Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Prehistory’ Category

Prehistoric technology report – Crom Estate

As you can see we’ve had technology on the mind since our recent presentation in the “Matter of Technology” panel at the ISEA2012 Albuquerque Machine Wilderness symposium. We’ve been mulling over the fact that our arts practice is very much about different kinds of technologies both contemporary and prehistoric, as is DREAMING PLACE. Check out other posts recent posts on this topic  here and here.

One of the things we find so fascinating, as inhabitants of what many would call  “the technological era,” is that every era has been technological in its own way. According to Wikipedia:

Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of toolsmachines, techniques, craftssystems, methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.”

Listen in to our prehistoric technology report from the Crom Estate below:

Advertisements

The lure of radio

Radio as a means of dissemination is a sculpting force in our practice.

Radio broadcasts and live streaming by radio stations  have become a primary medium for sharing our work with local and international audiences. (Soundartradio and Riviera Radio in Devon, Radia fm 24 countries, KRZA in New Mexico and Colorado,  Cavan Community radio in Éire) We have two projects in which radio broadcasts are the primary result.

Our Travelling Residency by van and ferryboat to Finland and back in 2008 resulted in the illustrated radio journey “How Far From Home Are We?”

Our  latest piece is Radio Dreaming.

Listen to Radio Dreaming Episode 1. Dreams, food and the edible landscape Thursday 11th October.If you’re in the Torbay area tune in on 106.2 FM to Riviera Radio or streaming online at http://www.riviera.fm/

Or you can always listen in to Radio Dreaming at www.dreamingplace.eu/radio

Our practice and projects all have audio elements, in combination with live events.

We combine exploration of ancient technologies with modern communication technologies in live – events and exhibitions. Multi-sensory experiences are one of the main goals for participatory outcomes of our projects.And this often requires modern technologies as well as “traditional” ones.

Eating Time, Taming Food was a project that looked at prehistoric food technology.
The project culmination was a sort of archaeological treasure hunt and “Bronze Age Tea Party” followed by a lab session and film viewing.
Approaching an Exchange is a multi-layered project embodying an intercultural, inter-temporal “exchange” with the original inhabitants of prehistoric archeological sites. We ask participants, “If you could bring an object or an idea to share with the original inhabitants of a Bronze Age hut circle, what would you bring?”

“Butter Walk – Harnessing the motion of our gait” explores human-powered technologies. This idea often resurfaces in our projects and installations. Harnessing existing motion is something that really engages us, something we are continually exploring in our work.
In our gallery installations we enjoy combining older technologies with newer ones.
Technologies have also become to protagonists in our projects. This sculptural unit that we created has taken on a sort of personality as it travels from site to site……it has little hooves… and it leaves tracks.
If you’d like to … Albuquerque This is the piece that we have here in ABQ for ISEA at 516 Arts. So if you have a chance, go check it out or join Claire at the block party on Sunday as she takes the unit on a walkabout outside the gallery. Our “If you’d like to…. Albuquerque” video short allows our “perambulatory pet” to find its voice and directly speak to audiences.

We certainly don’t have the skill sets at this point to develop the instant star-trek-like transporter technology that we so wish for at times or the ability to create the solar, wind, gravity and human powered mobile studios for land and sea that we’ve discussed. But imagining and manifesting “collections of techniques in which resources are combined to produce desired products, to solve problems, fulfill needs, or satisfy wants” (Technology definition – Wikepedia) is well within our reach and its what keeps us making ART.

Our DREAMING PLACE project (Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Éire and Northern Ireland), engages us in creating a kind of novel “technology” – DREAMING PLACE TECHNOLOGY, including different methods to “dream ourselves and others into place”

Listen to RADIO DREAMING Episode 1 here

Our projects  challenge us all to keep our definitions of technology broad, to cast our creative nets wide and to consider how we can each invent our own technologies in our own lives and home places.

Radiator Key Inheritance

“When I put that in my hand I can feel his hand.” Alan’s link with his ancestors is a bronze radiator key.  Which objects link you to your own ancestors?

This audio was recorded the day we invited a group of Fermanagh artists to share in “The Exchange” within the ruined compound of a bronze age roundhouse at GortamcConnell view point close to Marble Arch Caves.

Ancient technologies: humans + environment

We met an interesting man on our stroll around Money Cashel near the Burren,  here he is on ancient technologies and drawing. 

Radio Dreaming Episode 1 is here!


We are oh-so-pleased to share Radio Dreaming Episode 1 with you all! It is called “Dreams, Food and the Edible Landscape.”

Listen to the entire radio program here.

