Hidden gems and forbidden ground – things I’ve seen walking in 2012
A year ago this week, I mentioned here that I had started to walk regularly as part of a pathway back to fitness.
My approach to this was to be fairly utilitarian – using walking as a means to fitness and sometimes a means of transport. My friend Chris who commented encouragingly on my efforts suggested that walking might introduce me to things I’d never seen before, but I didn’t really accept that. After all, most of my walking would be in Dublin or other places I already knew well, and what would there be to see that I’ve not already seen?
I also commented in my post, mindful of how new year efforts often peter out, that we would see at the end of the year if I managed to continue the daily walks. Well I did, barring a couple of weeks here and there when I was caught up in some pressing domestic matters.
Perhaps the best way to update you on my progress in the past 12 months, and to illustrate how wrong I was – the walks quickly became as much about discovery as utility – is to share some of the interesting things I stumbled across over the last 12 months (bearing in mind that what is interesting to me might not qualify as interesting to everyone!)
Included below are pictures of things taken only on my walks – not my day to day life – which otherwise would have been unseen by me.)
All of these pictures can be viewed in larger, high-res detail by clicking on the photo.
So there we have it, a few of the the interesting sights I would not have seen if I hadn’t kept up walking throughout 2012.
Below are my stats for the year from the wonderful “Walkmeter” app.
I hope to do even better in 2013. Steve
Steve digs out his photos of the construction of South Dublin’s fashionable (and flooded) mall, and remembers what it was they built on top of . .
The dramatic scenes of water bursting into the upmarket Dundrum Town Centre mall were some of the defining images of the Dublin floods of October 2011, and the front page picture from todays Irish Times shows how badly the centre has been affected. Since its opening six years ago it has been my favourite of the Dublin suburban shopping centres, but its devastation by floods does not surprise me as a local with intimate knowledge of the grography that it replaced.
It could be, in fact, a perfect example of of the boom years building frenzy taken to its logical consequences, as the building of hundreds of apartments close by in the following years helped seal its fate.
The village of Dundrum has always perched on a slope at the bottom end of a narrow valley, with a good-sized stream (or small river) running through it. Various complexes lined the high ground on one side of the valley – the old PYE Television factory, later industrial estate, the 1970s original Dundrum Shopping Centre, and the old H Williams store at the southern end (which became Super Crazy Prices, and then Tesco). But the bottom of the valley and the river was always left pretty much wild, and I used to roam along its length in my childhood years, fancying myself as a fearless explorer as I waded upstream and forced my way through undergrowth.
In more recent years, as I made my way to work on a sluggish 48A in 2000 and 2001, the glimpse of the stream surrounded by green land as we crossed over the valley on the Ballinteer Road bridge just before the crossroads always gave a little glimpse of forgotten rural idyll. Until the day the bulldozers moved in, and they started building.
Here is a shot I took sometime during 2001 or 2002 which shows both Dundrum Town Centre and the Dundrum Bypass under construction. The picture is taken from a temporary pedestrian bridge over the valley errected during the period when Ballinteer Road was closed to traffic as a new, wider road bridge was built complete with car-park ramp downwards into the centre.
On the left is where Dundrum Town Centre now stands, and you can see the spot where the underground car-parks and delivery section join the bypass.
The valley floor has been leveled, and the stream boxed in, ready to be buried underneath the new development in a culvert.
When this photo was taken, it had been dry for a good period, and the stream was low, however it often ran much higher in wet periods. Nevertheless, the culvert once roofed would seem more than proof against even a four or fivefold increase in flow during very rainy periods.
However, in the years following the completion of the centre, hundreds if not thousands of apartments in dozens of new developments were built upstream, with much of the run-off from all these acres of new concrete flowing into the stream or the local drainage system. The huge flow of water from the Ticknock Hill development alone can be seen during wet periods cascading down a series of steps beside the M50 junction, and into the watercourse of this stream. Plus, all of the green land that lay undisturbed in this little valley is now built over, no longer able to absorb rainfall and run-off.
In the exceptional rainfall of the last 24 hours, when a months rain fell in a day, once the culvert was at full capacity, where else could the water go?
