Of Rolling Hills and Hidden Vales, Uncategorized

Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park is a 1,750-acre urban park situation on the west side of Dublin, Ireland, making it one of Europe’s largest walled urban parks.

According to PhoenixPark.ie,

Phoenix Park was established in 1662 by one of Ireland’s most illustrious viceroys, James Butler, Duke of Ormond, on behalf of King Charles II.  Conceived as a Royal deer park, it originally included the demesne of Kilmainham Priory south of the River Liffey, but with the building of the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham, which commenced in 1680, the Park was reduced to its present size, all of which is now north of the river.  Shortly after the Park’s acquisition it was enclosed within a stone wall, which was initially poorly constructed.  Subsequent wall repair and new build were necessary as the Park’s size and boundaries were adjusted and realigned.  In 1668, Marcus Trevor, Viscount Dungannon, was appointed Ranger who, with two other keepers, was responsible for the deer, managing the Park’s enclosures and newly formed plantations.

Wild fallow deer still roam the park, as well as semi-wild humans.

Of Rolling Hills and Hidden Vales

Brigit’s Garden

Happy Imbolc, everyone!

Settled in Galway, Ireland, Brigit’s Garden is a lovely, award-winning non-profit collection of gardens founded by Jenny Beale.


The story, per the website:

There’s a lot of weaving in Brigit’s Garden: a woven fence of living willow, hand-crafted basketwork swings and symbolic harvest baskets surrounding thyme-covered mounds. Most of all, the garden is a weaving together of many people’s creativity, a rich tapestry of individual threads that together create something unique and magical.

Developing Brigit’s Garden has been a wonderful process of seeing a dream come into reality. I hope many people will come here and enjoy the beauty of the place and the sense of closeness to nature. I feel that if we are going to sort out our relationship with the planet then we have to engage our hearts and spirits as well as our minds, and I hope Brigit’s Garden will play its own small part in this process. We look forward to welcoming you to the garden.”

Jenny Beale

The creation of Brigit’s Garden has been a great adventure from the idea popping into my head in 1997 to opening to the public in July 2004. The vision was twofold: to create special gardens where people could reflect and relax in beautiful surroundings, and also to provide imaginative environmental education for all ages. I asked Mary Reynolds to design four interlinked gardens, based on the Celtic festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa that would provide beautiful and tranquil reflective places and a celebration of nature and the cycle of life. She came up with an inspired design, itself a weaving of old wisdom with a contemporary consciousness. We commissioned artists Linda Brunker, Ronnie Graham and Mick Wilkins to respond to Mary Reynolds’ design by creating sculpture for the gardens in bronze, bog oak and carved stone. Local stonemasons built the limestone walls that circle and spiral through the design and craftspeople from West Cork, Wexford and Connemara added detail in thatch and wood. At the centre of the four gardens is a circular stone building thatched with reed that provides a focal point and a quiet space. The project is an educational trust with charitable status, and many people have contributed their help and expertise on a voluntary basis. Galway Rural Development provided a vital Leader grant to help us along.

Detail from Jenny's sketch booksThe inspiration for the garden came out of three of the threads in my own life: a love of nature that has always been with me since my childhood on a farm on the Sussex coast in England, an interest in the arts, and a spirituality re-awakened through weekends celebrating the festival of Brigit. I found the stories and traditions associated with Brigit fascinating, as the two inseparable Brigits – goddess and saint – are closely associated with the powers of nature and the life cycle. The Celtic festivals mark the divisions of the agricultural year, and I found great richness in their symbolism. It seemed appropriate that this should be Brigit’s Garden. But this is not a nostalgic place, a harking back to some mythical Celtic dreamland. It is a contemporary garden, designed to speak to the needs of the 21st Century. It is intended as a contribution to a new environmental awareness, a place where people can engage with the natural world.

Garden in SummerThe enjoyment and educational aspects of the project are not separate. The heart of Brigit’s Garden is the four seasonal gardens, but the project is more than that – 10 acres more, in fact. A nature trail winds through hazel and ash woodland and restored wildflower meadows to new plantations of oak and other native species, planted by volunteers over the last five winters. Mary Reynolds’ design cleverly reflects the West of Ireland landscape in its use of local stone and native (or near-native) plants, so the gardens fit seamlessly into the surrounding fields and woods. Both gardens and nature trail invite visitors to slow down and appreciate the detail in nature: a dragonfly by the lochán or a butterfly on a clump of knapweed; ripening hazelnuts and blackberries and the pleasure of seeing how much young trees have grown since the spring. And trees grow fast here, thanks to the climate and the rich glacial soil. The site is mostly well drained and is decorated with magnificent glacial drop-stones; water-shaped boulders plucked from nearby limestone paving and left scattered over the landscape as the glaciers retreated.

The future beckons with many exciting possibilities, from outdoor exhibitions to nature conservation projects, from celebrations of the seasonal festivals to poetry under the trees. We look forward to welcoming you.





