Saturday, 16 January 2016
Winter sunlight by the banks of
the River Dodder in Rathgar
There is a fading Victorian gentility about Rathgar that could inspire John Betjeman. Elegant, although sometimes crumbling, Victorian houses on Orwell Park, Orwell Road, and Rathgar Road; the parish church on the corner of Zion Road and Bushy Park; the green open spaces by the banks of the River Dodder; relics of the former Bewley family farm and estate at Danum; and the sound of cricket bats and playing children in the grounds of the High School.
My memories of Rathgar go back to my godfather, Arthur, who was my father’s elder half-brother, and my aunt Kathleen, who lived in a large, three-storey-over-basement house on Rathgar Road. But the house was sold after he died and was divided up into apartments – no, it was divided up into flats – and the rose garden the enjoyed for most of their lives has been covered with tarmac.
In the middle of a busy working weekend, I took half an hour an hour or more to myself after lunch, and went for a walk along Orwell Road and by the banks of the River Dodder.
The old and genteel Orwell Lodge Hotel is gone for some years now, and its grounds were developed for housing for some time ago. Yet I managed to find a decaying Victorian post box in the wall beside the Redemptorist house at Marianella!
Strolling through the grounds of Marianella, with its elegant old trees and its Victorian gate lodge, I wondered how long this Victorian tranquillity would continue to grace Rathgar after the Redemptorists move out and the site is tuned over to housing and apartments.
As I walked by the river, I watched the early evening sun begin to dip slowly behind the trees while the double sunlight soaked the river and the bare willows trailed their branches in the water below the High School and the former Bewley farm.
A let a group of strollers pass me by before I stopped to take in the scene before me on the river bank. Those youthful memories of Rathgar set me thinking about lines by John Betjeman in ‘Youth and Age on Beaulieu River’:
Early sun on Beaulieu water
Lights the undersides of oaks,
Clumps of leaves it floods and blanches,
All transparent glow the branches
Which the double sunlight soaks; …
Evening light will bring the water,
Day-long sun will burst the bud …