I’m not saying the planners failed here, this is an exceptional event, but perhaps, when we have building booms in future, we should be looking at things like runoff in the context of what else will be built in the area later, and planning for “once in 80 year” events.
Yes it will cost. But as much as the damage that now needs to be made good?
I had an hour to spare on Saturday, unexpectedly, and I used it to wander out the North Bull Wall past Dollymount Strand and into the bay. The view from there is urban, across the port to the longer South Wall, and then beyond it to the south city and the Dublin Mountains, but it’s lovely all the same. I’ve biked and walked and climbed over every inch of that city and those hills in my childhood, and they are as much a part of me as my DNA.
It was a typical “Dublin Day” on Saturday – overcast but not wet, a fresh breeze from the southwest scudding the multitude of low-hanging clouds across the landscape, just scraping the hilltops. It was cool without being cold, and the day held enough promise of rain to deter the noisy crowds who normally throng the beach without actually releasing any rain.
The sea, that sky, those hills . . I can remember a thousand Dublin days just like it while growing up.
I found a little rock to sit on and just drank all this in for a long time, relishing a moment of passive enjoyment of place which I indulge in far to rarely these days. It was good for recharging the soul.
I drive myself too fast to do too many things these days, and forget sometimes to stop and enjoy the smell or the roses, the kiss of the rain on my cheek. A fulltime and senior job in the IT world with much pressure, a book to be written, another half done, short stories and poems bubbling up as well, two radio shows to be planned and recorded each week, and several other projects on the boil. I’m never bored, and I love it, but all the same . . I musn’t forget to feed my soul as well as my career(s).
All those years ago, as a schoolboy, I remember enjoying the poetry of Robert Frost. Two poems in particular stuck in my mind through adulthood.
“The Road Not Taken” was my favourite, and was both a guide to my choices and a description of my life for many years, and I hope, still now.
“But I, I took the road less travelled by
And that has made all the difference”
But it is another poem of Frosts that comes into my mind much more frequently these days: “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening“
As a boy I loved it for its description of dark snowy woods, ripe for exploration, and wondered why the adult, who so obviously found them allureing, yet chose not to tarry.
But now, in a busy life, I find myself thinking of that last verse much more often, in the full understanding of the adult’s responsibilities that force him to cut short his simple pleasure and drive on.
As I sit there looking across the bay at those could-capped hills and the domains of my childhood, I resolve to try to take more “time out” for myself and try to make just a bit of space in a busy world for watching snowy woods.
But not now. There is a man I have to meet at 1pm in East Wall, and then its off to Loughlinstown where I have several hours work awaiting me.
I get up to walk back to the car, happy that I have just gifted myself a lovely September moment of pleasure.
I’d like to stay longer, but I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
Looking back, I can’t recall another year in my life when I have lived as vividly as I did in 2010.
Despite 2010 being bleak economically and politically both home in Ireland and pretty much everywhere else in the west, despite long hours and stress in various workplaces, despite some non-threatening but quite inconveniencing medical blips, despite my car heater dying just in time for the coldest December since records began . . 2010 was a year in which I really lived, in which old emotions were reawakened, and new ones discovered, and my store of life experience grew more than it has done in a long time.
I had set myself a challenge at the end of 2009 to start doing things I had never done before, to open myself to new experiences beyond my comfort zone. And while I didn’t get to the arbitrary goal of “10 things” during the year, I reached 5, two of which were experiences that profoundly moved or enriched me, and a third which brought back childhood memories entwined in a futuristic setting.
Not all of the great things that happened to me during the year were as a result of this self-challenge, but perhaps the attitude it engendered in me of being more open filtered through to other things too.
So what made my year?
Well, some unique experiences came about as i sought to push myself into new things.
Taking part in the Bristol Balloon Fiesta was certainly a “high” point of the year, and my first ever hot-air balloon flight, as part of a mass ascent of more than 80 balloons within an hour at dawn, was a unique and moving experience, so much so that I felt to write about it in purely descriptive journalistic terms would be . . to miss some indefinable element of the experience.
