During the Summer months Heather grows rapidly amongst the mountains. The three species found in my area are Ling Heather, Bell Heather and Cross-leaves Heather, all of which boast beautiful purple hues when in bloom. Up high in the Mournes and the Ring of Gullion, the Heather is widespread and lies like a deep purple blanket upon the hillside. It is truly beautiful but also shows that the mountain side it a healthy heathland. Heather grows in bog ecosystems, with peat souls and lots of water. With such a dry Summer this year, it is encouraging to see the Heather continue to flourish throughout the Mournes. A lot of hard work has been carried out to maintain the condition of the upland bogs in this area and it has been a success.
Bogs are a common sight throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom and are key to the great biodiversity found there. Along with Heather, many plants like Bog Cotton, Bilberry and Mosses will be in fluxed by insect life. On a recent hike up Slieve Binnian, I was surrounded by Bumblebees, Flies, Midgets and Butterflies. Specifically, I spotted a few Tortoiseshell Butterflies fluttering around the Heather.
Even now as the Summer is ending and the Heather begins to die off, it still bears its beauty, as it now shows off a new orange shade. This orange symbolises the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumnas the leaves of other plants and trees will start to change colour and eventually shed and fall.
Whilst Northern Ireland has experienced a dry spell for the last few weeks, there has been signs of the landscapes suffering due to this lack of rainfall. Grasses are drying up and gorse fires are occurring across the county whilst farmers are praying for a drop of rain for the sake of their livestock and crops. Now, I know well enough that living in Northern Ireland means that a drop of rain is never too far away so these issues will definitely not be long lived and farmers will soon be back to complaining about too much rain.
One thing that this spot of drought has brought is the unveiling of a landscape that has been hidden for years. I’m taking about Spelga Dam, a large reservoir settled in the Mourne Mountains of County Down. With the recent high temperatures and lack of rainfall the reservoir levels have dropped so low that an old road and bridge can now be seen. Both of which predate the dam which was built during the 1950’s and have only been seen during periods of which hardly ever occurs.
I was informed by a friend about what was happening at Spelga Dam so I knew I had to check it out, but I visited on a Sunday and that was a big mistake. I have family living close to the area so it is a place I know very well and I have never witnessed anything like it, the whole area was bunged. Everyone and their mother was out to see this famous bridge that the whole town and country was talking about. As I walked along the path, I could hear accents from all over Ireland and even spotted some lucky Americans that were treated to this sight on their holiday. Young, old and everything in between came out to see a piece of Mourne history that may never be seen again after the rain returns.
It was surprising to see how this has survived all these years, especially the bridge, although there are cracks and gaps, the structure is still pretty solid. The road and bridge was narrow, as it was probably built when a pony and trap was the primary transport in the Mourne area. I was happy enough to stray from the road a little, to get some space from the vast crowds and I found something pretty special. Lined along either side of the river that the bridge crossed over was tree stumps. This truly amazed me. I took more photos of these than I did the bridge. These trees were sacrificed to the reservoir just like the bridge, but they were cut down for lumber before hand. I find them so interesting as over the years the water has washed away the soil and mud to reveal the tree roots. They looked like driftwood really, but they were still connected to the ground. Its surreal to think that they have been cut away at, abandoned and submerged in water for about 60 years but they are still standing. Seeing the stumps made me imagine the landscape that existed before the dam. I pictured a quaint little river and a road with filled with horse ridden carriages/ traps and I’m sure the banks of the river was a great spot for a picnic for the locals.
I hope to visit Spelga again before the road, bridge and tree stumps vanish but hopefully there won’t be as many people next time. I was honestly in disbelief when I got stuck in a traffic jam when leaving.
If you are lucky enough to live close to or have visited the seaside town of Warrenpoint the above image is probably very familiar to you. This is The Flagstaff viewpoint which overlooks all of Carlingford Lough and Warrenpoint. For me, it is the most iconic view of my local area as I have grown up with Flagstaff paintings on my walls.
As it is an image that has been replicated rigorously I haven’t tried to photograph it before as I didn’t think it was possible to capture anything different to those before me. However, on this morning I ventured out to the viewpoint because Storm Hector was in full force and I thought that this might make for an interesting view from The Flagstaff. So of course, with weather warnings on the news I expected dark grey heavy skies over Carlingford Lough, but I was wrong. As I drove the narrow, winding, rising road towards my destination, the clouds broke and that amazing Irish sunshine came out. And yes, I am a typical Irish girl, so I got very excited because our sunshine never lasts too long so I knew I had to make the most if it.
When I reached the viewpoint, it was simply breath-taking, and what made it more special was that I was completely alone. I find it better to experience places when alone to really take it all in, so I was very lucky this time. Instantly I forgot about why I came there, I just wanted to run to the highest point to see as far and wide as possible. Although it was a similar view to what I have always seen, everything seemed different, the colours that I could see were more vivid. The blues were somehow bluer and the greens greener and I watched as the sea changed colours as the shadows of the clouds passed over. I love photography because a photo can give me so much inspiration but I am very glad that in this case I went to experience this view first hand and I found it extremely serene and beautiful.
One thing I learnt this day was that when it comes to Ireland the weather is never going to do what you want it to do!!