Ireland day 0082. Sunday 19 December 2021- Vartry

Ireland day 0082. Sunday 19 December 2021- Vartry
Today’s summary Early start for Val to go to the airport to fly back to UK for Xmas; I got a lift from a DWC friend and went for a Club walk round Vartry reservoir, near Roundwood
Today’s weather Cool and foggy up at Roundwood.   Hoar frost on some trees.   A bit of watery sun but no rain.   About 4C
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Today’s overview location
(the red cross in a circle shows where Val and I are at the moment)
Close-up location
(Click button below to download a GPX of today’s walk):
Vartry DWC

I have to admit, yesterday I wasn’t in a very good mood.   I hadn’t slept particularly well the night before, so I think I rather got out of bed the wrong side.   Then I made the mistake of reading too many news bulletins which compounded my ill humour by endlessly foretelling the miseries and deprivations that our friend omicron will be unleashing on the world over the festive season.   The bright sunshine and fresh air down by the sea had raised my spirits a bit so I resolved to go to bed earlier to get some more sleep, and to restrict my news intake to just one or two bulletins per day.

So I got up feeling considerably more cheerful this morning, fully intending to accompany Val on the bus to the airport for her early flight to London.   She is going to spend the Christmas period with family in the UK and I will be joining her on Wednesday.   But just as I was having a cup of tea and preparing to depart, I got a text from a friend in the Dublin Walking Club asking if I’d like a lift to today’s walk from Roundwood, in the Wicklow Hills to the south of Dublin.

I’d previously ruled out going as it’s hard to get there by public transport.  But an offer of a lift was too good to refuse and as Val was happy make her way to the airport on her own, I gratefully accepted and hastily re-made my plans for the day.   I cobbled together a packed lunch from the bits we had in the fridge, then headed out to wait for my lift as Val waited for the bus.   With this unexpected opportunity, my mood transformation was complete.  The black cloud that had been hovering over me yesterday had totally dispersed.

I’m pleased to report that we both safely made it to our destinations on schedule – Val to London and me to Roundwood (in fact she was probably in the UK before I made it the 50 miles / 80km down the road here in Ireland).

My destination today was the Vartry Reservoir.   There are in fact two reservoirs in the Vartry valley.  The lower one, which we circumnavigated today, was built in the 1860s and the upper one – which is separated from the lower by a dam – arrived some 50 years later.  The dams are connected to a water treatment plant which supplies fresh water to Dublin via 32km / 20 miles of tunnels and iron pipes.   Prior to the dams’ construction, cholera and other waterborne diseases were a major problem in the capital city.

Getting out of the car at the Vartry dam car park, I immediately noticed how much colder it was than in Malahide.   There was a thick mist and the car thermometer read just 4C.   In fact a little further up the hill, above the fog, there had been hoar frost on the fields and trees and, higher still, ribbons of snow were still visible on the upper slopes of Djouce mountain.

The walk was an easy anticlockwise canter around the shoreline path – which in fact also extends round the perimeter of the upper reservoir too, though a lack of daylight prohibited including that in today’s itinerary.   But we had plenty of time to explore the interesting features of the shoreline – the architecture of the reservoir infrastructure and some of the historic monuments including the Bullaun stone pictured below.   And also of course plenty of time for chatting, too.

After a brief lunch stop, we returned via the western shore of the lake and at the end spoke to a waterboard official who was working at the dam this afternoon.   He said that water levels were unusually low for the time of year – which concurs with my observation that it hasn’t been anything like as wet as I thought it would be, since we arrived here in Ireland.  He gloomily forecast a drought over the summer, as if dealing with the plague wasn’t already sufficient affliction to be getting on with.   But he also said that leakage was a big problem – as much as 25% of the water is wasted through leaks.   So money is currently being spent on repairs as a potentially easier remedy to water shortages than more controversial schemes such as plan to extract water from the river Shannon, some 120km / 75 miles to the west.

We had finished the walk by about about 3pm but, such was the misty gloom and the proximity to the solstice, that dark was already falling by the time we got to the cars.   So goodbyes and Christmas wishes were exchanged, and we headed off back to Dublin.

That was probably my last outing with the Dublin Walking Club for 2021, and I must say it’s been an excellent introduction to the wonderful countryside and people of Ireland.   I’m very much looking forward to next year’s programme (especially if by then we have a car…) but now I need to turn to more practical matters – i.e. reheating the pumpkin for dinner.  This will be the third night in a row that pumpkin has featured on the menu but I reckon I’ve still got at least another two nights after tonight to go before it’s finished.   But it was a gift horse and we simply cannot afford to look it in the mouth!


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

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Setting out into the mist across the dam at the southern end of the lower Vartry reservoir Very grand, if slightly Hitchcock-esque.  The reservoir manager’s house
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Curious sign on the reservoir-side path.   Had to follow the sign to find out what it was pointing to… …this is the Bullaun stone the sign was pointing out.   The word Bullaun comes from the Irish “bullán” which means bowl.   The precise origin of Bullaun stones isn’t clear but they are probably rocks with impressions naturally carved in them by water or pebbles.   These impressions may have been enlarged by human intervention.   Some authorities claim they were used in ceremonies for “curing” or “cursing” people as recently as early Christian times but that the indentations themselves could date back to the Neolithic period (i.e. immediately after the last Ice Age).  Others say they are slightly more recent and were used for grinding corn.   We may never know for sure.   Both might be right.  They are not unique to Ireland, though, and are also found in other Celtic sites in Scotland, Cornwall, France and Sweden.   This Bullaun is normally submerged under water but the reservoir was unusually low today, so it was visible in all its glory 
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The word “Slíis a shortened version of “Slí na Sláinte” or “Pathway of health” which is an Irish Heart Foundation initiative to improve health through the promotion of regular walking.   Hear, hear! Reservoir architecture emerging slowly from the mist
Service portal at the northern end of the reservoir, accessing the dam separating the upper and lower lakes.
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