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Saturday 3 December 2016

A trip to Wexford sent me travelling down memory lane

Joe Barry

Published 08/07/2015 | 02:30

Medieval Irish dwellings have been replicated at the Irish Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig, Co Wexford
Medieval Irish dwellings have been replicated at the Irish Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig, Co Wexford

Given the good weather we are enjoying and the ever-improving standard of our guest houses and restaurants, a holiday at home in Ireland surely beats travelling abroad.

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It's a well-known phenomenon that we tend to have a soft spot for wherever we might have spent summer holidays in our childhood.

In my own case, Mulranny in Co Mayo and Enniscorthy in Co Wexford hold many happy memories. You might wonder at the inclusion of Enniscorthy but that was where my father based himself on weekly trips to purchase stall-fed cattle for resale on his stand in the Dublin Market.

While he was touring the boreens of Wexford, my brother and I were able to go fly fishing for the then plentiful sea trout in the Slaney and when our father's work was completed for the day, we would often visit the wonderful strands of Curracloe and Kilmuckridge.

There were no caravan parks then and the beaches stretched for miles with not a building or ice cream stall in sight.

Mulranny in the 1950s was a CIE Great Southern Hotel and the train stopped at the rear of the buildings there. Our father could take the train up to the market each week and return the following day while we enjoyed a few weeks of uninterrupted bliss on the beaches in that lovely locality.

I mentioned this memory of childhood holidays to a friend, a retired engineer who grew up on a small farm in West Cork.

When I said the word "holiday" he looked at me in amazement and in his broad Cork accent asked me had I no idea of how ridiculous the idea of anyone taking a holiday was when he was a child.

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Everyone, adults and children, had to work all the year round then and the concept of going anywhere for a few weeks break was simply beyond imagination.

The same man has made up for lost time however and now spends his time travelling all around Continental Europe, but his comments gave me a sharp reality check as to how things were then for the majority of people living in rural Ireland.

You don't know or think about these things however when you are eight or 10 years of age, and life stretches endlessly and happily before us.

Woodland

Nicky Cowman farms near Crossabeg in Co Wexford and we visited his 60 acres of woodland with the Irish Timber Growers Association to see how it had developed since we were last there 14 years earlier.

Nicky's woods won the 2014 RDS-Forest Service Certificate of Excellence in Production Forestry and are a credit to his management.

Approximately 21 acres of Sitka spruce were thinned in August 2014 and the remainder is approaching first thinning stage. The spruce is currently on roadside, drying and awaiting chipping.

Some of the Oak and Beech plots are now at tending stage and as ever, we disagreed happily among ourselves as to how this should be best carried out.

But there was little criticism, for Nicky is a dedicated forester and benefits greatly from his membership of the local growers' group.

For diversity and wildlife benefits he had also planted Ash, Cherry, Walnut, Spanish chestnut, Beech, Larch, Sycamore and others and his woods are now at the stage where the sale of thinnings is producing a remarkably good income.

A week later my son Peter and I were back in Wexford to collect more eucalyptus plants from D-Plant Horticulture near Enniscorthy. These are for further short rotation coppice in our woods in Meath.

The ones we had planted last year have done exceptionally well so we are hoping we can eventually establish which species suit our site best and grow these on for wood fuel use later.

Having left home early, we first called in to see the Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig where ancient dwellings have been replicated using timber, mud and thatch by local craftsman Eoin Donnelly and other members of the Coppice Foundation of Ireland.

This is an amazing place and a wonderful spot for family and school outings. The site demonstrates the living conditions of the first settlers to arrive on our shores and guides us through the evolution of building up to and including the arrival of the Anglo Normans. See inhp.com, and don't miss it!

jbarry@ independent.ie

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