Belated Happy Juneteenth! And Happy Solstice -either Summer or Winter depending upon your hemisphere. My mother would have been 104 years old yesterday. A high school friendship with an African American girl, Nellie Gator, was strongly influential in her support of civil rights for black American citizens during the dark Jim Crow years. She never forgave the DAR for refusing one of her operatic sheroes, Marian Anderson, Constitution Hall as a concert venue. While she never scurried down the genological rabbit hole to prove her ancestors fought in the American Revolution (unlikely, as we now know many were Quaker), but she said very firmly, with tightened lips that “even if she could, she would never join them.” I think Mom would be proud to share her birthday with this newly proclaimed US national holiday.
I did not post yesterday because of my monthly Zoom poetry group. We explored free verse, or open form, poetry. While North Americans have a strong tradition in this form, my Irish students are less familiar with it. While rhyme has not been something that has come naturally to me, I often find that Irish people can spontaneously rhyme from their very first effort at a poem! So this was a bit of a challenge for the Irish born members of my Zoom group.
But I warmed them up with a syllabic form first, the cinquain. I used this in my Geopark Poetry Map schools workshops as an alternative to haiku. Most primary age children will have had a bash at haiku by the time they are ten years old. The cinquain is a five liner, easy for a 45 minute workshop; it’s lines run, 2,4,6,8,2 syllables.
We addressed the theme of freedom in our poems yesterday. In keeping with both the day’s theme and the free verse task, I read aloud poems by African American poets, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes and Gwendoline Brooks. All these poets were new to my Irish colleagues.
Here is my cinquain for Juneteenth.
Able to breathe
Not always watching your back
Knowing your someone's prey
Happy Freedom Day! Happy Juneteenth, Mom! Meanwhile, it must be summer on schedule now. The wild orchids of West Cavan are out for Midsummer’s Eve. May this liminal day bring you gentle revelations.
It has been a hectic few days. Today is the closing date for the Geopark Poetry Map. Which is why the Weekly Poem is published a bit later in the day than normal. The rest of the week will also be busy reading the submissions and liaising with Geopark staff via Zoom.
It was also a day that began early with a school workshop on the Geopark Poetry Map in a Fermanagh school. While the rest of the world seems to be getting broiled, steamed or stewed in summer heat, here day broke with a temperature of 12C/54F. And there was no promise of it nosing much farther than that until much later in the day. The workshop had to be outdoors, but we had a bell tent for shelter and rough hewn ‘desks’ from reclaimed cable reel wheels and stools from tree stumps. The children sat on tarps spread over the bark ‘floor’. The rain held off, but the midges, as we say here in this part of the world, were mighty! This particular primary school is interested in the whole concept of Forest Schools. Given the pandemic, this is their moment! Covid Regulations do not allow visitors inside schools at all (except for repair and maintenance workers.) For freelancers like me, our only way of interacting with school children is outdoors and in a mask or face shield. For teachers who can squeeze us into their programme, they are grateful for the children getting some outside influence. A new face, even if it is behind a plastic face shield.
More than ever before I feel strongly that poetry writing needs to be part of the core curriculum.” Poetry makes you feel calm.” So said an 11 year old today. It has been far from calm these last two years, which make up about a fifth of their lifetime already. Poetry writing can help children process all the emotional challenges of this pandemic and what it has meant for them personally and for their families. Nature can be healing, too.
The school we visited today is very lucky in having over an acre of land that they can use for playing fields and outdoor activities. They plan on erecting another tent ‘classroom.’ But most schools do not have that option. In Brooklyn, where my brother lives, they closed his street so the public school on the corner could have recess space. The playground itself was transformed into an outdoor classroom last fall.
It was an early rising. Not quite amrit vela as it was already light. I dashed off a poem for today and began noodling with another. While one of our other cats has often been the featured hero of poems published in this blog, we have a new entry today. The ginger ‘legacy’ cat. Basically, we have an inexhautable supply of feline muses in this household.
The closing date for submissions to the MACGeopark digital Poetry Map is fast approaching. The closing date is 15th June 2021 and I am still getting enquiries for submission guidelines. While I am feeling the countdown of days – 5, 4,3,2,1…it’s not all about the countdown. There are a lot of moveable parts to this project and even after the closing date there is much more that will happen before it is unveiled in October 2021.
Last month’s blast of poetry prompts and memes on Twitter and even Instagram seems to have caught some traction. We have had an open call out since Poetry Day Ireland since 29th April for poem on specific sites within Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark that highlights some aspect its geoheritage. Martina O’Neill, Development Officer for Partnership & Engagement created a wonderful document siting the geoheritage points of dozens of sites around the Geopark. (I quoted copiously during the 14 days of Geoheritage Poetry Prompts for the Poetry Map.) The earth has been reflected in ancient monuments like the wedge tombs and dolmens, and more recently, in industries like Belleek Pottery and family run lime kilns. The Geopark has glacial erratics, but also has the built heritage that the smaller rocks were used to make sweathouses, dry stone walls, castles and abbeys. We also have many sites of special scientific interest for plants and the blanket bog on Cuilcagh and other upland areas. Because of the limestone we have orchids, too.
