RECENTLY created (2013) this walk shows how a stretch of old, neglected woodland can become a recreational asset for locals and visitors.
It deserves our support and appreciation. Local people, backed by the Forestry Service’s NeighbourWood Scheme, Cork County Council, the Gwendolyn Barry Trust and Drinagh Co-op, were responsible for the initiative.
We start at the car park. An information board illustrates nearby historic sites. There are the ruins of a flax mill across the road. Flax growing was once important in West Cork, the stalks sunk in a pond to rot so that the fibres, for making linen, could be extracted.
The name Droumillihy or Drom Oilche refers to the sandstone ridge supporting the forest, and rising to 80m. The site has been wooded for over 300 years, when the land became the property of William Morris, a Cromwellian soldier. Nearby Castle Salem was a Morris tower-house and, in the wood, a single wall remains of Cellmount, a fortified house.
The loop begins with a wide, limestone-flagged path with trees on all sides. We shortly reach the first of the information posts sited along the way. These providing a useful education on the world about us. Here, we learn that beeches were introduced to Ireland by the Normans. This signage is ingenious, unobtrusive, weatherproof and durable — strong, perspex information plaques swinging on a pivot like a railway signal from their housing inside stout, square wooden posts.
Reaching a T-junction after a short climb, we turn right; red arrows direct us throughout the route; at the next T-junction we go right again. The path, climbing gently, is wide, made for the earth movers that made the way. Beyond a broad area, edged with spoil already colonised by gorse, we enter a narrow path, with gorse, honeysuckle and bracken alongside. Near here was the home of Molly-and-Jack-the-Woods, a brother and sister who lived there all their lives; my wife would pass it as a small child taking a shortcut from her father’s farm to the shop at Cononagh.
Holly is ubiquitous in the understory; a signboard tells us that holly can live for 150 years and only the female tree bears red berries. Soon we are deep in the woods.
Whortleberry shrubs edge the path, and hazel, dead straight and gleaming silver. Multitrunked laurels grow to 30ft.
This time of year bluebells carpet the forest-floor, dramatic when shafts of sunlight penetrate the canopy. The low light and the high ground on our right, with low cliffs blanketed in thick moss, and shallow caves, makes this a suitably spooky spot for children where dragons or fairies might suddenly appear.
We go downhill and pass tall, isolated trees; tall, slim trees are characteristic of this wood. We pass the remains of old walls, part of Cellmount, seat of William Morris., no doubt lovely in its time with the fields in front reaching down to the Roury River. A little distance beyond we can hear its flow.
The route, now uphill between rising ground, is one of the loveliest spots on the walk.
We reach a 4-cross paths and are directed straight ahead. A diversion 100m right takes us to a curve and views of gorse-covered hills. Returning, we continue downhill to the Tjunction, and again down to the trailhead where we began.
Start point: Clearly-signposted car park off the N71, 6kms (approx) west of Rosscarbery and 2km east of Leap.
Distance (and time): 1.6km — a leisurely hour with a 35m climb.
A lovely loop for all the family. Fine paths and a wealth of flora and fauna. A longer walk is a loop of The Warren start at the beach car park, reached via the road at the eastern end of the causeway at Rosscarbery.
Map: OS Number 89
*For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
DUNMORE EAST RAMBLING WEEKEND (www.dunmorewalks.com/walks.asp) Entry fee €10 per walk or €25 for three All walks start at The Strand Inn, Dunmore East.
June 8: 10.15 The Cliff Walk, 8 kms 3hrs easy 11.00 Woodstown Beach to Passage East 5 km, 2.5 hours, easy; 11.45: Saleens Beach to Brownstown Head, 3.5 hours, 11 km moderate; 14.30: Bothar na Mná Gorm, Woodstown, 10 km, 3hrs, moderate; 14.30 Passage East to Cheekpoint, 12 km, 3.5 hrs, moderate.
June 9: 09.00 Dunmore East to Ballymacaw, 10 km, 3.5 hrs, moderate; 09.00 Bothar na Mná Gorm, Woodstown, 10 km, 3 hrs, moderate; 09.00 Passage East to Cheekpoint, 12 km, 3.5 hrs, moderate; 10.00 Dunmore East Cliff Walk, 8 km, 2.5 hrs, easy; 14.00 Saleens Beach to Brownstown Head, 3.5 hrs, 11 km moderate.
CONNEMARA FOUR SEASONS WALKING FESTIVAL (JUN 7 — 9)