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Posts from the ‘Adventures’ Category

Let’s Dream Potions?

We know we’re not the first to invent the idea of a dreaming potion……how could we be? Well its hardly an original idea is it? People have been dreaming for donkey’s years, people have been wanting to tamper with dreams since time. There are always going to be those who want to dream differently themselves or affect the dreams of  other Humans, Animals and Things.

dreaming potion postcard

The complete requirement for DREAMING POTIONS through history and prehistory, must have been immense.  Rather than buckets full of potions it is more appropriate to talk of A SEA OF POTIONS.  There have been  just so, so many humans, pre-humans and proto-humans, dreamers all, some of whom at some point will have wanted to change the quality, quantity, content of their own dreams or dreams of others.

That’s so many dreamers wanting a potion to enhance their dreams. – A potion has been sought to DREAM MORE INTENSELY, DREAM BETTER, DREAM CHILDREN, DREAM DIFFERENTLY, DREAM FOR OTHERS, DREAM FATTER, DREAM FASTER, DREAM THE FUTURE, DREAM WILDER, DREAM IN TECHNICOLOUR, DREAM LESS. DREAM SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS, DREAM WHERE TO GO NEXT, DREAM BACKWARDS, DREAM THE ANCESTORS, DREAM PLACE, DREAM PROSPERITY, DREAM DREAMS, DREAM WHERE THEY LEFT SOMETHING, DREAM THE NEXT MEAL or maybe just DREAM MORE full stop.

Thats soooo  many off the shelf and bespoke DREAMING POTIONS  for the many varieties and classes of  DREAMERS with their many and distinct DREAM REQUIREMENTS. It seems  impossible to even begin to think about them all. But we can at least begin.

I have heard that marmite is a good dream potentiser and it has worked for me.  A bit of toast and marmite at  bed time.

potions for dreaming

To take a tiny whiff from a small selection of the probable potions is to be assaulted by the heavy stink of crushed, pounded, squeezed melted, seeds, plants juices, minerals, extracts, organisms, fermentations, secretions, oils and incantations. These potential DREAMING POTIONS are so powerful, so intoxicating, so overpowering as to render even a sturdy dreamer completely and utterly DREAMLESS.

We can’t document even a tiny proportion of all potions designed to affect DREAMING. It just can’t be done. Its too tedious, scary, mad….. to do in a lifetime. So though we won’t document Marble Arch Caves Gopeark dream potions we will make a LIST OF SOME DREAM POTION CONSIDERATIONS and we will think about making our own.

If you intend making your own DREAM POTIONS you might like to consider the following.

Ingredients, quantities, smell, taste, consistency, toxicity, addictiveness,storage, availability of ingredients, appearance, know how, price, method of mixing, sell by date, potency, distribution, functionality, container, recipient, exlusivity, time taken to make, legality, time to repose, quantity to take, effectiveness, dilution, mixing bowls, social stigma, side-effects, availability to the consumer, secretivity, desirability……. gloopiness.

How have all the potions that have ever been shaken, stirred, sampled, gifted, smuggled, tasted  within the lands of what is today Marble Arch Caves Geopark changed the pattern, shape and texture and history of the landscape of dreams?

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Potholer questionnaire – poem

Are you an adventurer teaser, deep delver, descender, tunneller, get swalloweder, explore underergrounder, catch sighter, day benighter, holey moleyer, badluck frightener?

Are you a squeeze througher, death defyer, dive downer, swim upper, happy go lucka, good time smuggler, listen to the darkness in silencer, truth weazler, get scared by nuffin’ er?

Are you a bravehearter, underworld dreamer, mole tamer, knee crawler, luck bringer, light swallower, gone undergrounder, bearer of prayerser, night reveller, dark hounder, rights of passage saver?

Are you a cavern punter, into the wildernesser, fear fighter, just passing byer, wanna be blinder, vision questioner, fast believer, pitch blacker, potato snuffer, slide by nighter, fear flunker, stagnencey stirrer?

Are you an Alice in wonderer, downderryer, badger terrier, earth enterer, otherworld finder, fast believer, pitch black minder, caver saver, light exterminator, hyena trainer, edge througher, never guess whoer?

Are you an illegal stiller, underworld tiller, albino signer, drop downer, paddler to other worlder, see in the darker, bear scarer, little deather, pure air breather, landmark dealer?

