26 May 2021

A walk along the Abha Bhán
River Walk in Ballyhahill

The stone bridge over the Owvaun River at Ballyhahill was built in 1781 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford, 2021)

After my recent visit to the Church of the Visitation in Ballyhahill in west Limerick, I went for a walk along the Abha Bhán River Walk, a new walk along the Owvaun River. This riverside walk in Ballyhahill is only 0.7 km, but it provides amazing vistas.

The Owvaun River is one of the five major rivers in Co Limerick, excluding the Shannon; the other four are: the Maigue, the Deel, the Feale and the Mulkear or Mulcair. The name Owvaun (Irish: Abha Bhan) means ‘fair river’ or ‘beautiful river,’ although it is known too as the White River (An Abhainn Bhan).

The Owvaun has two main arteries or tributaries that meet just south of the bridge at Ballyhahill to form a single river that heads north towards the Shannon Estuary at Loughill.

The western tributary is known as An Abhainn Dorcha (the Dark River) and rises in Glenbaun at Carrigkerry.

The eastern tributary, the Owvaun,which is the main flow of the river, rises in Knockfinisk (Carrigkerry), Glensharrold (Carrigkerry) and Kerrikyle (Ardagh). However, Glensharrold is the main source of the river, with minor streams rising in Knockfinisk and Kerrikyle.

The Owvaun has two main arteries or tributaries that meet just south of the bridge at Ballyhahill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

A new stone bridge was built over the Owvaun River at Ballyhahill in 1781. This was one of the first stone bridges in rural Co Limerick; until then, most bridges were wooden beam structures.

This triple-arch road bridge has rubble stone walls, cut limestone voussoirs, tall semi-circular arches, and roughly dressed limestone copings on the parapet walls. The symmetrical form of this road bridge is enhanced by the textural variation created by the rubble stone walls and cut voussoirs.

The river walk in Ballyhahill to Loughill has many cascades and pools (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The section of the river from Ballyhahill to Loughill is notably picturesque, with numerous cascades and pools in a setting of mature, deciduous woodland composed largely of native species.

The riverside trail of 0.7 km was laid out in recent years along the east bank of the river , heading north from below the bridge.

Along this walk, Glenadda is a long river pool, with a rocky bottom and deep waters. This is a favourite spot for local anglers. At Glenadda Falls, the rock is cut out by the river’s waterflow in a southeast-to-northwest direction. When the river is in flood, its brown waters pour down over its rockface, crashing up suds at the base, like stout being filled in a glass.

The Leaps is an imposing cascade. This waterfall was once a wall of rock from bank to bank, with the river flowing over its face. The Leaps was dynamited in the 1960s by the local fishing club to give fish easier access to the river to the south.

The Limekiln Waterfall is, in reality, a double waterfall, with the river falling six metres in height in a great mass of water. Near the bank, the flow is somewhat quieter, with the water pimpling over the rock, like silver coins on edge. The silver pool that forms just south of the Limekiln waterfall is known as poll a cro, the enclosed pool.

The Pots is so called because the water flow has worn out pot-like structures in the rock. This waterfall is spectacular when the river is in full flood, with ‘the pots’ filling with water and then the water being forced back out in a tornado of spray at an extraordinary pace.

The road from Ballyhahill to Loughill was laid down in the 1870s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

After returning along the 0.7 km trail, we walked back over the bridge and up the hill into Ballyhahill. The road from Ballyhahill to Loughill was laid down in the 1870s, and is known locally as the line.

Ballyhahill primary school was built in 1874. Ballyhahill Co-Operative creamery was registered on 16 October 1890. The Carnegie Public Library built in Ballyhahill in 1907 was one of 660 Carnegie Libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie and built in the Britain and Ireland in 1881-1971, and one of eight built by Rathkeale Rural District Council. The creamery was bought by Golden Vale Co-Op in Charleville in 1973.

Many of the shopfronts and houses in Ballyhahill retain architectural features and decorative stuccowork that are evidence of how this was once a prosperous town in west Limerick.

Many shopfronts and houses in Ballyhahill retain interesting architectural features and decorative stuccowork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Pentecost 2021:
99, Saint Mary the Virgin, Saffron Walden

The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is the largest parish church in Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Seasons of Lent and Easter this year, I took 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 was the Day of Pentecost (23 May 2021), and I am continuing with photographs for the rest of this week from six churches in the ‘Major Churches Network,’ churches once known as the ‘Greater Churches’ in England.

The Major Churches Network was founded in 1991 as the Greater Churches Network. It is a group of Church of England parish churches with exceptional significance, that are physically very large, listed as Grade I, II* or exceptionally II, open to visitors daily, have a role or roles beyond those of a typical parish church, and make considerable civic, cultural, and economic contributions to their community.

These churches are often former monastic properties that became parish churches after the English Reformation, or civic parish churches built at a time of great wealth.

Inside Saint Mary’s … its size reflects the wealth of Saffron Walden at the height of the saffron trade (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This morning (26 May 2021), my photographs are from the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Saffron Walden, the largest parish church in Essex. I have visited this church at times on my way to or from USPG conferences in High Leigh, Hoddesdon (see this prayer diary 17 May 2021), and while I have been staying in Cambridge.

Although Saffron Walden is halfway between Stansted Airport (22 km) and Cambridge (24 km), I imagine the town has few Irish visitors or tourists.

This is truly a pretty, picture-postcard, chocolate-box-cover English market town. The town centre is a conservation area with colourful timber-framed and gabled town houses and cottages dating back to the 15th century, with dozens of Grade I, Grade II and 27 Grade II* listed buildings. There are traditional pubs, antique shops, a market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, a ruined castle, a unique turf maze, and a parish church as large as many an English cathedral.

The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin replaced an earlier building and was built in the perpendicular style between 1470 and 1525. It is 56 metres long, and the spire, at 59 metres, is the tallest church spire in Essex.

The size of Saint Mary’s reflects the wealth of the town at the height of the saffron trade. The church has impressive Gothic arches, decorative wooden ceilings, nine mediaeval brasses and impressive stained-glass windows.

The latter stages of rebuilding in 1450-1525 were supervised by John Wastell, the master mason who was then building King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The spire was added in 1832 to replace an older lantern tower.

The former Conservative politician, ‘RAB’ Butler (1902-1982), who was MP for Saffron Walden (1929-1965), is buried in the churchyard.

The high altar, reredos and sanctuary in Saint Mary’s Church, seen through the rood screen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 10: 32-45 (NRSVA):

32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.’

35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ 36 And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ 37 And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ 38 But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ 39 They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

The Presentation depicted in a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (26 May 2021, Saint Augustine of Canterbury) invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for the life and work of St Augustine. Bless the work of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and all of the Bishops across the Anglican Communion.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The spire of Saint Mary’s, at 59 metres, is the tallest church spire in Essex (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