HE route is all left turns, easily followed from the map. As we proceed north, and then west, we have views of the forested slopes of the Ballyhoura Range, Caroline Mountain, Knockduv, Carron and Seefin.
On our left one km. farther along is Kilcolman National Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary. Kilcolman ‘Bog’ has been managed for nature conservation since the 1970s. It is a prime site for birdwatchers, maintained by the OPW and IWC (BirdWatch Ireland) A lane going left off the road leads to gate where a plaque notes that the land is privately owned. Visits are by permission only, telephone Mallow (022) 24200. A warden normally conducts visitors around the site. It is not, in fact, a bog but comprises reed-swamp, floating fen and open water; limestone fens are rare and threatened habitats throughout Europe. Once a lake, the water-levels are now managed for conservation using sluice gates. Thirteen species of waterbirds breed here including Shoveler ducks. Formerly, a traditional wintering ground for Greenland White Front geese, it still hosts Whooper Swans, Bewick’s Swans, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail and Pochard, and up to 1,000 Wigeon and 1,200-1,500 Teal overwinter there. In summer, dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies are seen in abundance. The site, hosting plant species absent or very rare elsewhere in Co. Cork, is of great botanical importance. It has been designated as a Specially Protected Area by the National Parks and Wildlife Service There are two observation hides on the reserve and a half-hour walk through the fen between them.
Having passed the bog, we see, overlooking it at the northern end, Kilcolman Castle, once the home of English soldier and poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). Built in medieval times by the earls of Desmond, it was confiscated by the crown and passed to Sir Philip Sidney. In 1588, having assisted in the putting down of the Desmond Rebellion, Spenser was granted the castle together with 3,000 acres. He refurbished the building and lived there for ten years. During this time, he wrote his epic poem The Faerie Queene, inspired by the Tudor conquest of Ireland and influenced by the magnificent scenery around him. He is, perhaps, best known for his line from Prothalamion “Sweet Thames run softly till I end my song.” Ewan McColl’s lyric Sweet Thames, Flow Softly , and the refrain in TS Eliot’s The Waste Land were clearly drawn from this. In 1589, his neighbour, Sir Walter Raleigh, overseer of the Plantation of Munster, insisted he came to London where Raleigh introduced him to Elizabeth I. After reading The Faerie Queene, she granted Spenser a pension of £50 a year.
In 1598, Kilcolman castle was attacked and destroyed by Irish forces under Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. Spenser managed to escape. His son rebuilt Kilcolman but it was again destroyed in 1622 and, afterwards, abandoned.
We continue north, nearer the Ballyhoura Mountains, and then south to return to our trailhead.
OS Discovery 73.
BANDON WALKING CLUB
Nov 9: Moll’s Gap, Derrygarrif, C, easy pace, 4 hrs, meet Ash Tree Bandon, 8:30 am/Tea Shop, Moll’s Gap 10 am.
UPPERCHURCH (TIPPERARY) WALKING WEEKEND
Nov 7: Torchlit walks: meet Upperchurch Village 7:30 pm.
Nov 8: (1) Upperchurch Hills, steep, experienced walkers, 18 km, 6 hrs (2) Knockalough-Red Hugh Walk, moderate hills, 6 km & 10 km, 2/3hrs, meet Upperchurch 10 am. &12:15 am.
Nov 8: Eamoin an Chnoic Walk, 8 km, 2.5 hrs, average fitness, meet Upperchurch 12:30 am.
Nov 9: Farney Castle to Upperchurch, road, field, forest, farm tracks, 15 km., 4 hrs, meet Farney Castle 11 am.
Nov 9: Hollyford-Red Hill Walk road/forest track, 18 km, 4 hrs, meet Hollyford 11 am.
Nov 9: Knocklough-Red Hugh Walk, as Nov 8.
Nov 9: Sli Eamoin an Chnoic Walk, as Nov 8.
Nov 9: Birchill Nature Trail, easy, 8km, 2.5 hrs, meet Rosmult 12:30 pm.
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