This first episode of our Radio Dreaming series will debut on air in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark on Cavan Community Radio 97.4 fm, today, Thursday 21st of June at 2:40 pm, GMT. Other broadcasts are also scheduled for this summer. If you can’t catch the program on air, we invite you to listen to the entire radio program here at our blog.

Our evolving broadcast schedule can be viewed here and the Radio Dreaming press release can be viewed here.

Many thanks to all the people, places, creatures and things at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark for teaching us about DREAMING PLACE. And special thanks to those that contributed to this program and helped make it possible in a myriad of ways.

Please let us know of any radio stations that might be interested in broadcasting Radio Dreaming! More Radio Dreaming episodes are in the works so stay tuned….

We hope you enjoy listening and look forward to your feedback.

Inside the belly of an ice-house – Crom Estate

Ice houses are to be found in the grounds of many of the old country estates in these Northern lands. Here is Claire at the Crom Estate in Northern Ireland inside the belly of an ice-house.

About Ice houses – Ice cut in winter was stored right through the year in stone icehouses across Europe supplying numerous big houses with fresh produce and keeping guests happy with novel sorbets, icecreams and crushed ice for cocktails and bumps or sprains got while out hunting the stag!

Today fridges are present in every kitchen – well almost. When I lived in Spain we didn’t have a fridge; we are vegetarians so it was easy. The micro-organisms in plain yogurt keep it fresh for weeks and the cool tiles and wooden shutters protected the veg from decay.

In the last century before the advent of the fridge, many families used cool boxes or chests packed with ice to keep meat and fish. The pantry or larder had marble shelves to keep dairy produce and cold meats fresh as long as possible. My mum tells me the cooling properties of her mother’s  larder were enhanced by covering the milk jug with a wet cloth. The milk was kept cool via evaporation. In Spain water kept in unglazed “porons ” keeps spring water fountain fresh even on the hottest days. When camping beers maybe kept cold by hanging them out of the window in wet socks! Or submerging them in the stream.

Margaret Gallagher, of Mullylusty cottage just outside Boho in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark lives off grid all year round. She tells us that a wheelie bin makes a wonderful off grid fridge which keeps hungry animals out in winter-time. But can the wheelie bin be as effective as a giant crock? Kept wet a ceramic jar will keep milk and other foods fresh in hot climates again by evaporation. Buried underground it could be used to store root vegetables like potatoes and turnips.

Margaret tells us how her family used an ordinary chest to preserve meat. After the pig had been butchered the pieces were packed into a wooden chest with salt and buried in a surprising place. The place of choice at Mullylusty and other cottages was usually the dung heap or midden . We didn’t ask Margaret why this was so, but archaeological evidence reveals middens as natural insulators, valued for their properties of conservation. Evidence from Skara Brae in Orkney shows the homes were actually built inside an enormous midden!

BOG BUTTER – Not sure if all of  you know this but past peoples apparently buried butter in wooden kegs in bogs. But how far back in prehistory was it that the original peoples of Ireland first used bogs as fridges. Who first understood that bogs can preserve fats? Micro-organisms that cause food to go off can’t dwell inside a soggy shroud of bog turf as they need oxygen to survive, this is why a bog performs as a brilliant off grid-fridge. In Ireland much ancient bog butter has been found over the years and some of it is still edible, if a bit cheesy.

Pigment Potentials


During our decent hike from Cuilcagh Mountain, we came across these red ochre-like pigments crumbling out of the hillside. As erosion reveals this intense color it also reveals potentials of the past, present and future. As we study the pigments and muse at their uses, questions arise.

Were these pigments used by the past inhabitants of this land? In particular, did the Bronze Age people who built the mighty cairn atop Cuilcagh (see image below) discover these pigments and intern find uses for them in their lives? Read more pigment musings and about the geology of Culcaigh mountain at the end of Anna’s previous informative post, Geology United!

Hazel cultures

A good way to discover more about prehistoric life  in Marble Arch Caves Geopark is to focus in on the edible elements of place. You can learn a lot, from ingesting, observing and dreaming with plants and things. As a Northern European its a fair guess to say that my ancestors learnt a lot from their interactions with the land. I know it’s obvious,  but its easy to forget that plants have actually helped shaped our cultures. Claire’s family is also of European decent, but she was born in New Mexico where prehistoric peoples have also eaten acorns, piñones and hazel nuts. Claire and I look, listen, experiment and dream to find out more about our prehistoric ancestors and their worlds. We kicked off our

collaboration while studying at Dartington with a “Eating Time Taming Food”  a wide ranging adventure into prehistoric Dartmoor Food ecologies. We  gathered, prepared, cooked and shared wild foods. It was really challenging for us as we were trail blazing our a new Arts and Ecology practice… .. but what d’you know while we were out collecting acorns and worms were gathering in our leaching sacks, Ray Mears was doing the self same thing on Telly, imagine that….Out of the BLUE! processing acorns for food after hundreds of years of culinary neglect!