Are you an imagination brewer, leach purveyer, excitement seeker, porqupine squiller, fashion slayer, lifestyle  illuminator, bat trainer, land of deather, light transformer, future healer, cave reader?

Wildlife: Photographers

A wondrous sunset is spread out over the Cliffs of Magho tickling the surf at Bundoran to the west. We are cooking supper in the higher altitudes of a post glacial landscape. Our eyes blink, drinking in the glorious colours, but inside our rucksacks, our cameras are blind to the glory.

recording the starry saxifrage Like wildlife photographers documenting rare species we can’t resist snapping away at photographers.

Photography is part of the the biodiversity of Marble Arch Caves Geopark. And along with  drawing, writing, data sheets, collecting audio and blogging, photography has an important place in our “Place-Dreamer’s toolkit.”  (We’ll put blogging under the magnifying glass in a separate blog.)

photographing the photographer

We exchanged shots with Trevor Armstrong; photographer from the Impartial Reporter at the river entrance to Marble Arch Caves. The article on us and DREAMING PLACE in early June attracted lots of attention, and his photo of us acted as a kind of spotters guide for local people who learned to recognise us in pubs and nature reserves.

Happenstance brought us together with another photographer on the banks of Lough Erne. We got chatting with him and his wife at Knockninny and we asked him if he’d take some photos of us dreaming on the shore ….. and here he is doing just that.


It’s real fun to turn the tables and take photos of photographers themselves.  And It seems that the more used to being behind the lens as a professional, the more shocked  they are at the proposition of being “captured on film!” One of “our” photographers flatly refused flat to have his photo taken.

People, places, things: expanding the world of knowledge in an ethical way (+ audio)


A novel technique for “fast dreaming into place” is to interview people, places and things.


We record these exchanges with hand-held digital audio recorders; we edit the interviews on our trusty Macs and curated outcomes meet audiences in a number of ways: via audio blog, exhibition or radio broadcast.

ethical interview
Dreaming Place Interviews are a way of gathering valuable “data”. How we treat this data is very important to us. An interview is both a resource and a powerful tool that demands rigorousness and respect. Outcomes both directly influence the progression of individual projects and the general direction of our collaborative practice.


Over the winter months we will make careful transcriptions of our Dreaming Place interviews. We archive the recordings to keep them safe and warm inside our hard drives. The data we have gathered at Marble Arch Caves Geopark is gold dust to us and and choc full of potential.

interview with an expert
However editing is a risky business and dangers lurk in every corner. When using our data we must make careful choices, so that we can expand the world of knowledge and perception in an ethical way.

Listen in to our a clip on “Crossing Borders” (Barb and Len are from Canada and were fellow campers at Rushin House Caravan and Camping Park, Belcoo, N.I., MAC Geopark).

interview for blog

Thanks to the lakes, fast flowing rivers and bogs….

Photo by Jonty

~ THANK YOU! ~

Our deepest thanks to the people, places and things of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark for hosting DREAMING PLACE. Your generosity helped create a wonderfully fruitful project with an exciting  future. Our 40 days and 40 nights at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark was really productive as well as an enriching experience. Thank you for helping shape DREAMING PLACE by sharing your wisdom, specialist knowledge, places, things and good craic with us.

As you know, our fieldwork is over, but we are still blogging…..so join us at our blog here to continue the collaborative adventure!

We are also in the process of creating a short radio series with the multitude of audio recordings from our stay at MAC Geopark and we are working on venues to exhibit our collaborative drawings from this traveling residency.

We will keep you posted as the project develops. We hope you will stay in touch with us as well! We plan to come back to “your neck of the woods” one day!

Continue reading here….

Becoming a Human Talisman

claire as talisman

Talismans are an important  part of our DREAMING PLACE  toolkit. Talismans are objects of power with the capacity to change our perspectives. So we like to give talismans of found or modified natural materials to our participants to act as guides. The talismans act to influence or transform their experience. With a pony hair bracelet or a piece of string fashioned out of soft rushes as guide to an experience, the world becomes new.

Something curious happened to us at Crom Estate. Cradled in the mossy lap of an ancient oak tree close to the Crom Estate church we literally became “human talismans”. A happy shift in scale and perspective….

