Years and years of eating porridge and flapjacks, of collecting tokens from the packets, and only now I visit the source of all this delicious oatmeal. It dawned on me that many of the farmers on the east coast of Ireland were growing oats for the factory.
It took a visit to the Waterford Greenway, linking Waterford
to Dungarven on a 48km stretch of disused railway for me to make the connection between my breakfast , the mill and the crop grown to make it.
Sitting in the Coach House cafe near Kilmacthomas, I felt I had to walk at least some of it if I was to get bragging rights for having been on the Grenway.
So I walked the 1 km to Kilmacthomas village. Signs for the Mill but no actual sighting. Reillys traditional butchers where you can see them making sausages. No card machine-I was nearly checking to see that they had switched to the decimal system. Had to buy some wagon wheels eventhough they were made for children. A round of sausage meat with an circle of black pudding in the middle and finished off with pastry trimming as the wheel rim. I baked one later in the oven and they were a real treat.
But back to KIlmacthomas and the Oatmeal. I wandered down the hill to the river. I was able to get back to the greemway by walking up to the Kilmacthomas viaduct. Enormous arches holdung up the now disused railway line.
Up here I could look beyond the village. There in all its industrial magnificence was the Flahavans oat mill. I looked below and saw the river. Duh! Mill – has a millrace. Seems obvious but of course it would have originally been powered by water.
It is a beautiful setting and looking over my other shoulder, I could see the village. I had an ‘Under Mildwood’ moment when I observed the comings and goings of the place from a distance.
It was a revelation to me that my chilhood bowls of porridge had come from here. I would say there is not a child in Ireland who has not sat dejected in front of a bowl of porridge and been told not to leave the table until its finished. The misery of seeing snakes coiling in the bowl while anothe bite is forced down. This food has become aclaimed for its low glycaemic index in latter years and it has enjoyed a revival unparalled by any other food except maybe avocadoes.
And still it comes from a mill on a river in a splendid corner of our beautiful country.
This Sunday I went walkabout in Dublin’s oldest streets. Researching the price of organic cherry tomatoes, I made for the Dublin Food Coop. From Thomas Street, I passed throught Meath Street and The Coombe. Quiet and clean swept it being a Sunday, the redbrick houses are history in themselves. The families that grew up there, the messages bought, the workers arriving in , scraping theit boots on the built in irons that still protrude from the redbrick at foot level.
The men who arrived home without work during the lockout and strikes of 1913 – the stories those walls could tell.
Google maps brought me to the market – a buzzing hive of activity. Tourists from all over th world had found their way to this hub of crafts, music collections ,coffee and food.
Cherry tomatoes were to be found @ €5 per kilo. Sourced from Spain so methinks there is a gap in the market for Irish Organic Cherry tomatoes.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
Is it only me or does everyone see the land mass nearest them as the first island they looked out at as a child?
When I look out at Howth, I see Cape Clear. When I look at Clare island off Luisburgh, I see Cape Clear.
I think the shape of these land masses is similar. Ridges left after the glaciers slid their way through valleys to eventually melt into the sea.
Their height is similar – not a very scientific observation but it gives me more to go on than nostalgia for my faulty perception.
Or is it just wishful thinking- to be back in those days when your horizon was bordered Cape Clear, when the day was regulated by high tide so we could jump off Colla Pier.
The walk past Hannah Fleury’s house, its perennial garden laden with scent , where her gorgeous golden retriever would curl on her back, beseeching us to rub her belly where her nipples felt velvety and nubbly under our fingers.
We would pick up a swarm of files there that would pester us for a few fields. Our towels would round our heads, we must have looked like a small group of nomadic berbers, tans and freckles and sunburnt, instead of the mahogany skin of the desert inhabitants.
We loitered at the pier, in fact we loitered everywhere. I cant think of a single other thing we did. We cycled, speeding down the 30’ gradient up at Caherlaska,, and freewheeling up the other side, seeing how far we could go without pedalling.
We would later cut those hills out and dump our bikes in the heather and go across the springy turf and jump goat like over the rocks until we reached the holiday bungalow.
Never going straight in to the house, but instead climbing directly on to the asphalt roof of the garage and in to the attic space, almost entirely filled with a table tennis table made of plywood and hung around with sheep skins drying on the rafters.
The smell of those pelts is with me today, an acrid, earthy type of odour, inhaled deeply by us with whatever other dust and particles were in that roof space as we sped around the table, becoming more accurate every day with our serves and volleys.
Dinner was almost invariably fresh mackerel cooked whole, with four scores across the sides and grilled or fried with butter.
Served with liberal lemon juice and potatoes, we left the house as soon as possible after dessert, squeezing every last minute out of the long evenings with the stunning sunsets lasting any time up to 11.30.
Maybe that is why I always think of Cape clear when I look out at the horizon from Dun Laoghaire. We were kings of our world for those few uncompromisingly lived weeks where natures backdrop knows no half measures.
When you walk up off the Oliver Bond street parallel to Thomas Street and go through the tall metal gates, you leave behind the city and enter a mini garden of paradise.
Order has been brought to chaos with rows of vegetables stretching out in raised beds and more chaos has been created with the mountains of composting material being gathered daily by Tony Lowth whose brainchild this project is.
The cycle continues with the compost being spread on the ground ceating no dig beds with minimal weeds. It is a pleasure to work this soil. Rich and friable , dark but light to the touch, its fertility is evident in the abundance of lettuce, leeks and kale still growing in November.
Tony is no stranger to social change and he has a plan to create employment out of waste. The practical application of labour to waste ground is no random idea but is carefully thought out.
IN the meantime, the backdrop of the citys noise – sellers in Meath Street calling out, Christchurch playing the Bells of the Angelus at noon and the visual impact of graffiti on the gardens walls remind you where you are. In the heart of the oldest part of Dublin and not 500 metres from where Robert Emmet was hanged, a farm that out forefathers would be proud of is thriving.
Maybe next time I will take the Grand Hibernian to Cork instead of the old road or the N7!
CORK is set for a major tourism boost next month with the arrival of the country’s very own ‘Orient Express’. The arrival of the Belmond Grand Hibernian, the country’s first luxury overnight train, will result in a marked increase in the number of people visiting the city, and attractions such as Blarney Castle, the English…
Source: The Irish ‘Orient Express’ all set to roll into Cork
” Time Flies, Suns Rise and Shadows Fall, Love Reigns Forever over All”
This inscription brought tears to my eyes instantly when I visited the Ahakista Memorial to the Air India Disaster earlier this year. The setting is so peaceful and beautiful, yet awe inspiring. The knowledge of the grief suffered by the loved ones left behind after this Air disaster made it an emotional experience that took me totally by surprise.
To stand at the edge of the sea and look out between the mountains framing each side of Bantry peninsula feels like gazing towards eternity. The sundial faces permanently in this direction reaching out to those never recovered from the sea. More about the area and the Air India Disaster.
Source: Ahakista memorial to Air India disaster