Twisting it in my mind, it instead inspired me to write a short story “A Bristol Awakening” that is neither fact nor fiction, but also both. A very intimate story, it has been received well at a number of public readings, especially by women, and I am hoping to see it published in 2011.
Slightly more down to earth, though involving a different sort of (non) flying, as one of my challenges I put myself forward to the Dublin Airport Authority to be one of the special testers of the new Terminal 2 before it opened. Apart from fulfilling my curiosity about the new building, and allowing me a sneak peek at new transport infrastructure, which I’ve always been interested in, the experience reminded me of aspects of my past that I had long forgotten, and also gave me a chance to get my own back on customs, just for once. You can read the details in my post Mr. Beagle Goes To London (Not).
Something I have never wanted to do, and felt I would always avoid, enriched my life and gave me a wonderful experience when i tried it as part of the “going outside my comfort zone” element of my 10-things challenge. A visit to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, accompanied by a an impossibly glamourous companion, opened a whole new world of experience, sight, sound, and stimulation to me. I enjoyed it more than I could possibly have imagined, and do intend to write up the experience here at a later date.
Pushing myself outside my comfort zone, doing what I would not normally consider doing was one of the elements i wanted to achieve in drawing up my list of 10 things, and I am so very glad I did this.
As the year comes to an end, I’ve so far ticked off 5 things, and have more still in planning, with some space left on the list for spontenaity.
So 2011 should continue in similar vein, and to be honest, when I reach 10, why stop there?
Of course, there were other things which made 2010 an exceptional year for me, some planned, others unexpected.
A couple of things that really moved me were radio related, and did not come about as a result of my challenge list.
Going in March to Ramsgate to do a reading from Shiprocked for the benefit of the RNLI, brought me face to face with the men who came to my rescue on one of the darkest days of my life, 19 years earlier.
Meeting the crew of the lifeboat who battled through a Force 10 NE to come to our aid when the Caroline ship was aground on the Goodwin Sands was a profoundly humbling experience, all the more so because of the warmth of the welcome I received, and the support they showed for Caroline despite having been put through hell that morning and nearly losing their own lives on account of our stubborn decision to stay on board the apparently doomed vessel.
I won’t forget the men of the Ramsgate Lifeboat, and will be making another fundraising trip to see them in November 2011, on the 20th anniversary of the grounding.
The same weekend I revisited the Ross Revenge for the first time in many years, and was invited to join the current-day lineup of Caroline on satellite, which, despite the many years of my absence, felt like a real homecoming.
(I can be heard on Caroline every Monday 2-4pm, Sky Digital Ch.0199 and via RadioCaroline.co.uk )
Another emotional moment came about in May, after I had been invited to join the crew of the Dutch station Radio Seagull, which was celebrating a month long offshore broadcast, 8 miles of the coast of Friesland.
There were many memories stirred by being offshore for the first time since 1991, though the most intense of these was to come on me unexpectedly.
The week I spent at sea with Radio Seagull was bliss, with old memories awoken, and new friends and new memories made at every moment of each day. (See the posts OFFSHORE AGAIN and Seagull Day 1 and More Seagull Pictures and Clear White Light and A Ferry Large Tender as well as Seagull Offshore – The Pictures for the week as I blogged it at the time)
But the most vivid experience of that week came for me, unexpectedly, in the middle of the night and alone, and had nothing to do with the radio side of the visit. Being given the job of staying up on watch overnight for one of the nights, while usually regarded a something of a chore, for me brought both fear and redemption, as I was finally able to lay to rest the ghosts of what had happened on the Caroline ship, many years earlier, when we drifted, unheeding, onto the deadly Goodwin Sands.
For all that the storm in 1991 had been so fierce, and our ship so run down and unable to navigate that we could not have resisted being swept onto the Goodwin Sands even if we had realised earlier that our anchor chain had broken, I had carried with me these many years a nagging sliver guilt that I should have known, should have been more alert, should have done better.
Now, here I was again, and for the first time since that fateful night, entrusted to watch over a ship at anchor at sea, and in the grips of bad weather too. I was both siezed with fear that it would all go terribly wrong on my watch, and grateful for the chance to prove myself dilligent and keep the most careful of watches. I checked our position regularly, I did a full round of the ship and checked the anchoring cables every hour, I saw us safely through to dawn, and I slayed a dragon that had slumbered in a corner of my mind for many years.
