Sunday was grayer than I was anticipating, but on an excellent suggestion I went in search of some fast flowing water and some trees in Cadamstown. When I arrived there was that loose swarming of hikers hastily dragging their hiking shoe heel up or tying waterproofing around waists en route to their meeting point in the centre of where I was headed. It was gray but warm, hiking jackets can get unpleasantly swampy inside on days like that. I decided I wasn’t ready for that many people, even outdoors and socially distant, so I skirted on by them to go to investigate the Giant’s Grave instead.
I opted for the shorter path to the grave site instead of the whole loop from the village as I wanted to get back to explore by the river – the primary focus of my trip – when I hoped the hiking group would have dissipated. I find I have to save energy these days more than I used to. I started with a little wildflower exploration by one of the forestry barriers and enjoyed the scrubby scented breeze whispering down from the trail top.
Past the barrier I was a bit disapointed that this was the view
I’ve long been used to the Slieve Bloom having a large amount of coniferous forest plantations, and clear felled sites with the lost looking native survivors stringy and malformed against the skyline. They’re invariably lined out with scrunch-grey roadways where stones seem to bare no similarity to their brethren in stream beds a couple of hundred meters away. I understand the working forest principle etc and could see there are new trees coming on. It still looked a bit wretched. There was any amount of evidence that small creatures lived there, and plenty of wildflowers to catch my eye, but I think I was just hoping for something more mythic. Maybe the track is different on approach on the official loop walk, when you’re not cheating like me. There were plenty of birds to keep me amused, and the last few blossoms on the Foxglove stalks to investigate for hardy bumble bees.
Things improved a bit when I reached the turn for the tomb itself. There was a bit of a stream over which spanned a rough bridge that channeled the eye up grassy steps to the mouth of a deeply dark if short forest path to provide some atmosphere. I tried and failed to capture a little of that in some photographs, but the day was too grey and my photography skills too unevolved. I was still a little sore that they were conifers, but I relented a bit going through because in the dimness the smell was absolutely heavenly.
I like megalithic tombs and sites in general, I spend rather more time than I suspect many of my friends think is healthy examining the rocks to see what might have prompted people all that time ago to choose those particular ones, and imagining the thought that went into the site – the orientation, the elements, the overall position in a geography very different from the one I experience today. I was particularly conscious of how different this site was likely to be, given the surrounding conifers. This tomb was damaged by 18th century grave robbers who seem to have destroyed the actual original layout of what was a cist grave, probably under a cairn and covering mound. It is reputed to be the grave of Blath, who was killed in battle in more or less that spot in 3000 BCE. A cairn was built over the dead warrior/leader and the mountain took his name, Sliabh Bladhma, the whole range’s name is now anglicised to the Slieve Bloom. I was standing there imaging what a battle would have been like; probably not that many men involved on either side in comparison to what we think of as battles these days. All that physicality and injury. Were the fighting sides living somewhere close by or were they ranging over the mountains away from their homes? When this important person died people got together and choose rocks and assembled grave goods (there was supposed to have been a pure gold spur found on the site) and buried him on this site – was it notable before his burial? Did they chose it for it’s command of the hillside? Was it visible from somewhere, always to be kept in mind? This is a small tomb in the grand scheme of things but it’s on a great site, or I fancy it was, when the river was bigger and different trees surrounded it all.
I wandered on a bit when a family reached the site and spotted this 1798 gravestone just around the bend
I suspect there were a lot more people in this area in the 18th century than there were that grey Sunday in August 2020. I wandered down another scrunching grey path and was briefly halted by the sight of a deer and faun, but they scarpered pretty quickly, leaving not a trace of their passing. I wandered about in a patch of trees to see what the fungi situation was and was rather pleased with some of my finds.
I was impatient to get back to the river though, the air was too heavy and the climb had generated a little bit too much of the feeling that I was breathing recycled air so I headed back.
The river in Cadamstown is a multisensory joy. Even as I got through the gate past the house by the mill with the spectacular flowers I could hear the churn of water and rock as my feet touched down from the stile with a very satisfying thump on deep earth, like my feet had discovered echo depth sensing. The woods here wear generational layers better than a lot of woods I’ve been, partly, I suspect, because native trees have been manually added in some spots to bulk up the oncoming forest. I was ridiculously pleased to see healthy young oaks at various growth stages along the way. The earth is generously splattered with a good variety of fungi, at this time of the year quite a few were carefully pretending to be leaf litter, though I did find some well nibbled on red brittlegills a bit later on. The very cleverly tinted green, flat varieties refused to come out in a decent photograph.
Some of the older trees are right properly gnarly, these experienced wood spirits guard the waters edge in ways that make the actual fencing seem even more alien. I was a bit worried at first that all access to the river had been fenced off, but it seems to be a simple string of barbed wire intended more for stray animals and to guide bipedal visitors to safer access points farther along the path.
I am extremely fond of a large beech tree near my favourite spot for wading about in the river. This visit it seems to have sprouted treelets.
The water here is shallow and easy to pass, it gushes along busily over pebbles and multicoloured stones before carving more off the deep gashes between a stand of large moss encrusted rocks and then sedately lounging under heavy beech limbs in great, rich coloured pools. Sometimes the warmer seasons strand small pools to catch droplets and leaves on their mirrored surface where before winter had water pushing quickly on.
I checked on a crab apple tree discovered on a previous visit and it is laden with crab apples this year, I don’t think I have ever seen so many. This was just part of the tree.
In an effort to find more hazel trees a bit more off the beaten track I headed for a section beyond Peig Corrigan’s well, very close to the car park. It meant clambering over behind the well and it is well worth doing so, with impressive roots and branches to jungle your way around for a little while. I was having a great time pretending to be 16 again but unfortunately at one stage I was relying on my left kneecap going forward with the rest of it but it seemed to decide to go sideways instead. I thought I’d gotten away with it but decided to head back to the car to be safe, realising along the way that no, I definitely didn’t get away with it. After a more “interesting” drive home than I would have preferred I slapped a bag of frozen peas on it and hoped for the best. Thankfully today I just have a little swelling left and a bit of a hobble.
So, Cadamstown, well worth a visit if you like forest walks by rivers. There’s great spots along it where people gorge walk, I definitely want to try that sometime when I have the gear to do so.