Sunday, 14 February 2010

An afternoon at Rogerstown Estuary

Rogerstown Estuary, looking from Rush across to Portrane (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

For a short time this afternoon, I sat looking out on Rogerstown Estuary. This unique area is about 25 km north of Dublin, between Rush to the north from the Donabate-Portrane peninsula to the south, with the estuary separating these two beautiful areas of Fingal.

The mouth of the estuary is so narrow that local people claim it is possible to walk across from Rush to Donabate, at a gradual walking pace – if there was no water. But there is – the estuary is made up of saltwater marshes, raised salt marsh, wet meadows and riverine shallows and creeks.

The whole estuary covers an area of over 3.6 sq km (900 acres), and is divided by a causeway and bridge built in the 1840s to carry the main Dublin to Belfast railway line. Local legend also says there was once a bridge across the mouth of the estuary but it was dismantled after a number of suicides. They say remains of this bridge can still be seen today on the Donabate side of the estuary.

Rogerstown Estuary is internationally recognised as one of the most important east coast sites and is vital for wintering wildfowl and waders and birds on passage. Birds come to this estuary from the Arctic, and I am told it is worth looking out for large flocks of Brent, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal and smaller numbers of Pintail and Shoveler over winter. Wader numbers are high, and it is worth looking for Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit. In autumn, the birds to look for include rarer species such as Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff. The say the Buzzard has become a regular feature around Rogerstown, as has the Little Egret.

But this afternoon I was happy to sit on the shoreline, looking across the marshes, meadows, shallows and creeks south towards Donabate and Portrane, with the Round Tower, water tower, and Hospital Tower marshalled in a row along the southern, dusky horizon.

Canon VIII and Canon IX ... chapter stalls facing each other in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

It has been a glorious morning in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Canon Katharine Poulton preached one of her last sermons as a chapter member before taking up her new appointment as Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. She is Canon VIII and I am Canon IX. Traditionally our stalls are opposite each other, although I can’t remember when we last sat in our own stalls.

The setting was Mozart’s Credo Mass (Missa Brevis in C, K257), sung by the Lassus Scholars, with a Communion Motet form Victoria, Domine, non sum dignus. How nice it was to see – and to hear – a former colleague from The Irish Times, Liam McAuley, in the choir stalls.

After lunch with the cathedral dean in La Dolce Vita in Cow Lane, I headed out to Rogerstown Estuary, and then through Rush and Loughshinny for a long walk on the beach in Skerries. The news last week that my sarcoidosis has probably stabilised is good news indeed. But these beach walks are an important psychological help in reminding me that while I may have sarcoidosis, sarcoidosis does not have me.

The view across the beach at Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

After walking along the breach, up around Red Island, and back down by the Harbour, I bought the Sunday papers in Gerry’s, and then had an early dinner in Tarragon.

These restaurants in Skerries are so good, I cannot understand why the town does not market itself as the Kinsale of Dublin.

Night had fallen as I headed back through Loughshinny and Rush, across Rogetstown Estuary on the M1, and back around Dublin on the M50.

Tarragon ... one of the many splendid restaurants in Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)