greater wilderness of Seán Moore Park.

Poppies and chimneys

Yeah, I know poppies are passé, but I cannot resist.

What a clever development this is. A high, wide ridge let grow wild,it cleverly disguises the vast industrial hulk of the Dublin port environs, while being in stark contrast to the more genteel aspect of Sandymount. Giving substance to my claim that autumn is indeed upon us, rose hips and blackberries abounded, while birds delighted in the shelter afforded by tall grass and motley assortment of shrubbery.

Sand and rock gave way to grass, and it was around this point that I encountered a mother walking with her little boy. The boy couldn’t have been more than three. He stepped off his scooter and looking at my camera said,

Wha you take pee or off?

Smiling, his mother said he wanted to know what I was taking a picture of.

“See those chimneys over there? I am taking a picture of them”

Two chimbleys. Mammy, Mammy look. Two chimbleys over der”

We exchanged V signs-for the two chimbleys, of course-and the little boys scooted off in their general direction , delighted with himself.

I envied his growing up in such a wild and beautiful place, though I hadn’t the heart to tell him that the two chimbleys might not survive for much longer.

 

View of Sandymount from Irishtown

Wicklow Mountains from Irishtown Park

Soon, I had wound around Sandymount bay, and, while the chimneys were out of sight, I had great views of the Wicklow mountains…

 

View of Sandymount from Sean Moore park

…and of Sandymount itself.

Suddenly realised I was alone and on a very secluded path. This normally never bothers me. Apart from my outings with Teen Girl, I always run alone. I can be in the middle of fields, along a beach, down by the river, in the woods. I relish the freedom of all that.

But this was a little different. The sight of a discarded syringe, the proximity of the city and one episode of the TV series”Love Hate” had stirred sufficient imagination in me to make an about turn. The fact that I was bearing an iphone, a camera and a set of car keys, had significantly increased my value, such as it is, adding to my vulnerability.

Sean Moore park

 

This part of the walk is where the wilderness rules unabated in the form of Irishtown Nature reserve. I feared it reserved a two legged species of wilderness but, as it turned out, all I met was a friendly man on a bike. He saluted me as he passed and then I noticed GARDA emblazoned on his high viz jacket. Though somewhat reassuring, I took this police presence as a confirmation of the need for caution.

Having gone so far though, I wasn’t going to abandon my quest for the two chimbleys.  I rambled back to the car (Phew! No parking ticket!) and set off for Dublin Port, this time by road.

 Dublin Port

Stena heading out of Dublin Port

Ferries plough the Irish Sea several times a day between Dublin and Holyhead, Wales

Stena

Poolbeg Lighthouse, Half Moon Water Polo and Swimming Club to the fore.

Dublin Port is a busy place. I don’t recall it’s being quite so busy on my last trip here but, as I rambled up towards the Half Moon Bathing Club, three ships passed, two laden down with containers, the other, a Stena Line ferry taking cargo and people to Britain. Signs of economic green shoots?

Half Moon Bathing

At the Half Moon Swimming and Water Polo Club, Poolbeg

And, here too, was the Half Moon Swimming and Water Polo Club. It’s delightful name owes nothing to the silver celestial body of the night skies, but is, less romantically, named for the battery of guns that stood guard here in a semicircular formation.

And finally, swinging around from Poolbeg, I get my favourite view of the chimneys. Bloodied by years of rust and work, this is their home: the industrial skyline of Dublin port. Redundant now, they are taunted by their sleeker younger replacements. They were built forty years ago as part of the Electricity Supply Board`s generation station. But, because they no longer serve a functional purpose, and are in need of repair and maintenance work, the company  wants to demolish them by the end of the year.

Chimneys and Dublin Port

Ringsend from the South Bull Wall

The city of Dublin is a sprawling affair, rambling horizontally in all directions, while lacking significant verticle line. And maybe that is why the artist within us are drawn to the chimneys. But they are certainly in need of some tender loving care.

Looking at the paintwork on the Half Moon bathing club, and the stark red of Poolbeg lighthouse, against the blue grey hulk of cloud, I can imagine how much more beautiful those chimneys would be if painted red and white and if their rusting rings were replaced with rust resistant stabilizers.

And that’s the limits to my creative imagination.  The designer,Michael O`Mara, on the other hand, sees a sky bridge, viewing gantries, a museum, a café, apartment complexes:

At the end of the day, money-or lack of it-will probably be the big decider of the chimneys’ fate. So here’s hoping the money will be found.

Beacons on the Dublin skyline, twin Sirens luring us to a wild and wonderful part of the city, may they loom large over the sprawling city for years to come.

Journal.ie article and Poll: Should the Poolbeg chimneys be demolished?

boards.ie forum: discussion on Poolbeg chimneys

Raze or Praise? Article from The Irish Times