Neither Claire nor I had telly and we didn’t know about Ray Mears ’till friends and neighbours told us. Only difference was we were making ART and gathering audio sounds! We ended our acorn harvest with a grand tea party at The Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World in Haldon forest Park, where our guests feasted on acorn and honey cake spread with butter churned using the motion of our gait and other ancestral foods.

In DREAMING PLACE at MAC we crunched  hawthorn leaves at Shannon Pot, made  wild garlic pesto and when Hazel reached out and attracted our attention, we whittled its flexible boughs into knives. Hazel is as full to bursting with dynamic potentials which Claire and I are eager to explore. And Hazel’s story is many patterned, it helped with the invention of tents, looms and snow shoes. The first people’s living in these northern climes after the great ice melt collected its tasty fruits to store for the winter months and Hazel protected and sustained them.

What baskets were woven to carry the canny hazel nut and what futures did it predict?

Listen here to Biodiversity Officer, Rose Cremin enthuse about hazel culture

Campsite philosophers

We find that campsites cultivate philosophy. Rushin House Caravan Park on the emerald shores of Lough MacNean just outside Belcoo in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark is awash with the stuff. It runs so deep that in times gone by the inhabitants sensibly build their houses on stilts. The shimmering waters of the lough preserve the oak timbers of a bronze age homestead. Perched on its artificial island or crannog its inhabitants were safe from the erratic surges of philosophy that are prone to flood this special landscape.

Listen here to our favourite Campsite philosophers, Barb and Len from Calgary, Canada..

Tied to our prehistoric past


One of the ways we  dream ourselves into place is to make string. Yeah it works, twisting natural fibres really does deepen our relationship with our own home place or the home place of another. Here I am at Claddah Glen,  just below the show caves at Marble Arch Caves Geopark in Northern Ireland, collaborating with Iris leaves and sedges to make strong and useful string.

Twining string is truly addictive and provides Claire and I with a quite moment of focus during a busy project. But there’s more…..

We’ve noticed that long leaves seem to WANT to make string, our fingers fiddle and twist  plant fibres into cordage, dextrously, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world! To make twine is to interact with our surroundings in a vital way AND of course we are not alone, twiners come in many shapes and sizes and surprising partnerships give diverse results; wind and dry moorland grass twist together to make a fat loose rope that catches under boulders.

As a species we have grown up with plants, they have shaped our cultures and well,  they make us who we are! What´s more, string is even older than we are…. Who are the “other than human” twisters, loopers, weavers whose cultures has inspired our own?

I’ve made string from bungy old Sphagum moss, Torbay palm leaves, stinking Iris and bluebell leaves and Maram grass, but you can use any plant or other fibre.  Twine is so darn useful, something to sew cultures together.

I think THE most exciting thing we learnt on our DREAMING PLACE adventure was how to spin hay into twine to fasten down hay ‘rucks” keeping them safe from errant winds. The hands of traditional farmer Ignatius Maguire manipulate a home engineered twining crank, an innovation on the implement used by his father, a hooked branch cut from a nearby hedge.Impressed?

No 15. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

No. 14 DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing


No 13. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

No12. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing



Eels and things…..

I saw EELS in my minds eye while dreaming on the shores of our first campsite on the shores of Lough MacNean. I actually saw EELS and I saw TURTLES and I recorded what I had seen on our Dreaming Place Dream cloud data sheets.

That day I decided we should fish for EELS. I am vegetarian, but I’d like to fish for eels, just to trap’em, look at ’em, say hello and put ’em back. Id’ like to try Humane eel fishing.  Claire was very enthusiastic when I told her, for she has fished for eels in New Zealand and it was fun. New Zealand eels she told me are absolutely enormous. They’re ” As fat as your arm” over there, she said.

To trap EELS like this we’d need a horses head like in ” The Tin Drum” or at least some tuna and a sock. But oh I don’t think that would be fun and a sock with a dead mouse in it is about as far as we’d like to take this… so we went for a cycle ride hoping to find a dead mouse that had died ” a natural death”!

Anyway, the eel fishing stayed as a vision like the one I made in our dream cloud.