The week was over too soon, but I was delighted to be asked to join the staff of Radio Seagull and to contribute a weekly show from my own studio in Dublin, with my own choice of music – a mix of new and alternative music as well as classic rock, with a bit of blues and soul mixed in. Presenting these shows on Seagull have been an immensely satisfying experience for me.
(I can be heard 7-9 am and pm each Saturday, on 1602Khz MW in The Netherlands, and worldwide at RadioSeagull.com )
Phantom 105.2 in Dublin also continued to be a source of great enjoyment for me, and though I had to move away from regular weekend shows towards the end of the year due to domestic commitments, the station and its staff still feels like an extended family for me, and keeps me informed on new music trends.
There were lots of mini high points in 2010 – from an unexpectedly beautiful sunrise encountered one morning on my way to work, to, finally after all my years on this earth, a proper White Christmas.
There was also another experience, quite unexpected, which made me feel like a teenager again, one unremarkable Saturday afternoon at a railway station in an unremarkable British city . . but I won’t go into that one here!
Suffice to say that, for me at least, 2010 has been a year in which i started living and growing anew, despite being at an age where comfort and stagnation would be more usual.
May 2011 have more of the same . . and new . . for me . . and you.
Happy New Year
Dundrum Town Centre is probably one of the busiest, and certainly one of the more upmarket, shopping centres in the Greater Dublin Area.
It’s busy at any time of year, but just before Christmas the queues of cars to get in – and out – can be legendary. This post-Christmas week can be almost as busy, with the sales on, and this year in particular as people catch up on retail therapy avoided when travel was difficult during the big chill.
I’m not a big shopper myself, and I tend to avoid crowded streets and malls at these times, and yet Dundrum is one place that I never mind coming to, no matter how busy, and never leave without an uplifting of the soul.It’s not the view of the mountains from the upper-level car-park (though that helps) it’s not the fact that my retailers of choice – Hughes & Hughes, Easons, Marks & Spencer & HMV are all clustered fairly close to each other, though that helps too.
It’s the little unintended quirks in the machinery of modern consumerism that give me a twinkle in the eye.
Firstly, I love the way the car park levels are numbered. You start at ground level, at level 3, and go down to 2M (mezzanine level), then 2, then 1M, then 1 and then -1. Yes, that’s right. Minus 1.
Instead of having a level 0, or starting the numbering at 4, here we have a multi-story car park that utilises both positive and negative numbers. it really appeals to the numbers geek in me!
Then, tucked away in a corner not far from the lower level of Marks & Spencer we have . . the Optimist/Pessimist Lift.
That’s not the official name of course. It doesn’t have a name, it’s just a simple one hop elevator in a distant corner of a very large complex. I doubt that there is any other human being who boards this lift and sees it the way I see it, and views the choices the way I do.
But what other name could you possible give to a lift which presents you with one simple choice of 1 or -1 ?
And then, after I’ve made my choice (always optimism, as I only use the lift to go up, never down), and after I’ve battled the crowds and done my shopping, when the time comes to leave, I know that I can rely on the car-park payment machine to restore my faith in the future, to tell me that the future can be better than the past if only I make the effort . .
OK, so I know it is only trying to tell me that I can use a banknote, and get the difference back with coins.
But I never fail to smile when I see the way that they have worded this, and I leave the centre with some hope in my soul.
“Change is possible“
Happy New Year!
I was down at my favorite location in Dublin docklands, the Great South Wall, walking my friends Oran and Sarah and their three dogs on Friday evening.
It had been an exceptionally sunny day, and within seconds of our arrival a wall of sea mist came rolling in towards us, blanketing the bottom of the Pigeon House towers, blotting our view of the bay, and muffling and distorting the sounds of nearby shipping.
We watched the Irish Ferries Ulysses creep out of the port at quarter speed, a grey mass almost impossible to perceive against a swirling grey background, sounding its foghorn every minute as it shared the narrow channel with a cargo ferry creeping in the other direction.
A new twist on one of my most loved places.