In these times of pandemic restrictions, getting your normal “high” out of walking can be challenging. Just like “runner’s high”, walkers can also experience that feeling of pure joy, reduced stress and ability to keep on clambering up a hill after a flood of endorphins get released into our system. This high is one of the many reasons so many are addicted to walking, however chasing that high generally means having to push yourself out of your walking comfort zone and with the current 2km restrictions in place, it is going to be very difficult to experience that high.
So a change of tack is required, instead of chasing the high, slow right down and immerse yourself in Mother Nature, using all your senses to get that feeling of bliss. These blissful walks can be experienced by anyone, anywhere. Just slow down, step in and surprise yourself.
My short walk on the Shanrahan Loop (all within 2km of home!) just outside the walking wonderland of Clogheen, Co.Tipperary allowed me to immerse myself in all 5 senses. Stepping outside my front gate, I am immediately stopped in my tracks by the sight of the lone peak of the famous Slievenamon mountain. Walking down the boreen outside my home, I am basking in the welcome rays of sunshine on my skin, getting a good dose of Vitamin D into the bargain. Next I notice the white torn bush in bloom, gently snapping a twig off and feeling the prickly thorns you don’t have to wonder where it gets its name!!
Leaning over a gate, I can clearly view the rugged outline of the Comeragh mountains, then looming large over me as I continue down the boreen is the Knockshanahullion peak of the Knockmealdown range with its Bronze Age cairns jutting out on top looking down on the Galty Vee Valley. Normally at this stage you pick out cars glimmering in the sunshine up at the Vee, but these are not normal days as the country is in lockdown, so there is no movement to be seen at the Vee just the imposing Sugarloaf peak and behind it is the optical illusion of what appears to be a smaller peak but in fact it is the Knockmealdown peak which is the highest point in County Waterford.
I cross over the main road onto the footpath, normally you can hear vehicles zooming up and down, now a chainsaw roaring in the distance is the most audible sound echoing around the valley. As I make the next turn on the loop, I feel a gentle breeze waft against my face. I can now taste the spring air and the scent of a variety of vibrantly coloured flowers and plants. Yellow is very noticeable, though the daffodils are beginning to fade, in their place are gorse, primroses, dandelions and other unknown to me varieties of wildflowers. The rich red rhododendron plants are easily identifiable in a garden across some lush green fields. The pink/purple rhododendrons (ponticum) are beginning to bud, of course they won’t be in bloom until the end of May/start of June just in time for the hugely popular Rhododendron Walking Festival, alas like so many events worldwide this year the festival has fallen victim to the virus. For the time being there are some purple wildflowers about the place before the area becomes adorned with the rhododendrons that have become synonymous with the area.
As I continue along the quite country lane divided by a faded green strip of grass down the middle, my attention is drawn to the little streams gently weaving their way off the mountain making their way into the river Duag and also to the birds cheerfully chirping in the background. I can almost visibly see the trees getting greener as their buds begin to shoot up and the leaves sprout out. The dark green holly bushes are present all year round, there is even some bright red berries on a few of the bushes.
The route has some yellow man walking signs on it, which signify it is part of a National Waymarked Trail. These signs are marked with the Blackwater Way, which starts in Clogheen and goes for 168km to Shrone in County Kerry, think we will leave walking that for another day when the restrictions are lifted!!
After a small ascent on the road, it is now downhill towards Shanrahan cemetery, passing more gently flowing streams and budding trees yearning to reach the bright blue sky above. Passing over the river Duag before entering the graveyard, I am met by the resident crows and a cacophony of caws as they fly in and out of their numerous nests perched high above the graveyard. This historic graveyard has footprints going back thousands of years to the legendary chieftain Cua who built a fort here. In the 7th century Saint Cathaldus set up a church on the grounds before setting off on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, only to get shipwrecked off the south coast of Italy where he is credited with performing many miracles and is revered in southern Italy as St Patrick is in Ireland. Shanrahan Castle was built on the grounds in 1250, all that remains is a large ivy clad section in the middle of the graveyard. The impressive O Callaghan mausoleum was built in 1742 and of course Shanrahan is the resting place of Clogheen’s most famous son Fr.Nicholas Sheehy who was wrongfully accused and convicted of murder and subsequently hung, drawn and quartered in 1766.
Leaving the graveyard, a few hundred metres later and I am back on the footpath leading to Clogheen. Still there is more to take in as I pass a field with two large Ogham stones sticking up and another in an adjoining field perfectly positioned in a diagonal row. These stones were used to write the early Irish language in the 4th to 6th centuries AD, yet another sign of the rich past evident in this area.
Finally, I cross over the road back up the boreen towards home, when I am met by the striking Galty mountain range in all their glory with Galtymore the king peak sitting proudly on top as the highest point in both Limerick and Tipperary. So my little walk has given me four mountains, three county high points, a river, hundreds of varieties of trees, plants and flowers as well as thousands of years of history. As I enter in my gate, I witness my first swallow of the year swooping overhead. One swallow doesn’t make a summer but hopefully it is a sign of better times ahead all round.
I may not have experienced the “high” that more demanding walks give but My Cup Runneth Over for the time being. No matter where you live your cup can runneth over too by slowing down, using our senses to take in our what is bountiful in front of us everyday.
To see over 60 more photos of my little walk go the Siul Eile Facebook page