But that is only one moveable part of the project. First we commissioned five established writers to create new work. Dara McAnulty, author of the award-winning Diary of a Young Naturalist, will write on Big Dog Mountain. (The North American edition has just been published by Milkweed.) Noel Monaghan has many poetry collections published by Salmon Poetry; Loughoughter is his chosen site. Maria McManus grew up in Belcoo with the Marble Arch Caves just down the road from her homeplace. Seamus Mac Annaidh has published in many genres – novels, poetry and history – in the Irish language and is known by English readers mostly for books centring on Fermanagh history. A J Quinn is best known for his crime novel series set in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
We were able to announce all the commissions for Poetry Day Ireland on 29th April 2021. Then began the push and open call to new and emerging poets for their poems which will conclude this Tuesday, 15th June.
The other part of the project has been really challenging. How to involve school age children? I have facilitated poetry workshops in primary schools before. So that held no terror. But there was a long wait for getting vaccinated as I felt it only prudent, given my age and health, to have that done before venturing out. Immunity Day came on 24th May for me.
But even venturing out still means not going into schools. And therein we have another challenge – the Irish weather! The school year for primary pupils ends in the last week of June. This has been an extraordinarily challenging year for teachers and having someone come into the school with an additional project which may, or may not, compliment the curriculum was just one factor to consider. The other is that they are playing catch up from winter when they have only had home schooling. In rural areas remote learning was sometimes just impossible. As far as I am concerned teachers are the unsung front liners of this pandemic.
Yet despite all these challenges one school in Cavan and Fermanagh agreed to have me come in for a 45 minute session on the project. Fortunately, the Geopark has a lot of good material that is aimed at schools that were stockpiled from when they could engage with them pre-pandemic.
Given Covid regulations the workshops are outdoors. Fortunately, the rain and the midges were busy elsewhere when I worked with the older students at Curravagh National School in Glangevlin, Co. Cavan. What better way to teach geoheritage than to point to the rocky outcrop behind the school and name it – karst, weathered limestone. And then swing my arm the other direction and talk about drumlins and how drumlins even gave their name to a Cavan abbey. Outdoor classrooms have more than just one advantage.
I have worked with these kids before and it felt joyful to see how much they have grown and matured over the two years since I last worked with them in June 2019. Even though we were outdoors, I masked so that I could look at their work and help them when they asked questions. But what really impressed me was that all but the very youngest pupil opted to wear a mask, too. As did their teacher.
But who they really wanted to see was my husband, who they know for his guitar and singing and sometimes even a story. He sang into his plastic face shield from a safe social distance. And somehow, it felt a bit like the old normal for us and for the kids. As their principal told me. They need to see new faces and hear new slants on things. It was a memory of how things were when we last met two years ago and how things are now, but still there could be some silly singalongs and laughter.
On the 15th Tony and I will be in Fermanagh, but there the primary school has a big bell tent that we can shelter in at a safe social distance with a large group. The tent has been acquired because of the interest in Forest Schools post-pandemic. And they are fortunate enough to have the space for it. There, too, the head teacher was keen when he learned that my driver can come along with his guitar. We dropped off the Geopark material and my lesson plan in advance to prep the class teacher on what we aim to accomplish – a poem. I have two short forms to offer that can rhyme or not, but what I really am eager is to hear where they have been in the Geopark and how they feel about those places. Getting some aspect of the arts into schools during the pandemic is considered a huge boost to the kids by teachers who know the added value they bring.
In the Cavan school I learned that one pupil has a lime kiln on their land. (Oh, for a lime kiln or sweathouse to feature in a poem; wish list!) Another lad climbed Cuilcagh with his family as a memorial walk on the anniversary of his father’s death. Geoheritage is not something museum-like to these kids who live in Geopark communities. It is all around them and inside them.
You can email queries or submissions to GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com by 15th June 2021.
The bank holiday yesterday brought me up short when I suddenly realised that yes, today is Tuesday! Time to post the Weekly Poem. There has been little poetry writing time in recent months, given the attention that the Geopark Poetry Map has needed. Also, the garden suddenly needs an extra pair of hands. I am better at the destruction aspects – weeding, burning my mortal enemies ‘Sticky Willy’ (cleavers) and Bindweed. We don’t use chemical fertilizer or pest pest control. Our garden may not have official certification, but we use organic principles on our acre. So it wildish and has a carpet of buttercups where the daffodils were in March.
With the Summer solstice and the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere rapidly approaching, we are seeing the last of Spring…and also some signs which would normally have appeared over a month ago.