Two heads – four legs dreaming our collaboration

We dreamt our collaboration into existence with 4 legs, 2 noses and 2 x 6th sense.

During our traveling residency, we “dreamed the world” in our own collaborative image by encountering two headed animals.

collaboration what does it mean

A two headed, two armed kid on the ferry cavorting up on deck in spitting rain alerted us to our double headed state;

a donkey with two heads watched us pass from an emerald field,

a push-me-pully deer froze our gaze on the banks of Lough Oughter,

 mobile studio

a double yellow kayak held us in its smile,

we laughed and cried,

the twin cultures of Cavan (Eire) and Fermanagh (N.Ireland) welcomed us,

we walked a bridge linking  two cultures,

we spoke and were silent,

we dreamed by day and night,

we laughed at the double entendre,

we met Geopark officers from both sides of the border,

twinning

we found our way over and underground,

we  listened to two trees  kissing,

we remembered and we forgot,

audioing trees

we were lost and found,

we caught the landscape gazing at its reflection,

we experimented with ancient and modern,

ancient and modern
we took photos of each other,

we followed a bifurcation,

we walked a ridge joining two borders,

we looked east and west,

we ate breakfast side by side,


we listened to the voices of two nations,

we spoke and listened,

we matched-up splitting images, played at duppies, captured mirror images with our cameras while the hills reflected in the sky,

we heard the drip, drip of water as it echoed into a cave,

we  dreamt double,

twin camouflage

we learned of old and new traditions,

we drew from twin imaginations,

we did science and art,

we pedaled sister bikes,

our bikes

we heard how Bridget and her dad saw two houses where there was once one and thought they were tipsy,

we learnt Gallic and English names of towns and people,

our nostrils smelled in tendem,

we followed two rivers,

we minded and not minded,

reflective space

we saw through the looking glass,

we worked with dual purpose,

we dreamed up past and future lives.

Drawing out the past: a tribute to Johnny Mckeagney (+ audio)

Anna and I with Seamus and the two of Johnny McKeagney’s sons

I expect some of you will have heard about the Cathal Bui festival in Blacklion, (Eire) and about Johnny MeKeagney, author and illustrator of  In the Ould Ago?  A shop keeper by trade, Johnny McKeagney had a passion for people, places and things and spent many years of his life literally “drawing out the past”.

We’d just begun our own collaborative Geopark drawing, when we first spied Johnny’s book “In the Ould Ago” in Enniskillen castle museum bookshop. The detailed pen and ink drawings and large format of this incredible book SPOKE OUT LOUD TO US.  And now we badly needed a copy to help “fast dream us into place.” Most urgently of all, we wanted to meet Johnny, naturally. Sadly, Johnny is no longer with us, but happily, we can all know him through his work. We  had the good fortune to meet his sons, pictured above at the Johnny McKeagney tribute evening.

JM Book Front Cover

Our collaboration with Marble Arch Caves Geopark comes with lots of perks, and the best thing is they actually SUPPLY US BOOKS…..!!! We love them for that…. and we know that this will make you all a little envious. You see, a collaborative project like ours works as a kind of exchange. We are fond of Exchanges as you know.  Our project is funded by National Lottery through Arts Council England which means MAC Geopark gets us and Dreaming Place for free. In return they provide us with contacts, experts, books, lifts, maps, free entry into show caves, amazing PR and stuff like that.

This appealing and informative book is choc full of detailed observations of  Marble Arch Caves Geopark heritage… and even some dreams. Our admiration for this man has grown as we too have been invited into strangers homes for tea and chat and have drawn our vision or Aisling.

Johnny’s book shows him to be full of curiosity, love and respect for his homelands, its people, places and things. A tireless documenter, he forayed out into the twin counties of Fermanagh (Northern Ireland) and Cavan (Eire) gathering heritage “data”, even as he grew sick. Like us, he was uncertain at first how to share this “data” with others. Eventually plumping for a hand illustrated book. Much of his work was achieved from his own Dreaming Place: his bed.

As heartfelt descriptions of Johnny McKeagney’s work by Séamas MacAnnaidh and others filled the tribute evening, we began to better understand the breadth and depth of his fieldwork, drawings and the process of presenting it all to a wider audience. We related in particular to the reflections on the challenge of presentation, as we face a similar conundrum with our own drawings and fieldwork.

