06 May 2021

A walk in the woods and by
the cascades in the Clare Glens

Walking in the Clare Glens … we failed to find the trail on the Tipperary side but got to see the cascades and smaller waterfalls (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

People in Dublin like to joke that the Howth Road is in Clontarf, that Adelaide Road is not in Adelaide, Shrewsbury Road is not in Shropshire, and Ailesbury Road does not lead to Aylesbury or any other part of Buckinghamshire. People in London point out too that Buckingham Palace is not in Buckinghamshire either.

But then, I am sure, people in Co Limerick and Co Tipperary also know that the Clare Glens are not in Co Clare. The Clare Glens is a wooded area along the banks of the Clare River, which separates Co Limerick and Co Tipperary.

I visited the Clare Glens at the end of last week for the breath-taking scenery, the wild dense forest, the calm rushing of the crystal clear waters and waterfalls, and the riverside walks through the wooded area and along a path up the red sandstone gorge.

This area is about 4 km from Newport, Co Tipperary, and about 5km from Murroe, Co Limerick. There is a carpark near the entrance on the Newport side, and a children's play area and picnic area.

There is a signposted trail along of a walkway on both banks of the river, and an opening below a waterfall known as the Big Eas. The Limerick path of the Clare Glens was widened and levelled in the 1990s to allow emergency vehicles access to 3 km long walk.

The site is a listed European Special Area of Conservation, designated for its areas of oak woodland habitat and a species of rare fern. The river is used as a kayaking and canoeing venue, and it is possible to kayak down the waterfalls and rapids.

The Clare Glens is generally described as a Looped Walk and while there is indeed a firm walking track on the Limerick side. But we failed on a number of attempts to find and follow the signposts on the Tipperary side of the water.

Over a stretch of 2 km, the Clare River has cut a deep ravine into the soft sandstone over which it flows. On its way, it descends in a series of cascades creating a dramatic riverscape. The path runs along the top of the ravine, and there are glimpses of the river down through the densely wooded slopes of which pine, holly and hazel are the principal species.

We tried to follow several narrow paths on the Tipperary side that lead down to the banks of the river, but they are steep and muddy with slippery rocks and tree roots.

We got close to some of the cascades to watch the water surging over the cliffs into quiet plunge pools before tumbling on again to the next drop. In places the channel is so narrow that the river gushes past in a welter of white water and in a thundering torrent beneath the woodland canopy.

Having failed to complete the walk along the Tipperary side of the Glen, we returned to the small bridge at the entrance, and set along the path on the Limerick side of the river, until we reached a bridge that crosses the river.

We never made it up to top of the loop, where a second bridge gives a fine view of the Big Eas waterfall. I understand the full walk takes about two hours in good weather and covers 4 km.

We ended the afternoon with a picnic in the sunshine in the car park on the Newport side of the river, and promised to return later this summer to catch that view of the Big Eas Waterfall.

The Clare Glens are known for breath-taking scenery, wild dense forest and the calm rushing of the crystal clear waters and waterfalls (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
79, the churches of Piskopianó

The new Church of Aghios Ioannis towers over the village of Piskopianó in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Sunday (2 May 2021) was Easter Day in the Calendar of the Orthodox Church, and this week is Easter Week. I miss the opportunity of being in Greece at this special time of year, so my photographs this week are from churches in Crete.

Until the pandemic lockdown, I have been visiting Crete almost every year since the 1980s. My photographs this morning (6 May 2021) are from the modern Church of Aghios Ioannis (Saint John) in the village of Piskopianó, in the mountains above Hersonissos, and the older Church of Eisodia Theotokou (the Presentation of the Virgin Mary).

I first visited Piskopianó in 1994, spent weeks on end there in the 1990s, and have stayed there often since then. Today, a new church towers over the stepped, narrow streets of Piskopianó.

Piskopianó is a parish within the Diocese of Petras and Cherronisou, and, for a short time, Piskopianó was the centre of a diocese. When Arab pirates started attacking Crete in the seventh century, many early Christian churches and basilicas were destroyed. At this time, Hersonissos was abandoned, and the see of the diocese was transferred to Piskopianó, and remained here until the ninth century, when the diocese was relocated to Pedialos.

The name of Piskopianó may hint at its earlier, historical, episcopal importance, or it may describe the village’s location looking out as a balcony over this stretch of the north coast of Crete.

The old basilica in Piskopianó was a three-aisled basilica built in the sixth century. It was 45 metres long and 20 metres wide, it had an interior arch that was 9.4 metres in diameter, and its floor was covered with marble.

While the Bishops of Cherronisou were seated in Piskopianó, they are mentioned in official documents from the eighth to the tenth centuries, and the Bishop of Cherronisou took part in the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 787 AD.

The diocese was relocated to Pediados in the tenth century, and in the 19th century it was seated in the Monastery of Agatathos.

Meanwhile, the Church of Eisodia Theotokou, a small single-nave, barrel vaulted church, was built in the 16th century, and has been renovated a few times since then. The iconostasis is woodcut, with gold encrusted leaves, and the icons on the iconostasis date from 1863. The marble in the sanctuary probably comes from the earlier Basilica of Pikcopianó, which has not been excavated yet.

The neighbouring large parish church, the Church of Aghios Ioannis, was built in 2009 and stands above the village with the mountains as a stunning backdrop. Two 19th century buildings between the old and the new church have been renovated and serve as the priest’s office and as a guesthouse. The parish priest is Father George Kokkiadis

Inside the Church of Eisodia Theotokou in Piskopianó, built in the 16th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 9-11 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’

Inside the Church of Aghios Ioannis in Piskopianó (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (6 May 2021) invites us to pray:

We give thanks for the scientists and researchers who have worked to produce vaccines for Covid-19. Let us pray for the equitable distribution of these vaccines around the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A fresco depicting Saint John the Baptist in the Church of Aghios Ioannis (Saint John) in Piskopianó (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The earlier Church of Eisodia Theotokou in Piskopianó, with its Byzantine-style doorframe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)