Posts Tagged With: beach

Here today, gone tomorrow? The reappearing beach at Dooagh, Achill.

Achill, Acaill, Ecaill, Eccuill, Akill, Akle, The Aukilles.

These are some of the names recorded historically for Achill Island in West Mayo. The original meaning of the name however is unknown.  This is perhaps fitting as the Island itself is somewhat enigmatic.  I am constantly surprised, as I was on my most recent visit in July 2017.

Dooagh is one of a number of pretty villages on the island.  It has variously prospered and faded over recent centuries.  It became a hub when it received villagers who abandoned their homes in Slievemore during the mid 19th century.   The village is nestled on the Atlantic shore and its wellbeing has always been connected with the sea.  Fishing, seaweed and the hotels and guest houses that lined its sandy beach.  Then in 1984 the sand disappeared.  A wild storm stripped it away to the bare rock.  The decades passed and Dooagh had resigned itself to its beach’s fate until in April 2017 the sand returned.

Dooagh beach 1

The world went just a little mad, but this is a  perfectly natural event and has apparently occurred many times before.  John O’Shea, who has lived in a house on the beach for 46 years explained “When the wind is up north the sand builds up, when the wind’s sou’ west the sand goes out.”  It happens with Keel, Dooagh and Keem Bay, he said, and it happens regularly.  But this time seems to be different. The story has gone global.   John has had phone calls from Texas, Netherlands, New Zealand asking what’s going on.  A group of Chinese came – they didn’t want to see the Cliffs of Moher they wanted to see the New Beach!  Irish Times reported it and since then the story has spread.  Al Jaziera, The Times and more recently the Guardian did a six page spread.

Dooagh beach 3

IG3C3576

A particularly high tide and favourable marine conditions along with the northerly winds has brought back the sand and boulders that had been waiting below the low tide mark.  The world has taken notice and the tourists have come.

Beaches are a dynamic environment.  Man’s desire to live close to the beach creates conflicts that are often resolved by serious intervention in the natural process.  Huge quantities of rock are sometimes dumped to protect buildings or infrastructure and prevent erosion of the land and sometimes sand is ‘shifted’ from elsewhere to maintain  a ‘beach’.

IG3C3573

What has happened in Dooagh however shows that if we just leave things alone, Nature will find a way to restore equilibrium.  Beaches disappear.  And they come back.  We should celebrate with the people of Achill the return of  its sixth beach and hope that it lasts a long time.  But if it doesn’t last and the tides and winds sweep it away, we should celebrate that too.  These natural rhythms are on a planetary time scale and rarely on a human one.

Please take note Mr Trump.

Dooagh beach 2

 

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life is a beach. Keel is a beach.

My camera and I spent a few hours on the strand at Keel on Achill Island in Co.  Mayo.  I thought I would share some of those moments with my blog readers,

Life is a beach
Keel is a beach
Keel is Life
Keel is sand, sun, grass, clouds and mountains
Keel is hitting a ball
Keel is walking or running
Keel is reading and thinking
Keel is wheels
Keel is long shadows
Keel is a dune of cobbles
Keel is lost in clouds
Keel is reflections
Keel is people
Keel is light

IG3C2321

Keel is sand sun grass cloud and mountains

 

IG3C2352

Keel is hitting a ball

 

IG3C2523

Keel is walking

IG3C2544

Keel is running

 

IG3C2577

Keel is reading

IG3C2407

Keel is wheels I

IG3C2415

Keel is wheels II

IG3C2552

Keel is long shadows I

IG3C2596

Keel is long shadows II

IG3C2470

Keel is a dune of cobbles

IG3C2693

Keel is lost in clouds I

IG3C2720

keel is lost in clouds II

IG3C2604

Keel is reflections

IG3C2499_1

Keel is people

 

IG3C2715

Keel is light

 

 

 

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Beach at Allihies, Co. Cork. A Beautiful Legacy of Ignorance and Indifference.

Allihies is a very photogenic village near the tip of the Beara Peninsula. I have blogged on it before (click here).   There I gave an overview of the whole Beara Peninsula as well as highlighting the extensive history of copper mining in the area,  but I didn’t mention the pretty beach near Allihies, which I didn’t visit last time.

IG3C4137

The beach at Allihies

Back in the Beara recently, I had a bit more time and found myself on the strand during a break in the bleak weather.  This beautiful place has a very interesting back story and an unexpected connection to the mining operations located high up in the hills above the village.

The beach is a surprise.  It seems like it shouldn’t be there. The whole coastline here is rugged and rocky and apparently too wild for sand to accumulate.  And yet there it is, an extensive thick accumulation of golden sand in a protected inlet.