Listen to an audio clip from Séamas MacAnnaidh’s tribute below:

We recommend In the Ould Ago to anyone and everyone interested in Irish culture, oral history and the creative presentation of a place, its people and their material culture.

Inhabiting others’ dreams + 2 more Alans

Have you ever found yourself inhabiting another person’s dream?

Well that’s exactly what happened to us one rare bright and sunny morning, when through a series of surreal events, we found ourselves dreaming in the posh front seats of John McAllen’s dream cars – a classic red Jaguar and a jet black Porche with cream leather seats.

Inhabing Others Dream, Jaguar

These DREAM cars were brought to us at Knockninny jetty as we cooked our porridge. Part of John McAllens’ love affair with danger and risk-taking they are two of just nine fast cars that he owns. Though they are good looking vehicles their allure for him is less about beauty and more about the “danger flavours” he craves.

“There is no such thing as courage,” he says, “There is either fight or flight and I always choose fight.”

For him experiencing the exhilarating edge of danger is a kind of dreaming. Along with his single engine airplane and other fast cars these two cars are just some of his “danger dreaming props”.

On this same sunny morning we were able to update our “Alan Count“,  having met 1-John McAllen. (John is a descendant of the Allendes via a shipwrecked sailor of the Spanish Armada . The original Allendes changed the name to McAllen to blend in with their new country of Eire) And 2-Alan of the lovely cottage and canoe, who has already been referenced on this blog. So that take us up to five  Allens so far….. and how many Macs?

A cave, a porcupine and a collaborative drawing

river that flows from rock Boho caves

The  cave systems at Marble Arch Caves are infamous among potholers for their fickle ways. They can be dry one minute and very very wet the next; wet and of course highly dangerous.

Boho (pronounced Boh) caves were very very wet on the day we were invited to descend them. Even our guide, Les Brown, who is chair of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation that operates from Marble Arch Caves Geopark, was astonished by the quantity of  water roaring from its mouth. He was quite impressed.

From this photo I’m not sure if  you can really appreciate that there is a whole river coming out of the rock, a whole river running right over what would normally be dry land. It can take as little as 10 minutes and up to 24 hours for rain to flood these caves. Conditions in these caves are dramatic!

You see, these limestone lands are literally full of holes and rain running off from mountains and out of bogs can literally pour back underground through  numerous sink holes the moment it leaves the skies. Naturally the Marble Arch show caves are very closely monitored,  water flows are measured around the clock and dangerous areas roped off. In “wild caves” where there is no monitoring equipment it is much more dangerous and caution and familiarity with the caves are  key to safety.

Sadly because of the big river coming out of this Cave we didn’t get to explore Boho caves. Instead we contented ourselves with interviewing Les at the back bar (a carefully created cave-like room) of MacKenzies in the potholers bar.

A hydrogeologist and adventurer, Dr. Les Brown  is chair of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation and  afficionado of potholing. In one of his stories he was  buried alive in Ethiopia and in another came across porcupine quills in a cave.  This is where drawing overlaps with dreaming. We drew a porcupine in a cave in our collaborative drawing the day before we met up with Les.

Strange to be sure…!

Tea turns water into hospitality *Audio*


Hot and thirsty from our bike ride between Dowra and Blacklion, we happened upon the most hospitable old lady. She scuttled around the back of her cottage when she saw us; we were worried we had frightened her.

But in a moment the front door swung  open and  we became her privileged guests. We stepped over the threshold into her world of radio,  scrubbed flagstones and a dresser packed with tea things and Easter cards.

Would we like biscuits, sandwiches, fairy cakes? Listen to our adventure by clicking play below for tea with an old lady. For us this was a fairy story….of hospitality to strangers.

At home in limestone + scything podcast

At home in limestone

The Limestone uplands of Marble Arch Caves Geopark are  home to many rare plants,  insects and bird species. They thrive in the special habitats this rock has helped to create. Find out more about MAC’s limestone habitats here.

In fact there are so many common spotted orchids dotted around the place, it’s hard to find a place to dream without squashing them. But though this orchid is seemingly common here, in other locations they really are rare because modern agricultural practices threaten their native grassland habitats.

