A mag­i­cal bay where be­ing there is enough

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

IT’S that time of the year, three weeks gone and I’ve not been to Ire­land yet; more specif­i­cally, Con­nemara in the far, far, West of Gal­way, that mag­i­cal place where, ‘Be­ing there, is enough’.

The place hooked me from day one, and un­til my last breath there will be an un­seen and un­heard call­ing, per­haps a lit­tle like the voice heard by mi­grat­ing geese, and it says: “See you on Dog’s Bay.”

I’ve lost count of the num­ber of peo­ple I have taken to sam­ple the de­lights of this arc of white sand, al­ways fol­lowed by a good lunch at O’Dowd’s in vil­lage of Round­stone, the do­main of one Roy Green and his fam­ily; chowder to die for, and Guin­ness to live for.

The beauty of tak­ing some­one else to th­ese spe­cial places is that you can ex­pe­ri­ence it all again for the first time in their eyes as they light up with de­light, and no amount of de­scrip­tion be­fore you ar­rive can pre­pare you for Dog’s Bay, not least be­cause al­most with­out fail some­thing new hap­pens each time, so it’s al­ways a dou­ble-hit for me.

I’ll give you my three best mo­ments on the Bay, and then you’ll need to go and ex­pe­ri­ence your own; my chil­dren’s faces when they first saw the place, sander­lings are up there too, and I might strug­gle to pick three, rather like you might when at­tempt­ing to pick your favourite songs, but here goes, and in no par­tic­u­lar or­der.

On the far side of the Bay, over my right shoul­der and hid­den in the shift­ing dune, is a shell mid­den, the left-over fire­place of a group of Ne­olithic shore­wan­der­ers who stopped off here 7,000 years ago.

The mid­den, a grey strata in the white sand, is sim­ply the ashes from a fire over which were cooked all man­ner of seafood, in­clud­ing mus­sels and the very chewy limpets; I just loved the no­tion that, if you touched one of the dis­carded shells which be­come vis­i­ble af­ter a storm, the last per­son to han­dle the shell was a stone-age man or woman. Sev­eral years ago while show­ing a friend this mid­den I saw what ap­peared to be a shiny stone emerg­ing from the sand. On in­ves­ti­ga­tion it turned out to be the knuckle-end of a cow’s leg bone. Not much to shout about one may think, how­ever, it was pos­si­ble to see where the bone had been smashed to al­low ac­cess to the nu­tri­tious mar­row, maybe five, six or even seven thou­sand years ago. What makes this find even more ex­cit­ing is that, the bone comes from the time when our an­ces­tors were be­gin­ning to do­mes­ti­cate farm an­i­mals. This meal could have been pre­pared by the first live­stock farm­ers in Ire­land.

Al­though the brown hare has now been in­tro­duced to Ire­land, they have their own dis­tinct species of moun­tain hare, which is dif­fer­ent to the UK moun­tain or blue hare, as it does not change to white dur­ing the win­ter, and be­sides ‘dif­fer­ent’ is the op­er­a­tive word. On the far side of Dog’s Bay, and in­deed be­yond the other stretch of white beach im­me­di­ately over the dunes, Gor­teen Strand, there is a small penin­su­lar which is al­most cut off from the main­land and I be­lieve that the hares here, have de­vel­oped their own dark, al­most burnt red­dy­choco­late colour on the back, some al­most with a black swathe the length of the spine. When they get up and make off across the close-cropped machair, it’s a won­der­ful sight to be­hold.

And lastly for to­day, and by no means least, there was the time when I called at the bay on my way home, a sort of ‘good-bye for now visit’. I was alone and just about to drop my seat back for a kip when a move­ment above the wa­ter caught my eye. It was a breach­ing bot­tle-nosed dol­phin, soon joined by six or seven more and I was treated to an amaz­ing show of ac­ro­bat­ics, and also what can only be de­scribed as ‘play’, as two of the dol­phins took it in turns to flick large flat-fish up in the air with the beaks and tail fins.

Some peo­ple go to Black­pool ev­ery year for 40 years, and there’s noth­ing wrong with that, but for me, it’s Dog’s Bay.

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

●● On Dog’s Bay, Con­nemara, on the west coast of Ire­land

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