Hey everyone, welcome to Day 6 of 30 Days Wild! The weather has been crazy today and after a pretty hard day at school, I watched the birds from the window and read my favourite wildflower book. I’m brushing up on my identification skills as I’m going to be doing some Bioblitz filming for BBC Northern Ireland at the weekend. Wild! Yikes!
I asked my dad to write today’s blog and he’s writing about some wild memories from his childhood. I did the same this evening and I was brought back to a really magical tip to the woods to collect Fungi when I was four, but that’s for another day. I hope you enjoy my dad’s blog, he is a big part of the wild in me and I have a lot to thank him (and granny) for.
I didn’t go out to find the wild today. I looked within. I wonder where it comes from? This interest in things with wings, that grow, splash, buzz, hum, swim and sing. It’s from my childhood of course. This ended officially in the mid 80s, followed by an edgy adolescence influenced by punk music, The Smiths and The Cure. It’s astounding to recall those times. We were wild! All the more free, as my parents had decided to move us in 1978 from Inner City London, Stoke Newington to a small seaside town in the North of Ireland called Warrenpoint . I was 5 years old when we left London but I still recall that we lived near some big lakes (Woodberry Down Reservoirs), and big parks (Clissold and Finsbury) and some how although we lived in a block of flats , my mum once brought back frogspawn and we watched it develop into tadpoles in an old plastic basin on the balcony, fewer and fewer remaining (as they ate each other) until one sad little froglet was left. I remember finding it motionless, statue like on a rock in the centre of the basin, I touched it’s grey, lifeless form gently. It was dead. And perhaps that was the beginning of my desire to find out how nature works. To conserve.
My Grandfather had come to London to work and was one of the many Irish labourers who helped to rebuild it after WW2. He planned to return to Ireland when he retired but sadly passed away before his plans were complete. The farm he grew up on just a little upland from Warrenpoint was still the abode of his elderly unmarried sister and brothers who had returned from England ahead of him and we visited them often in an area called Tamnaharry (Tamnach an Choirthe). Here I ran free (wild!) amongst the fields of my ancestors, singing my own songs, finding the resting Hare in the tall grass. I recall Lap wing circling in the air (“Pee weet Pee weet Pee weet was their call), diving suddenly, such beautiful birds. I recall the call of the Curlew and in Spring the Cuckoo. The Corncrake though was already becoming a folk memory, its mysterious night craking noise a story from the older generation. Their hay meadows, were changing, becoming rush pasture. I could see the fields around us being drained, reseeded and becoming bright green. But for now in Tamnaharry’s streams and drains, I found Caddis fly larvae in their little houses made of pebbles. Things of wonder. I was teaching myself, finding books and learning about nature. In Warrenpoint, we went to the shore, we crab fished ,we rockpooled. We went to Crow wood and built forts and in the evening the sky would fill with cawing roosting Rooks
(Woodberry Down Water Reservoirs are now an amazing inner city nature reserve run by the wonderful London Wildlife Trust.)
Tamnaharry by Paul McAnulty
I am only nine years old amongst my ancestors’ land,
The fields of Tamna, the green parting in the hills.
And the stream I gaze into,
Entering my memory from the feet of
the bleak, dark, brooding Mournes………
I am so young, time is not precious.
Called to my game of searching for frog, skater, caddis, worm,
Who can understand my childhood world?
The reeds shake in antipathy, the rabbit cowers from doom,
The stoat has left us bleached, cracked bones as morning rain
gently fills the mushroom.
Circles of Lapwings fill the skies,
Just it filled my old great uncle’s eyes,
Did he wonder that my memory would recall,
His sparkling eye, Jesus in the hall……..
The bubbling fire range, the hanging woollen shawl.
I am overwhelmed by Aunt Cissie’s questions,
And the white fading picture of Stephen as young man,
Seems so strange on the wall.
The questions are left- some never to be answered.
Its time to go and my mother calls.
Out into the night sky, the turning Plough,
The North star, Polaris in my head.
In twisting, twisting dreams that I take to my bed.
Strange memories of Faery, how from man they fled,
To the hills and too they say under trees,
Unknowingly ‘cept for the laughter on the breeze.
Thank you for reading