When Arthur Young, the noted agriculturalist and travel writer visited the Faithlegg area in 1776 and again in 1778 he was an enthusiastic supporter of the works of Cornelius Bolton, the elder and his younger son of the same name. One of his observations was that he had planted over 300 acres of forest and was starting to reclaim lands from the river. We know this as he put it all down in a book.
On a recent heritage ramble we walked from Cornelius the younger’s home, the present Faithlegg House Hotel. Walking through the old farmyard, we strolled down what was once a wrought iron fenced walkway lined with lime trees and then via the glen road into the woods where swathes of emerging bluebells dipped their heads in welcome.
The woods of course are now a Coillte forest, the stumps of Bolton’s forest of oaks can still be discerned in places, and the old place name, the Glazing woods, connects us back in time when the Penrose family made a product synonymous with the family in Glasshouse, Co Kilkenny, a stones throw across the River Suir. Locally it’s said the timber that fired the kiln came from Boltons woods.
Our walk took us to the outskirts of Cheekpoint and then we looped back to the Hotel via the magical salt marsh, where the Boltons once reclaimed land from the mighty Suir, but which eventually demanded it’s return. The landscape tells the story, stone quarried from the towering cliffs, carried by cart and laid out into the river, built up in time to shut out the raging tides and crashing waves. Inside the protective embankment filling of hardcore, subsoil and topsoil built up to create a verdant layer which gave more than a hundred years of productive agriculture.
It’s arrogance to assume that we can ever do anything, but borrow from nature, and sometime in the 1930’s the river came to reclaim its property. Crashing through it laid waste to the toil of humans and spread its salty liquid into the soil. Now it’s home to otters, red squirrel, pine marten and foxes, egrets, swans and ducks, winter visitors such as red shank or godwit and a foraging ground for kestrel and buzzard. Its a magical place because it is always changing, always exciting to the curious, always begging questions. It excels in autumn but throughout the year it provides a home, a meal and an escape. But it belongs to the river, and to nature, and we need to respect that.
On the day 50 visitors came, and Deena and I had to call on the services of our ever supportive friend John O’Sullivan and his faithful companion Ozzi to act as sweep. Although we prefer a smaller group where you can chat and get to know people the feedback was very positive and our friends Jean and Paul of Waterford in your Pocket made a beautiful piece of video for facebook to capture the spirit of the day. And Mark of Waterford Epic Locations was also along so that everyone can appreciate the magic of the Salt marsh via this piece of drone footage he uploaded to you tube.
The next walk will be on the May Bank Holiday Monday. Details are on the event page on Facebook and we will post updates and other snippets of information there. The walk will look at the built heritage of the area, is 2km approx and should take 1.5 hours. Appropriate foot ware for walking on farmland advised.
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