IG3C4147

The inlet at Ballydonegan with the Allihies Beach, the village in the background and the Caha Mountains

IG3C4028

A glorious setting and safe.

IG3C4138

Sand, water, rocks and sky

A close look however shows all is not what it seems.

The sand is very coarse.  It is also very uniform in size and it only comprises fragments of quartz and shale.  There are no organic bits or shell fragments as you would expect.  In fact is unlike any beach sand I have seen.  There are no dunes; just a thick deposit of banded unconsolidated coarse sand.  And due to the lack of fines, it is not compacted as might be expected. It is very hard to walk on and especially hard to climb its slopes.

IG3C3970

Coarse sand.  Lots of quartz and rock fragments

IG3C4098

Thick banded sand.

So where did it come from?

This is where the mining comes in.  Copper mining took place at Allihies for over 70 years starting in 1813.  In its day it was the largest copper production centre in Europe.   Allihies was remote and there were no environmental or safety controls and the Mine Captains pretty much did what they liked.  So rather than build an expensive dam to contain the tailings they were pumped into the local rivers that eventually found their way to the coast at Ballydonegan.  Standard practice then.  Environmental vandalism today.

IG3C4113

Tailings sand deposited among the rocks near the mouth of the river

IG3C4080

The mouth of the river.  Some unusual giant ripples.

So what are tailings?  In hard rock mining the rock containing copper minerals is brought to the surface for processing.  The total percentage of copper minerals may only be about 2-5% so over 95% of the rock mined must be disposed of.  It is crushed and then the copper minerals are separated with the remainder of the rock disposed of.   It was lucky that the processing this time didn’t involve toxic chemicals so the tailings was reasonably clean.   It accumulated at the mouth of the river and eventually the Atlantic Ocean converted it into a beach.  The vast majority of visitors are probably totally unaware that it is man-made.

It is a pretty place.  A great safe swimming beach and stunning views.  It is ironic though that in the 21st century it is one of the attractions of the area whereas two centuries ago it would have been a major blight on the landscape and that a place of such beauty exists because of man’s indifference and ignorance.

IG3C3991

Tranquil and empty.  Mid June.

IG3C4038

Not quite empty.  Holiday makers from the popular adjacent caravan park

 

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doughmore Beach, Co Clare. Walls, Donald Trump, drowned forests and a Man o’ War.

paanorama-doonbeg-1

It was Saturday and I was going to stay home and practice fiddle but  when I looked out the window I saw blue sky. And you have to take advantage of every such day with the Winter SADS not far away.  With Donald Trump on my mind after reading some anlysis of the debate (why do I do this to myself?) I thought I would go and have another look at where he wants to build his new Irish wall.

Doughmore is the location of Donald Trumps Doonbeg Golf resort, It is about tem minutes drive south of my little cottage near Quilty. So you see it’s pretty much my backyard.  You follow the signs with the blue squiggly line because the Wild Atlantic Way actually diverts to the beach.

Trump bought the impressive resort and golf course at a knockdown price of $12 million when the then owners were in difficulty.  An astute purchase?  Of course.

panorama-doonbeg-5

Doonbeg Resort.  Golf course tucked behind the dunes

 

ig3c0118

Doonbeg resort complex

 

For those who are not aware, he now wants to tip 200,000 tonnes of rock along nearly 3 km of the beach (that’s a public beach mind you) to build a massive wall up to 4.5m high to stop erosion of the dunes to protect his golf links.   A little bit of science.  Erosion of dunes during a storm surge is a natural event. The event that scared Mr Trump happened in February 2014 and the dunes were cut back around 10m. This was a once in a lifetime happening that caused millions of euros of damage all along the Clare, Kerry and Cork coasts. But hey, erosion of dunes is essential for the replenishment of the sand to the beach. It is temporary as the sand returns to the dunes through wind. That’s how the dunes got there in the first place.  The Dutch understand this and monitor the normal movement of dunes as a natural barrier to inundation of the lowlands. A rock wall will destroy this continuum. Trump proposes to spend millions to save a couple of greens. Well stiff I say. Spend the euros on new greens and fairways. Leave the beach alone.

ig3c0200

Doughmore Beach.  Eroded sand dunes.  Note rapid partial regeneration.

ig3c0321

Doughmore Beach.  200,000 tonnes of rock planned to be tipped against these dunes.

 

So my visit this day is to see what’s at stake. And see it before it disappeared under a pile of rock.

Oh, and did I say that these dunes are classified as a Special Area of Conservation by the EU.

