Like so many of you across the world, we’ve been limited in our general activities during much of the past year. There’s been homeschooling, Zooming, LOTS of time spent in each other’s company, and a lot less daytripping! Now we’re back in the school routine with misty mornings, chilly fingers and autumnal walks.
Over the summer we visited Gosford Forest, in Co Armagh, to see the giant redwoods and get some good tree climbing exercise.
My sister and I used to be dragged here on a Saturday morning*, quite resentful at having to endure a car journey and the prospect of a walk. Just like the boys were – although the whole process was given a massive boost by them being collected in Grumpy & Granny’s camper van. It’s their favourite mode of travel.
I couldn’t believe how different Gosford was, while still being just as I remember it! The castle walls have been cleaned (though there’s still a massive skip in one corner of the courtyard); the walled garden is overgrown and in disarray (but the trees are still truly awesome and enormous); and the car park was packed full of cars, bikes and hot food vans (and the toilets were still horrid).
It was fun to watch the boys wading up the river from Dean Swift’s Well, exactly what I used to do as a little person too. Clambering over rocks is very satisfying – especially in the blissful silence of a forest where the ground is carpeted with needles and leaves, and the sky is hidden by the treetops.
This stunning forest was first planted over 300 years ago, and many of the existing trees are well over 150 years old. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the people who planted them could see these towering redwoods now?
It put us in mind of the closing sentences of Seamus Mallon’s autobiography**:
“As I prepare to take my leave of our shared home place, I find comfort in an old Greek proverb: ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they will never sit.'”A Shared Home Place (Seamus Mallon with Andy Pollak)
I wonder what things we knowingly do, what processes we set in motion, that won’t so much benefit us as those who come after us. It’s a challenge worth thinking about, as our communities, country and the wider world plan for recovery and rebuilding after the pandemic.
It’s given me food for thought as we encourage the boys to understand the responsibilty we have to be good and wise stewards of the environment in which we live. We have had all manner of butterflies and bees in our garden this year, attracted by our wildflower and vegetable patch, and have loved watching and identifying them. Maybe next we need to think about how to support the hedgehog who keeps leaving his deposits in our garden!
Interested, as always, to hear the view from your side of the screen! Stay safe…
*When we lived in Newry, a town nearby!
**Fitting, because he lived in Markethill, the village by which Gosford Castle is located.