Snowdonia: Through The Enchanted Forest

The tiny road that passes the converted chapel that we have been staying in once again for a late holiday continues to climb further into the mountains. The grassy areas, cropped short by sheep, give way to bracken, heather and stunted gorse, also shortened by the harsh climate. And an hours walk along this road – now little more than a stone track – brings you to the Enchanted Forest. At first, it is barely noticed: a tongue of dark green that appears to be sliding down the mountain as if desperate to reach the richer soil of the valley below.
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But suddenly, as you walk round a bend in the path, there it is in front of you. The trees look inviting; beckoning you to shelter from the cold north-easterly wind that cuts through to your bones. Yet, as you approach, the gate barring your way makes you hesitate, for the first

view into the depths of the forest is a menacing combination of dark and light. All those childhood images from the Brothers Grimm come to mind for there are the conflicting emotions: is this a sinister or a kind place to be and where will the path lead?
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Walking further into the forest, it proves to be a fascinating place, with sight after sight more enchanting than the previous one. The damp mists and rain have turned the ground into a mossy wonderland with great mounds of it creating a weird, almost surrealistic, landscape. Surely, Goblins or Hobbitts live here? They do, for every so often the moss builds up to make a hooded entrance and some even have – if you look carefully enough (like in the photo below) – a wrinkly face staring out at you.
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It is just not the light and the shadows that play tricks with you, for nothing is quite as you expect it to be. Some of the conifers branches grow upright instead of horizontally so that their silvery underside is facing you, disorienting your vision.
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Even the toadstools are rarely toadstool shaped – here these look like pieces of discarded orange peel rotting in the leaf litter.
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It is not especially surprising that ice forms on the puddles at this altitude and time of year but even this is different. They have the appearance of stained glass windows, but strangely drained of all their colour…..
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And just as suddenly as you entered it, the forest gives way again to mountain. But what a mountain! It is as if it has been dropped from a great height and smashed to millions of pieces, some just lying around and others piled up one on top of the other, regardless of size or shape. And why, several hundred years ago, did they build the dry stone walls that travel up and over them for mile after mile?
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The sun had been shining brightly when we had stepped into the trees. Now, in an instant, the weather has turned and we are being threatened by snow flurries. She-dog, our lurcher, who recognises these problems better than we do, had been wandering on far ahead. Now, knowing that danger could be approaching, she hurtles down the track back towards us, agitated, beckoning us to return home.
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How glad we were we heeded She-dog’s warning! By the time we were within sight of home the landscape was changing to white. And the snow continued to fall for days…..
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Glasnevin: Beyond the Glasshouses

There is a lot more to explore in Dublin’s Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin than just the glasshouses which have been described in an earlier post. As expected, it’s 27 acres boast a wide array of plants and at this time of year the bright colours of the spring bedding and rhododendrons are a welcome sight after the long, grey winter we have all suffered.

Beyond this glare of colour and at the highest point of the garden is the pinetum, where sunlight is filtered through the dark, pendulous branches of this conifer, whose name I have already forgotten.

A multi stemmed Thuya would be an asset in any garden but few could cope with the size of this one. It is surprising when seeing a tree of this stature, to think that when clipped, Thuya make a fine hedge.

But perhaps the most outstanding tree at Glasnevin is the Montezuma Pine. Originating from Mexico (hence it’s name), it stands at the very brow of the hill, shining in the sunshine like a beacon. Seen close to, the irridescent, radiating needles give the branches the appearance of chimney sweeps brushes.


Never very far away from the magnificence of the ironwork glasshouses (upper photograph), it was a surprise to find this abandoned range of timber glasshouses (lower photograph). Awaiting funding for restoration, the faded, peeling paintwork and decaying architecture had a quiet dignity of its own. I loved it.



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