Through conservation schemes, some farmers in the MAC geopark have agreed to take special measures to protect and nurture this native grassland and it is a wonderful thing to see. Much of this agricultural land is farmed organically like this plot belonging to Ignatius.

ignatius McGuire

The hay from these special meadows smells like heaven. And I’m going to rustle up a little audio piece we recorded at the farm of Ignatius McGuire so that even if you cannot smell heaven you can hear about it. Listen to Ignatius on mowing here.

Ignatius himself is a rare breed. He farms his ancestral homelands in the way of his forebears. He is bursting with energy and  scything really is a joy to him. His enthusiasm is contagious and he soon has Claire and I swinging the scythe.

ignatius scything
It goes without saying we are very impressed. Even more impressed because this man’s vision is ecological in a big way. We can imagine 10 men (that is the traditional number to work a field) out there mowing and competing with each other for speed and skill. He is really chuffed that we are keen on learning his skill and invites us back in August to help him.

Original midge protection

Shannon Pot (important site in the Geopark) was probably quite midgy (full of no see-ems) in the mesolithic. Late one evening as we slathered ourselves with natural bug repellent,  we also worked out why some people are born with the potential to grow long floppy  hair!!

Our Dreamers blog is still active

Our Dreaming Place Field work is complete but we still have much to report and thoughts and ideas to share  via our blog. Our MAC adventures are set to continue with more audio, story and image uploads (From Tuesday pm) so you can catch up on what happened.

Dreaming Place mobile studios

We are dreaming ourselves into place and here are some of the  Marble Arch Caves Geopark sites that have become our studio.




Ireland’s pumping heart – a cross border vision or “Aisling”

Myriad lakes, rivers, canals, drainage ditches, streams and rivers meet together in the counties of Cavan and Fermanagh to form a truly extensive watery network linking these ancient lands to the Atlantic Ocean at Donegal bay.

Today inward and outward flow of people, animals and things mostly happens by road, rail and air. The axis of the world has shifted.

We gather wild garlic for pesto and the four of us (artist/musicians Susan and Alan and Claire and Anna) stand on the wooded shores of Lower Lough Erne chatting.

The evening lake is quiet, but tomorrow we’ll take to the lough in Alan’s double kayak, a flotsam score washed up on the shore. There is a round crannog type island we want to visit.  We must tie a scarf onto a tree or we’ll not find our way back to the slipway of a ruined monastery. Alan tells us to head straight out then let the breeze blowing in from the west whisk us around the back of the island. It sounds so easy. Susan says the island vegetation is very dense and it’s not easy to enter the woods. For us it is a place of dreams.

Since the end of the last ice age some ten thousand years ago this waterway has brought international traffic and trade creating a rich infusion of culture, peoples and things. We try to imagine the hustle and bustle of the waterway in a different time as we stand on the shore of the lough on an early Christian slipway made by monks as part of their shoreline monastery. Today this slipway gives access to a pristine waterway, seemingly deserted, more scenic view than international trade route. However now, this beautiful lough is at the centre of a farsighted cross border initiative that will revitalize these Geopark homelands.

From the beating heart of Ireland boats, tourists, places and things will help to re-float the economies of Eire and Northern Ireland. It is a glorious shared vision or aisling (Irish Gaelic for dream).

Slow Travelling the Geopark

Map
One of the subthemes of our “traveling residency” is slow travel.

Through the  generosity of people here our dreams of experiencing slow travel within Marble Arch Caves Geopark are becoming reality. We have rowed  a Cott (a traditional boat of the area) and a rowing boat, walked the lanes, hills and footpaths, paddled a Canadian canoe, gone swimming, and of course ridden our bikes. It often seems quicker to swim or take a boat from one island to the next rather than driving long way round on roads. Some local people still use the waterways for local travel including trips to the pub. But most islands are now linked by bridges.

Today we are visiting some beautiful Irish horses and hoping for a ride out in the sunshine close to the peaceful  Crom Estate. Horses are still very much a part of Irish culture in both the North and the South – something we really want to connect with.

horses loch oughter

We had tea on a narrow boat  during our sojourn at Derryvore Jetty, just across the water from Crom Estate, where we have been dog-sitting. “The Puzzler” is a very fine contemporary narrow boat painted in traditional colors and fully kitted out. She runs on “red diesel” and her appliances are solar powered. In the winter her little stove burns wood gathered from local woodlands. Her owners, Andrew and Sally Rawnsley use their bikes to travel into towns and villages to buy fuel and provisions and they run a blog of their own. Visit  their blog here.