Of Rolling Hills and Hidden Vales

Cae Mabon

Cae Mabon is the brainchild and work of Eric Maddern, an “Australian-born world traveller with Aboriginal roots, Welsh connections and global aspirations.”

From the website:

Cae Mabon nestles at the foot of Elidir Fawr in an oak forest clearing by a little river that cascades down to the nearby lake. The summit of Snowdon lies just five miles to the southwest as the crow flies.

At the heart of Cae Mabon is a thatched Celtic Roundhouse. With a fire in its hearth and smoke rising from the thatch it’s been the home of many convivial evenings of song, story and chat.

Circling the Roundhouse is a family of seven elegant natural dwellings – a strawbale Hogan, an oak and slate Longhouse, a cedar log Lodge, a cob Cottage, a redwood Chalet, a Hobbit Hut and a cedar Cabin. Each is unique, snug and subtly lit by solar power. Together they accommodate up to 30 people.

A renovated barn contains a fully equipped kitchen and a spacious eating and meeting room. There is a fine composting loo, a stylish washroom, a thatched shower hut and, stunningly located by the river, a luxurious hot tub…


Below are images from the Cae Mabon website, as well as a video describing the retreat center.


Of Rolling Hills and Hidden Vales

Wichahpi Stone Wall

The Wichahpi Stone Wall is a 6600 ft. un-mortared wall built by Tom Hendrix in memory of his great-great-grandmother Te-lah-nay, a Yuchi Indian who was forced to walk the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.

It is the longest un-mortared wall in the US, and is the longest memorial to a woman and any Native American in the world.

In Mr. Hendrix’s own words as he talks about the Wall and his book, “If the Legends Fade“:

In northwest Alabama, there is a stone wall dedicated to my great-great-grandmother’s journey, about which this book is written, and to all Native American women.

The wall is my way of honoring my ancestors. It has become a special place to many who visit it, for reasons that relate to their own lives.

After walking the length of the wall, Charlie Two Moons, a spiritual person, explained it this way: “The wall does not belong to you, Brother Tom. It belongs to all people. You are just the keeper. I will tell you that it is wichahpi, which means ‘like the stars’. When they come, some will ask, ‘Why does it bend, and why is it higher and wider in some places than in others?’ Tell them it is like your great-great-grandmother’s journey, and their journey through life–it is never straight.”

If the Legends Fade is the story of Te-lah-nay’s journey.

The story, like the wall, belongs to all people.

(photos from Laura Bell)


Of Rolling Hills and Hidden Vales

Fort Worth Botanical Gardens – Japanese Garden

Located west of downtown Fort Worth, at University and I-30, the Fort Worth Botanical Garden is the oldest Botanic Garden in the great state of Texas.  Within this “Living Museum” collection of gardens there is the beautiful Japanese Garden, what some would say is the crown jewel of the Garden.

These beautiful photos were taken by Brandi Korte and can be seen on her Flickr photostream.

Of Rolling Hills and Hidden Vales

The High Line

From the the wikipedia entry for The High Line:

The High Line (also known as the High Line Park) is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line.  Inspired by the 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) Promenade plantée (tree-lined walkway), a similar project in Paris completed in 1993, the High Line has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park.

The High Line Park uses the disused southern portion of the West Side Line running to the Lower West Side of Manhattan. It runs from Gansevoort Street – three blocks below 14th Street – in the Meatpacking District, through Chelsea, to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Convention Center. An unopened spur extends above 30th Street to Tenth Avenue. Formerly, the West Side Line went as far south as a railroad terminal to Spring Street just north of Canal Street, however, most of the lower section was demolished in 1960, with another small portion of the lower section being demolished in 1991.

Repurposing of the railway into an urban park began construction in 2006, with the first phase opening in 2009, and the second phase opening in 2011. The third and final phase officially opened to the public on September 21, 2014. A short stub above Tenth Avenue and 30th Street, is still closed as of September 2014, but will open by 2015.  The project has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods that lie along the line.  As of September 2014, the park gets nearly 5 million visitors annually.

(featured image source)

Of Rolling Hills and Hidden Vales

Columcille Megalith Park

While I’ve not yet been able to visit Columcille Megalith Park, its on my list of places to visit as soon as I can.

From the park’s website:

Columcille, Inc. is a nonprofit organization established in 1978 to promote transformation through inner and outer work. It has its origins in Casa Colum (Gaelic for Home of the Dove), a small house opened in 1975 by William Cohea Jr. as a ‘salon by the side of the road’ where ‘tired sinners and reluctant saints’ could drop by and share their experiences and ideas. Cohea had been inspired during a visit to the Isle of Iona to create an open space which welcomed people of all faiths and traditions interested in renewal and transformation.

In partnership with Fred Lindkvist and “Friends of Columcille,” the original foundation grew and Columcille erected the St. Columba Chapel in 1979. The building took its name from Colum Cille, the 6th century Irish monk who founded a monastic community on Iona.

Images Source: Ron Bowen