29 May 2012

Preening herons, a pair of swans and weeping willows on the riverbank

Weeping willows on the banks of the River Dodder in Rathfarnham this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

I am back at work in Dublin after a refreshing, extended weekend in Lichfield.

Following my reinvigorating walks in the countryside and my strolls down Stafford Road and Beacon Street into the Cathedral or around the Minster Pool, I thought I would walk home from work along the banks of the River Dodder in the fading summer sunshine this evening.

I stepped down onto the banks of the river below the Ely Arch that once marked the entrance to Rathfarnham Castle estate.

A preening heron in branches above the Dodder behind the High School (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The delight of passing children drew my attention to a preening heron in the trees behind the High School. Mallards were brake-landing over the river and sliding along the surface.

In some places, the overhanging trees were reflected in relief in the water; in others, there was no reflection at all. Here the water was so still and quiet it was hard to to realise there are deep pools below; there the water was bubbling and babbling over the stones; and further up the river there was a cascade of water pouring over the weir beneath the bridge at Rathfarnham.

A swan glides on the surface of the River Dodder above the weir and below the bridge at Rathfarnham Road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The waters above the weir were calm again. A pair of swans begged for bread from passers-by; two ducks pecked at the growth against the wall.

I crossed Rathfarnham Road, and soon crossed some stepping stone onto the north bank of the river. Clusters of willows dipped into the water; trees on one side formed an avenue with the former boundary wall of the Shaw family’s Bushy Park estate.

Behind the wall, near the bandstand, the pond was covered in a green sludge, but still looked attractive with the tallow-green branches of willow trees dipping into the green slime.

A second heron the turn of the river behind Rathfarnham Shopping Centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

I crossed again to the south side of the river below the hill behind Rathfarnham Village, and walked on behind Rathfarnham Shopping Centre, where a second heron was standing calmly on the rocks and stones on the turn in the river.

Walking on behind Butterfield Avenue, I noticed for the first time on the other side of the river, behind Templeogue Tennis Club, a tidy row of former farm labourers’ cottages enclosing a pleasant, mowed green crescent.

But the riverside walk came to a sudden stop at a large open area of green and yellow that looked like a sea of buttercups. Dodder Valley Park, a small housing estate off Butterfield Avenue, was jutting across where I imagined the path should continue. I tried to find my way behind this small cul-de-sac, but ended up in brambles and briars.

So much for the commitments of the Dublin councils to developing a Dodder linear park!

I retraced my steps back up to Butterfield Avenue, and walked on to the junction of Old Bridge Road and Firhouse Road.

Eventually, I found my way back onto the riverside path behind Saint Brendan’s, and continued on by the south bank of the Dodder.

Playful robins flittered by. Magpies pecked away at the ground. A rabbit crossed the path ahead of me. Was that another fox?

As I got closer to the weir at Firhouse, avove a coppice of trees I noticed that the moon – which had been a slim crescent when I was walking on the lane from Farewell back into Lichfield on Saturday afternoon – was now a half moon in the blue skies above the Dublin Mountains.

Some years ago, this walk would have taken only an hour or less. This evening it took over 100 minutes. Is my sarcoidosis slowing me down? Or was it just the delightful distractions of an early summer’s evening?

A half moon rises in the blue sky above the coppices in Firhouse and over the Dublin Mountains (Photgraph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

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