Drawing as Dreaming

Drawing has a special place near the top of our now bulging dreamers toolkit! It’s fun and useful and a methodology that travels well.

Collaborative drawing is a way people can dream together. It’s also a valuable way to explore experiences, connections and ideas.

As our drawing grows our adventures deepen. Like the ancient fossilized coral reefs under our feet here at Marble Arch Caves Geopark, the  nooks and cranniess created by our pens are home to interesting and unusual inhabitants. For the time we are here the rich biodiversity of our imaginations and dreams forms part of the wider  Geopark ecology.

Dreams, thoughts and imaginings of people, places and things are part of the distinct ecologies of the planet.

The whole world is a drawing.

Out to a land of childhood imagination in a homebuilt Cott

With her brother,  the child Bridget (McGuire) who was born on Galloon Island  rowed to the far distant shores of her imagination, home to pine martens and woodcock. To her this was “The Wildwood”  from Wind in the Willows.

We wanted to visit this magic land and set off in Jonty’s  homemade Cott  to set foot on Bridget’s childhood lands.

Where was your ” Wild wood” of the imagination?

Galivanting on Galloon *audio*

Galloon with Bridget
We are scheduled to meet Bridget McGuire on the Bridge to Galloon Island. It is an appropriate place to meet her, as she is to become our bridge to another time and our guide to her childhood home place, the figure-eight-shaped Galloon Island.

We all three load into the front seat of the van together and begin driving down the road, literally down memory lane. We’ve not gone far before Bridget asks us to stop in front of a gate which leads to the old home of her childhood school teacher. It is a traditional wattle and mud Irish cottage, now partially caved in and overgrown with ivy and fruit trees and inhabited by a herd of cows and a surly bull with a ring in his nose. “Someone must have let the fire go out” Bridget observes and we learn from her why keeping a fire burning in these traditional houses is so essential in this wet climate: the warmth from the fire prevents the walls from absorbing the damp and collapsing.  Her eloquent descriptions and the nuances of her voice describing her sensorially rich memories of this place transport us to a different time.

She recounts the satisfaction of successfully stealing apples in the fall from her teacher (who at times asked her pupils to cut their own whipping switch from a tree outside the school house). And she describes a poignant moment with her father while passing the house during a visit to the island. Press the play button below to hear her story.

Through Bridget’s map of childhood memories and stories, we begin to discover a now somewhat invisible network of people, places and things on Galloon island infused with a potent sense of home. From the local roadside well, their family’s source of drinking water now buried unseen in a roadside hedge, to the “Secret Place” known only to her and her brother, Bridget’s tour of the island reminds us that where ever we go, there are many layers of memories, experiences, hopes and dreams all contained subtly in the place.

As we drive by a hedge we wonder, what secrets does it hold, what dreams of the past?

Dreamers’ Breakfast

We dreampt up this breakfast at the Derryvore jetty: stewed gooseberries, pears, granola and soya custard – YUM!

Wild Swimming

I am  so enjoying exploring the underwater domains of loughs and rivers and sea. The sweet peaty orange inland waters  of  higher Loch Erne are really different from the crystal cold waters of the Eire’s Donegal Bay….

And we just can’t wait to get out onto the water for an adventure in the Canadian Canoe that has been offered us by a supporter. Just what we dreamed.

A “Wren’s Nest” atop Knockninny Hill

Susan Hughes playing "Nest of the Wren" Atop Knockninny Hill

musician and artist, Susan Hughes, plays "Wren's Nest" Atop Knockninny Hill

The Wren has become a protagonist in the DREAMING PLACE project and we are eager to learn more about it. If you know anything about the wren in general or in folklore, please post in the comment section below. More on the wren in upcoming posts.

In the meantime, enjoy this audio blog of an impromptu performance by Susan Hughes of “The Wren’s Nest”, a contemporary Irish folk tune.

Click the play button below.

