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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Magic Of Church Glen

I had some reservations about going to Church Glen Forest in Co. Wicklow as it was completely unknown. I did understate my own promotion and invitation of others to join me in case it disappointed...

I had read reviews of it being a beautiful place to some negative comments about lack of access, difficult to walk and boring. Parking seemed unsure. I looked up old maps, used the Google Street View service and Googled up pics that others had taken, but all of this was very limiting.

I tried to find out who owned this forest. Coillte do not, Wildlife and Heritage do not. At a guess this is Church of Ireland land.

Anyway, for all of my concerns, prejudgements and caution ... Church Glen turned out to be one of the most magical woodlands I have been to in Ireland. The beauty in places is excelling.

The main trees here are beeches and oaks with very healthy rowans, hawthorns, chestnuts, larch, a few birch, sycamore, very few hazels, pines that I wonder what species they are ... but eventually this forest merges into a regular Coillte monoculture sitka plantation.

I suggested we meet at the church as I was not sure of the parking here, but there are various parking spots. Surprisingly, ot maybe not, the church is up for sale, but I did not get a picture of the For Sale sign.


We pondered where to enter the forest.


I had read that access was very limited but it turned out there were a couple of ancient stone styles, a couple of modern wooden ones, and a wide gate. Many choices of how to enter and leave this forest.


We chose a wooden style and followed a dainty pathway through beeches to a main wide forest road.


We followed this viewing and being awestruck at the multi mini waterfalls in the river below. Not much water flowing after this dry summer, though.


Eventually, sooner than I expected, we came to an ornate bridge that crossed the river.


I remembered that on one of the hiking maps it suggested walking back from here, and its map showed a wide path to do this. Another review also said the return path is tricky ... well that was correct.


Before attempting the return path we were attracted to some curved cut granite on the ground to serve as seating for a camp, ritual, or maybe even poetry reading fire. It looked like these are removed stones from an earlier bridge here.


So we shared some poems, songs and stories here.


Millie from Argentina, who asked not to be photographed or videoed here, has a beautiful voice :-)

Also by here, a sitka spruce showing how beautiful this tree can be when given space and allowed to be free.


We attempted the 'tricky path' back, and the ferns just got higher and higher.


... and eventually this became a giant bed of nettles just as high, so we retreated to the riverside again, and the only retreat was to cross it  ...


... which we did quite well :-)


But, over on this side we also have a narrow path, ferns, nettles and path disappearing so it was a retreat back to the path we had first come along. There was a lovely Pine Tree with cones on the way back up to the track though. Is this an elusive Irish Pine, probably Scottish Pine ... but I wonder as Scottish Pines I have seen have longer more pointed cones?


Not far along the track we detoured back down to the riverside


... and it is just incredibly beautiful here.


After some time perusing and being mindful here we returned to the cars, picked up picnic supplies and headed for a lovely picnic spot further down river. This was a cozy dry grass spot accompanied by the bubbling river passing.


Yes, pretty here two. Mary saw an otter cross near here as we were eating. She also crossed the river again to seek a fairy ring we had seen on old maps ... but, alas, did not find it this time.


The final quest of our walk today, after the picnic, was to discover where the river meets the bigger river Liffey, which is here ...


Yes, the River Liffey was very empty. Not much for Guinness production there :-)


This was a walk afternoon I just did not want to end. The beauty and peace here was spectacular, and the company to share this very special too.

Do discover Church Glen, Cloghleagh, on the windy road between Kilbride and Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains. I look forward to a return next year, and being with the people who come here too.

Here is the Church Glen location ...


View Church Glen, Cloghleach, Co. Wicklow in a larger map


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