I was struck immediately by the relatively unspoilt nature of the beach. At the southern end where the resort complex is located is a rock platform, unusual because the shales are steeply dipping unlike most of the Clare coast where the strata is flat lying.  From here a beautiful sandy beach stretches around the bay for about 3 km. In the bright sunshine it is stunning.  The resort stands proud of course but the golf links is tucked away out of sight.  The impression is of pristine wilderness.   I found plenty of reasons to leave the beach as it is.

ig3c0163

Doughmore Beach.  Wide sandy beach at low tide.

 

ig3c0015

Doughmore Beach.  View towards the north.

 

ig3c0185

Doughmore Beach.  Another view.

 

It is very wide and predominantly sandy with only a narrow zone of boulders at the base of the dunes as distinct from many beaches in the part of the world which are boulder rich. This day there were many using the beach but paradoxically it seemed empty.  Most were just Irish families not people from the resort. I  spoke to quite a few. There was a family walking their Labrador, which, by the way, was having the time of his life. Another family, home from Australia, building a sand castle, people walking, jogging and just sitting and staring towards the Cliffs of Moher, visible as clear as a bell in the distance.

ig3c0169

Doughmore Beach.  Enjoy.

 

There was plenty of bird life. I saw a pair of Oyster Catchers going about their business along the shoreline, there was a Grey Heron and a flock of Mute Swans, really a surprise to see them on the ocean. Could have watched them for hours. A bit of Tchaikovsky would have been perfect.  Perfect synchronicity from one pair as they performed a pas de duex for me.

 

ig3c0273a

Doughmore Beach.  A pair of Oyster Catchers.  Looking towards Liscannor and the Cliffs of Moher.

 

 

ig3c0715

Doughmore Beach.  A Grey Heron with the Cliffs in the distance.

 

 

ig3c0663

Doughmore Beach.  Part of a flock of Mute Swans.

 

Some kind folk pointed out to me a Portuguese Man o’ War washed up on the beach. Alive mind you.  A very rare occurrence as they are usually found in warm water in open ocean. A few have been spotted recently along the west coast of Ireland. So there is a bit of an alert out for them. They are related to the famous Australian blue bottle which though not as deadly as the Man o War, stings upwards of 10,000 people on Australian beaches every year. They are a beautiful and fascinating creature. Not actually a jellyfish, they are a colony made up of a number of different specialised individual animals (called zooids or polyps). They are attached to each other and to a bladder which is inflatable. The bladder, which is filled with gas, has intricate patterns etched in pink and the polyps and tentacle are shades of purple and cobalt blue. They have extremely long and venomous tentacles which is for gathering food and defending itself. They are at the mercy of the ocean currents and travel in schools of over 1,000. So keep a lookout. And don’t touch.

I noticed a small patch of peat exposed on the beach. This part of the beach is littered with old timber and tree stumps and roots. Part of an ancient drowned forest such as was revealed near Spiddal after the February 2014 storms. I’ve seen this before also at Caherush, though that one is now covered over again. Here there is very little of the peat exposed and it is is very narrow (less than a foot thick) and is clearly eroding fast.  It sits on a bed of quite soft mudstone which was the original forest soil layer. The stumps with roots attached many in situ and upright with the roots extending into the substrata. Chances are this represents an old forest from around 4-5,000 years ago, most likely inhabited. Most of the stumps appear to have met with a natural end, but I did notice one which had a definite saw cut – evidence of timber harvesting? This is amazing; they had saws back then? I can think of no other explanation.  This is a remarkable and unheralded window into the past.  Unfortunately it won’t be around long I’m guessing.  Not Trump’s fault this one, just the forces of nature.

ig3c0502

Doughmore Beach.  Part of submerged forest and remains of peat layer.  Grey rock underneath the peat is original soil layer of the forest. 

 

ig3c0532a

Large stump, showing roots.

 

ig3c0504

Doughmore Beach.  Ancient tree stump and roots.  Peat all washed away. 

 

I have to go back to that accursed wall. This is not his first attempt. Trump began to dump boulders along the beach soon after purchasing it, without any permits, before Clare County Council intervened and forced him to stop the work. Then he came up with a relatively benign solution which had the support of environmental groups. No this was too namby-pamby. He changed his mind, sacked the very experienced consultant and hired another who would support his now much more drastic proposal. It is currently before Council. Trump firstly applied to bypass the council and declare it a project of national importance (the nerve!). This failed and Clare Council to its credit has initially rejected the application and is seeking more information on 51 questions. This will take many months. Trump’s bullying tactics have so far not helped. We will watch with interest.

I urge everyone who reads this to go visit Doughmore and see for themselves. If you live overseas and intend to visit Ireland, it is a short drive from the Cliffs of Moher and is on the way to the Kilkee cliffs and Loop Head anyway (which should be on your list of must-see places). Hopefully it will all still be there when you come.

ig3c0060

Intricate flow patterns of sea grass on an exposed rock platform

 

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.