Ireland day 0099. Wednesday 05 January 2022- Heliotropes

Ireland day 0099. Wednesday 05 January 2022- Heliotropes
Today’s summary Admin in the morning then a chilly lagoonside walk to Swords to look round the castle.   Diner we had earmarked for lunch was takeaway only so we just stopped briefly and then walked back
Today’s weather Sunny, dry and bright all day.   No wind.   Quite cool.   About 5C
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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):
Swords loop with heliotropes

I’ve walked to Swords a couple of times recently – but it has been in the evenings when it was dark, and Val was at work.

We decided to rectify that today.   So after another morning spent on admin and cleaning (how can such a small flat get so extensively dirty in such a small space of time?) we decided to follow our favourite path west alongside the Broadmeadow lagoon then up through Castle Park into Swords while it was still daylight and Val wasn’t out.

The walk along the shoreline was stunning today.   Clear blue sky and low, wintry sunshine catching on the calm water.   Herons, Brent geese and egrets were out in force today, although all visitors – both human and avian – seemed slightly to be hunched up against the cool air.   But the most noticeable feature of the walk was the scent.   A strange sweet smell, almost liquorice-like, filled the air along the waters edge, and it didn’t take long to identify the source as the abundant pink heliotrope flowers growing on the damp grassy banks.

Heliotrope (- and note this is the European heliotrope, Petasites pyrenaicus, not to be confused with the unrelated American heliotrope Heliotropium arborescens, which is toxic-) isn’t a rare plant and is widespread throughout Western Europe.   But I have never, anywhere, seen such an abundance as was on show down by the Broadmeadow today.   I don’t know if it was the growing conditions which were ideal, or the Irish climate that particularly suits them, but the collective blooms were a sight to behold (as poets would say) today.

They are odd plants (as I am sure you will remember from an earlier blog) in that male and female flowers grow on separate plants, and there are no female plants known in the British isles.   Possibly even odder, the plant moves its leaves and flowers from east to west during the day, so they are always facing the sun.   Then rather creepily they swivel back again overnight so they are facing east to greet the dawn.   The whole process is called phototropism.

This botanical diversion completed, we arrived in Swords just before the castle closed, so we were able to have a quick look round the keep and then patrol the ramparts in best John Snow fashion (you can read about the castle’s history in an earlier blog).   But the principal objective of our walk today was to visit a rather nice American style diner we had spotted on the high street a couple of weeks ago when we were on the 102 bus back from the airport.   We had spent the walk composing our order in our heads, as you do, so I am sure you can imagine our disappointment when we got there to find it was a click-and-collect takeaway only.   Presumably a Covid safety measure and I sincerely hope its not permanent.

The idea of having a float and maybe a burger out of a paper bag while walking along the main road didn’t really appeal, so we rather disconsolately shared an emergency sandwich we had brought with us and ate it, shivering, perched on a floral display down by the castle.   We did try and cheer ourselves up with a Starbucks coffee which was very nice though the gloss was rather taken off it by the price – €7.50 for two cups, which is actually making Switzerland seem cheap.

After the disappointments of Swords, we decided to take the quick way home – an uneventful walk down the R106 to Malahide – and treat ourselves to Birds Eye cod and chips for dinner.

But before I leave – you will be glad to learn that I recorded a GPX track as I walked and the two interactive graphs at the bottom of the blog show the altitude profile based first on the original barometric recordings, and second with DEM data replacing the barometric.   You can see the error in the barometer, because the finishing point is showing to be lower than the starting (3m vs 14) even though it was a circular walk starting and finishing at the same place.   The DEM based profile more correctly shows the start and finish both being at about 9m.

Incidentally, the graphs also show how you can also conclude the total height you climbed on a walk is almost anything you want, depending on the height algorithm you use and the elevation dataset it is based on.   In the maps below, the original data records a total height gain of 88m but with the DEM data, the gain is 178m.   For the same walk, by way of example, the “Strava” app shows the start and finish at 9m and a total height gain of 61m, “Viewranger” shows the start and finish also at 9m and a height gain of 41m and OutdoorActive shows start at 14m, finish at 3m, and a height gain of 21m.   So you you can take your pick but always beware when huge elevation gains are quoted, especially on undulating routes that are essentially flat.


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

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My favourite view of the Broadwater lagoon, just off the Yellow Walls Road.   The water level was high today – either the tide must have been in, or it was still filling up with rainwater from the very wet Christmas week (or both) Grumpy looking heron.   I think he was just cold
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GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) sports ground on the road up from the lagoon to Swords.   There’s a whole blog to be written about the GAA as it’s an institution which is woven into the very fabric of being Irish.   But I don’t feel qualified to write it yet, so will have to come back to this at a later date.   Remind me Val getting the boiling oil ready on the Swords Castle ramparts
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We’d hoped to have lunch in this rather nice looking diner in Swords that we had spotted from the 102 bus on the way back from the airport.   But sadly Covid had forced it to become click and collect only and going to a diner for a takeaway seemed to rather defeat the point. So we sat on a flower pot in the street and had a sandwich instead.   Tragic.
An astonishing abundance of heliotrope – the pink flowered plant – on the lagoon shore.   It’s an odd looking plant – slightly unevolved in appearance – and I’ve never seen it growing so profusely, anywhere.
Interactive map (barometric elevation as recorded):
Total distance: 15094 m
Max elevation: 26 m
Min elevation: 3 m
Total climbing: 88 m
Total descent: -99 m
Total time: 03:54:44
Download file: Swords Seaside Loop.gpx
Interactive map (DEM elevation replacing barometric):
Total distance: 15086 m
Max elevation: 30 m
Min elevation: -3 m
Total climbing: 179 m
Total descent: -179 m
Total time: 03:54:44
Download file: Swords Seaside Loop corrected.gpx
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