Mummers Midsummer Meeting

The White Horse, Mummers and Straw Boys bearing torches file up to the top of Knockninny Hill, where the midsummer festivities will take place. It is 11 pm and a beautiful evening with the light of the day stretching late into the night……


After hiking up Knockniny hill with a lovely sun setting to the west, we gather ’round a roaring bonfire as event organizer, Jim Ledwith calls out instructions to the straw boys and mummer volunteers wearing costumes this year. It is an ancient tradition that has been revived here on Knockninny Hill crowned by a Bronze Age cairn and atop a prehistoric cave. Plaited rings of straw are thrown onto the fire in honor of the sun and handfuls of seed scattered over the flames to invoke new life, fertility and bounty. Bread is held over the fire by the Wren, a young girl dressed in a brown fringed costume and then distributed as the strawboys jump the flames of the bonfire. Young women are warned…..touch the white horse (a symbol of fertility) and……wait for the baby to pop out! Learn more about the Aughakillymaude Community Mummers here.

Botanical forray on Cuilcagh Mountain

Robert and Anna below the Cliffs

Robert and Anna looking for the Beech Fern

Chance encounters are a most precious gift and good as gold for our project. As we prepare to set out for a hike up Cuilcagh Mountain we meet botanical enthusiasts Robert and Hannah also on their way up the mountain. They are in search of three rare plants to photograph for a book about the plants of Fermanagh that they are working on, set to be published this fall. They graciously allow us to tag along on their mission and generously share their wealth of botanical knowledge with us along the way.

Hannah and Claire

Hannah photographing the Starry Saxifrage with windbreak help from Claire

Good+Good+Good=Better

Good Food Good Sleep

Hot Camp Breakfast

Good food, good sleep and good company are essential for a successful project!

**Today, on Jun 19th, I (Claire) am living it up and eating chips out on the lovely sunny patio at the Knockninny Country House (near where we camped last night)  in honor of my husband Chris Coté and our wedding day, one year ago. Here’s to us on our first anniversary – a wonderful first year of marriage with  many more to come!

House of the Shannon Group Potholers *audio*

We came across this locked-up house on a walk near Marble Arch Caves. We looked in the window….

Listen to the audio blog for this image below:

40th Annual Fleadh, Beleek *audio*

We are drawn to The Black Cat pub by lively traditional tunes drifting over the road. We are met by a wonderful community scene of a lively yet relaxed bit of craic* outside the pub revolving around a group of young players (approx 8-12 yrs old) playing their hearts out with their instrument cases strewn about their feet between outdoor tables and benches.

*craic = fun, having a good time

Listen to the audio blog for this image below:

Eating the Landscape *audio*


Perception of the environment with all five senses is an important part of this project. Inspired by listening to these cows chomping on the lovely green fields, we decided to sample a taste ourselves and ingest a bit of the landscape.

Listen to the audio blog for this image below:

“Fast Dream us” into Place

People are taking centre stage in our project at the mo and in the human sphere fortuitous connections are fast dreaming us into place. Invitations and ideas for future adventures are issuing fast from potential hosts.

We undid our high Victorian collars just long enough to down our first pint/half pint of Guiness at Blake’s Hollow, an Irish music pub in Enniskillen. Here we were introduced to friends of Diane Henshaw (Fermanagh Arts Officer), who is a gem.

We sat with Catherine Ward, who leads walks for the Fermanagh Ramblers and Jim Ledwith, for whom  “mumming” as a way of life. We will go with the mummers to Knockrinny summit on Saturday to celebrate midsummer (we may have to dress up in straw!). There is also an offer of a walk to Speaking Horse Hill….

And we plan to meet Patrick Murphy who makes straw suits for “ the straw men”.

Now we are off to the 50th Anniversary party at the local cave rescue hut on a mountainside and there is a new blog on the horizon. Later we have the fleadh (pronounced flah) at  Beleek and a whole new network of contacts and intros might open up.

Will pubs be pivotal in our project?

From Cradle to Grave

 Today we tagged along on a kids’ potholing trip led by Dave Scott from Gortatole Activity Centre. Known as “the cradle” this watery cave is part of the Marble Arch Caves system. The entrance to the cave opens out of a large quarry-like hole full of forest, a relic of  ancient woodland.

Dave’s knowledge and skill mean that even in a cave that has claimed lives, the kids are encouraged to lead and make their own discoveries. Above the underground stream, safe on a sandbank, we listened in the pitch blackness to the gurgling voices of the underground river.

Outside the cave on a boulder is a plaque commemorating the lives of the 3 young cavers who lost their lives in Cradle Cave. Dave, our guide, told us he was on the rescue team that pulled out their bodies.

The memories of the land are not always easy to hear.