Memories of a Special Place

Over the past thirty years I would visit a favourite stretch of shore
line on Gweebarra bay. This bay is where the Gweebarra River curves
around before reaching the sea. I would cross the most beautiful
field on a hill with a view upriver and across to Dooey and the
headland beyond and as far out as Arranmore Island in the distance
This field is itself a townland called Drumshantony.
Going towards the sea at a corner of the field, a little woodland path
led towards the shore. Here, many years ago, great rocks had been
rolled out, making a sort of pier with an inlet beside it. In former days
a boat would be moored there, and seaweed might be gathered
nearby. Periwinkles used to be collected also and there were shrimps
in the seaweed on the stones. Either side of the rocks was good for
A large willow tree leaned out over the rocks making a pleasant
place to sit. Here I would often make my breakfast after my swim. I
kept my teapot in a little hollow within the tree roots. At low tide
there was always deep water round an outlying rock beyond the pier
stones. At high tide a seal would often appear in the water, looking
up at me in a seemingly friendly way. Many seals inhabit islands in
the bay, but only one would visit the place where I was so I always
thought it must be the same one.
The slope on each side of this place was covered with a variety of
ancient native trees and was a Special Conservation Area. There
were wildflowers of many kinds. Near the path on the way down
grew a rather rare orchid – Epispastics Helleborine or broadleaved
helleborine. I was always pleased to see its leaves appearing in the
summer before the flowering spike.
A little way along the shore was my favourite high tide place. To get
there I always went through a grove of beautiful mature birch trees
past which in springtime, bluebell paths led down to the shore.
At the shore here one could see some of the interesting and varied
rock formations which line this coast, from the pale smooth rock at
the base to a plethora of differing loose stones, indicating some of
the geological activity which has taken place over the millennia.
However, in present days, on the rough dark rock from where I could
swim there were some convenient hollows and spaces to sit. Usually
the water would be clear and for some reason the sand beneath was
aerated and when stepped upon, bubbles came up around one. My
daughter and I used to call it the jacuzzi spot.
Why do I write this account in the past tense? It is because, sadly,
much damage has taken place in this shoreside woodland. I cannot
understand why anyone would want to cut down many of the trees
and leave them to rot lying on the ground. The trees at the top of
the slope was the first to go, including the birch grove, leaving the
lower slope vulnerable to the recent storms so the Special Area of
Conservation containing a stretch of mixed natural forest, so
precious now in Donegal, has been badly damaged. A digger was
sent to dig up the trees lining the woodland path leading to the
shore. Then a fence was placed blocking off the inlet between
adjoining properties. This would benefit the beautiful field where
there could be grazing cattle, but the little inlet with its tiny stream
belongs to the shoreline and should not be cut off in this way.
Our island shorelines with their changing tidal levels, with their
profusions of algae, are such a wonderful asset compared to the
barren seaside shores of the Mediterranean.