I also drew the TURTLES I’d dreamed on another dreaming place data sheet.  Claire has a special relationship with turtles, so I showed her my dreaming place postcard straight away. When we were at college Claire brought a small stone turtle with her to give her inspiration. Claire moves very fast and does a lot, so her turtle inspires her to take life at a slower pace. In her home state of New Mexico there has been a tradition of eating the turtles as they gather in the wetlands.

” TURTLE TIME  / TEA TIME”

Turtles would have been “tea”  over many thousands of years for the “original peoples” of  the MAC Geopark home waters and the other myriad loughs of  counties Cavan and Fermanagh. Turtles might also have provided  a tasty treat for otters, lynx, seals, golden eagles,bears, wolves, fox, fish and badgers.

Dreamers toolkit

Our  evolving Dreaming Place Toolkit – a list in images….
night and day/ collaboration

potions
wild strawberries

dreaming into place

ask for water
inhabit the view
collaborative drawing

cooking
documentation



The land dreams in many tongues


Languages are an important part of the diversity of place.

Climate and conditions naturally affect what languages sound like or how they look.  And so do migration of peoples, cultural expansion, invasion, politics, music and technologies. Sounds made by non-human inhabitants contribute to cultural exchange and communication and so do songs of animals and fungi. Languages are dreams of place!

The people, places and things that inhabit or visit Marble Arch Caves Geopark are very diverse and they have widely different voices. All those tree species, insects, clays and sands, bogs, butterflies and musical instruments – and what about our computers and our cars?…. what a mixture of languages and ways of being. Lots of languages use sound, but lots also are visual, gestural or tactile or a mixture of all of them.

The land dreams in many tongues. Listen here to water re entering the rock at Poll Sumer in the MAC Geopark.

 

No 7. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

Great Paddler in the Sky myth

Out paddling with Claire, in Lower Lough Erne, I dreamed the story of the Great Paddler in the Sky. It felt momentous, but it happened easily as I listened to the sound of my paddle stirring the starry waters of the lough, over and over over and over….I watched as my paddle spun the sky into a silken thread over and over, over and over.

The Great Paddler, spinner of galaxies, tornadoes, whirlwinds, whirlpools. The Great Paddler who taught the lake people how to travel, how to spin, how to dream. The Great Paddler who propels us into the future.


Listen below  to paddling at Lough Oughter  (Sounds recorded from the top of the blue plastic drum in the image above. You may need headphones or ear buds to catch the subtleties).

Bees Dreaming

Bees are a kind of ancient technology, nature’s tireless messengers between worlds. They gather cultures around them and help propagate crops and ideas. Texting and twittering are the great-grandchildren of bees.

The future of our species is inextricably linked to that of bees, so if they don’t survive, even our phones will cease to buzz. (Interestingly, our “buzzing” mobile phones is stressing out hives – learn more here.)

Listen below to  bumble bees living in the doorway of Alan’s cottage:


In the Marble Arch Caves Geopark bees continue to ply defunct smugglers routes with bags of valuable honey, even now that  the borders  between “north” and “south” are open. Honey is a rich prize guarded fiercely by the bees, but even now there are people who happily risk their wrath once or twice a year to steal it from them. Farmer, Ignatius McGuire, shares his family townlands with wild bees and  in summer the temptation is sometimes just too great.

Listen to Ignatius McGuire describe the delights of honey from the field here:


Or ponder the importance of bees dreaming with Kaylynn TwoTrees in her article, “Nature’s Dreaming”………..

“Regeneration comes from dreams, where the energy from a sense of possibility is stronger than the fear of the unknown. So even today, as the bees are struggling for survival and hives are collapsing, a taste of honey or the hum of bees in my garden re-enlivens my belief that the sound of nature’s dreaming is the hum of bees and the audible activity of the hive…..”

Looking for the beesong  audio to share with you I discovered this file of Susi playing her violin while we washed up. Lucky us…. So here it is. Click here and you will understand  why it belongs to this post:

Bees are also extraordinary architects, the makers of honeycomb, which forms their hive. Honeycomb is a product of the living system of the beehive, a collection of hexagonal wax cells built collaboratively by honeybees in their nests or hives to cradle their young and store honey and pollen for winter. We are intrigued and inspired by the geometry of the bees and often spot honeycomb hexagons along our journey. This game of “Honeycomb I-Spy” actually began several years ago on another journey…..to hear and see more click here.

Technicolour Dreamcoat

Many years ago in Spain I had a dream. The image I saw in it was so powerful and so surprising that in the morning I took up my colours straight away and tried to paint it. I painted a lucid yellow coat with patterns of people and things spilling across it. I called it “My dream coat”. I can still see “my dream coat” in my minds eye.

