Fuchsia lights up countryside

GLORIOUS fuchsia, so much part of the landscape of West Cork and Kerry, seems to be growing in greater profusion than ever this year, as anyone travelling those areas can testify.

This is probably due to all the wet and quite warm weather we’ve been having.

The fuchsia’s pink, purple and reddish colour the ditches of the south-west from July to October, lighting up the countryside. The impact of the fuchsia really came home during a recent walk along roads in the northern side of the Dingle Peninsula, from the Maharees, through Fermoyle Beach and into Cloghane.

By today’s standards, the roads around Cloghane are relatively quiet and are a joy to walk on, enhanced by ample hedgerows, with lots of fuchsia. This side of the peninsula is not nearly as well known as that on the other side of the Conor Pass, where Dingle town itself and points further west, such as Ballyferriter, Ventry and Dunquin are much frequented by visitors.

The Cloghane and Brandon areas, at the foot of Mount Brandon, are much quieter and are a haven for hill-walkers, especially. One of the organisers of a local walking festival, Eoghan Ó Loinsigh of Cumann Sléibhteoireachta Chorca Dhuibhne, is not exaggerating when he says some of the best hill-walking available anywhere is in the area.

The same, of course, could be said for West Cork where walks continue to be developed. The Sheep’s Head Peninsula and Drimoleague are examples. Cleverly, people in West Cork are also using the fuchsia as a brand for artisan foods, crafts and tourist attractions.

In her book, Wildflowers of Ireland, Zoe Devlin says fuchsia is a deciduous shrub which favours coastal locations and rocky ground. She graphically describes the flowers as “bell-shaped and have four violet petals which are surrounded by four large, pointed red sepals, rather like a ballerina with a crimson skirt, purple petticoat and long, long, slightly uneven legs”.

This is not a native plant, she explains, but the result of planted hedges which have sent out their “escapes”. Neither is it regarded as an alien species in the same way as Himalayan Balsam, or Japanese Knotweed.

Walking amidst the fuchsia and neat farmhouses around Cloghane, there’s also a lot of archaeology and history to be explored — a number warplanes crashed on Mount Brandon and other parts of the peninsula during the Second World War.

This truly rural area has an enveloping sense of calm about it. Bliss.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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