I’ll try to find that picture with its clear yellows and oranges so you can share my dream. I wish Claire and I could wear such a coat for to dream in. Everyone knows about Joseph and the amazing technicoloured dreamcoat. But if you don’t click here. but this would be our special Dreaming coat.

Or do you think P.J’s are fine?

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….

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.

The smell of home turf



The lower flanks of Cuilcagh mountain are now cosily blanketed in revived boglands rich in species who make up the ecology of this very special habitat. Incredibly,  as recently as the nineties this elemental  bog was endangered because of  the commercial extraction of peat for fuel. It looked like a giant carpark (parking lot), a land with its skin peeled back. A lot of TLC later and these “badlands” are again home to a huge variety of wildlife.

We are not experts but the commercial rape of the land by the large turf industry seems like quite different thing from the traditional small scale harvesting of neighbourhood turf for winter fuel. This image shows the peat after it has been cut drying in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark breeze.

Funnily enough the drizzle doesn’t seem to affect the drying process too much.Turf has been burned here since the bronze age and in the Geopark, we noticed burnt mounds that look a lot like burnt peat. (The demands of blogging mean that I may not have time to check all this info so do feel free to comment and correct please.) And a turf fire, as it is called here, is surely the smell of home. Adan a young guy who farms his family homelands on Galloon Island could NOT believe we had NEVER smelled a turf fire, not ever.  He simply rejected the idea, what total deprivation….

We vowed to light a real fire and found an opportunity at MacGrath’s cottage and lit one just for the craic. Our English, Valencian and New Mexican burning experiences have led us to burn mostly wood and never turf. The very idea of burning the earth itself seems strange to us. But it was the first fossil fuel.

I know that lots of you have no tradition of burning turf fuel. So here is a short explanation. Turf is peat and comes from the buildup of mosses and other vegetation where the accumulation of dead vegetation exceeds the decay. The reason this can happen is that in the  wetland environment the mosses are not able to break down for lack of oxygen. The fungi and bacteria that recycle the dead mosses cannot live in this waterlogged environment and decay is halted. Gradually, gradually there is a buildup of vegetation which becomes compacted and swallows up the surface stones and features. Peat that forms in these conditions on the sides of mountains is called Blanket Bog. Lowland bogs are slightly different, but essentially the process is the same. Turf that is burnt in homes in Northern Europe have normally taken hundreds or even thousands of years to form.

 

Turf extraction, as we know, is not sustainable, (mostly) which is why lots of us now prefer to buy non-peat based composts.

 

In these Geopark lands, turf drying in the fields is still a relatively common sight; one that attracts our attention. And many families have a cut in a newly harvested field. They must go down and shift the peat once it has dried and stack it at home. Tur, as we found out, burns almost without flame and is red hot. It burns more like coal rather than wood. We stoked and blew under the turf all night trying to get some flame before we understood the error.

turf

Water gathers cultures *Audio*

Listen to Claire on the Celtic water symbology . (As with all our audio snippets, we recommend headphones or earbuds). https://dreamingplaceproject.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/water-gathers-cultures-blog.mp3

water everywhere
Spectacular rainbow over Lough MacNean from Rushin House Caravan and Camping Park, Belcoo, MAC Geopark had us reaching for our cameras.

water gathers culture
Listen to the lake speak here.  (use earbuds for the full experience).

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!!

The Exchange: Marble Arch Caves Geopark


The Exchange has found a new home.

A prehistoric roundhouse nestled behind the Geopark’s GortaMcConnell view point near Marble Arch Caves hosted our first Cross border Exchange.

We invited local artists from Visual Arts Fermanagh to bring an object or idea from their lives or cultures to share with the original inhabitants of a prehistoric roundhouse in the limestone hills close to the Eire/N.Ireland border.

Five artists trekked to the site carrying a gurgling baby plus their chosen objects: a brass key to bleed radiators, a mug with a frog on it and a red enameled teapot. A blue tin kettle, an antique china teapot  and a beautiful retro enamel red teapot attended our tea party but embarrassingly we were missing the TEA. Both of us had forgotten to pack it! How did this happen?

We have done The Exchange many times but never never with lightening, midges, a baby, and a real campfire. The novelty hopefully made up for the lack of real tea and a the campfire lit to keep the midges away felt kind of homely.

We discussed the importance of tea and hospitality over a delicious tea substitute, an infusion of fresh raspberries. If the custom of offering tea disappears could a whole culture collapse?

Find out more about The Exchange project here.

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.