It is a bank holiday weekend here is the Republic of Ireland. There is still time to visit various sites around Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark and see if your poem could make its mark on our digital Poetry Map. The project includes five commissioned poets who are working on poems on the Marble Arch Caves, Cuilcagh Mountain, Big Dog Forest, Devenish Island and Cloughoughter. Your poem could be one among those written by Dara McAnulty, Anthony J Quinn, Noel Monaghan, Maria McManus and Seamus McCanny. Poems can be in Irish, but need to be accompanied by an English translation.
There are well over fifty sites scattered across the many hectares of land that straddle the Fermanagh and Cavan boundary. The Marble Arch Caves was the original site, along with nearby Cuilcagh Mountain Park, that first earned European Geopark status . We became a Global Geopark in 2004. But there was a wider vision. With the Good Friday Belfast Treaty of 1998, there was the real opportunity to create the very first cross-border Global Geopark on the planet. South Fermanagh and West Cavan share the lakes, drumlins and moraines, the limestone and Neolithic history that were formed long before a line was drawn on a map in 1921.
Just as UNESCO recognises that the Giant’s Causeway and Brú na Boinne are part of world heritage, so too do they recognise that this landscape is also an important feature of world heritage. Geoheritage will be celebrated in the poems that will mark these sites on our digital Poetry Map, which will go live on the Geopark website this October.
The deadline for teen and adult submissions closes on 15th June 2021. We have already received submissions not just from Cavan and Fermanagh, but from the USA, France and Singapore! The project has been able to engage with the Irish diaspora, as well as let the wider world know about the importance of what lies beneath our feet.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 restrictions have meant that working with the Fermanagh primary schools and the Cavan National Schools has been fraught with obstacles. So far I have a school in each county for one session each. Basically, I will be facilitating a geoheritage poetry workshop outdoors. The Fermanagh school has a bell tent, which is blessing, given the capricious and often fluid nature of Irish weather. The Cavan school will check the weather on the morning and we shall go forth accordingly in faith with a prayer that the weather gods be kind.
When I was first proposing a project in pre-Covid 19 days, it was with a plan to engage with schools on Poetry Ireland Day 2020. We may not be in Lockdown these days, but we still live with restrictions that are often unpredictable. I do want to try and involve the kids – they are the future of the planet after all – in some way. I have to say that teachers really have my sympathy. They are working under some really stressful circumstances. One principal noted that while the Department had said that school trips were now allowed, another directive indicated that transport for said proposed outings was not available! I imagine that across the country many feel that what is given with one hand is then often taken by the other! Teachers have been working heroes and sheroes these past eighteen months and they are sometimes not given the credit for being pandemic front liners.
I am just grateful that I am vaccinated and that we can do these gigs outdoors (roll on Forest Schools!), which is actually more appropriate when you are talking about the earth. I can wear a face visor, so the kids will be able to see my face. Both principals mentioned that their kids are hungry for seeing new faces and hearing a differant slant on a subject. In which case, I feel a bit like Inspiration R Us! (Tony is allowed to bring his guitar into the bell tent. When I cautiously asked if he was allowed to not have to sit in the car to wait for me, I tentatively ventured that he bring his guitar. The response was not just positive, but positively enthusiastic! He may even have a short Geopark kind of story up his sleeve, too!)
There are lots of moveable parts to this project. We have commissioned work, poems from new and emerging poets, and school children. The final piece will be recording all the poems so that there will be both an ‘off the screen’ and an ‘in your ear’ poetry experience. The digital Geopark Poetry Map will go live in October 2021.
There is still time for you to make a contribution to this project! Ten days left to submit a poem!
This post is written in haste. The poem was written in advance because today we will travel north of the border and meet much loved relatives after the long Lockdown separation. Our nephew has not been seen since Christmas 2019. Our niece did visit briefly last September, but it was a sad sojourn of making end-of-life decisions and saying goodbye to the dog of her childhood; Ellie came to live with us when her Mum was hospitalised and it became clear that the dogs should stay with us. (Ellie has been immortalised in some poems on this blog; https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/01/30/cailleach-conditions/.) So this is the prospect of a joyful reunion, released as we are from Lockdown, into a post-vaccination world of pandemic hugs. I am so over-excited I cannot say if I am beside myself or over and above myself!
So…without further ado…on to the weekly poem! Which was generated from the Personal Universal Deck that NaPoWriMo 2021 suggested on Day 3. It has actually turned out to be a very fun poetry tool. And the birch tree feels like a worthy totem for our brave, slightly tentative, pandemic new world.
Hello all you earth lovers and poetry lovers! Geoheritage poetry is for you! And we hope you will submit poems inspired by a wide array of sites across the wide Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark so we can put them onto our digital Geopark Poetry Map which will go live in October 2021. And why, you might ask, have you not covered the Marble Arch Caves or Cuilcagh Mountain Park already? Well, for two good reasons. The first is that two of our commissioned poets have bagged those sites as the focus of their own poems. The second reason is that the iconic Marble Arch Caves are sometimes wrongly considered the whole of the MACGeopark. Part of this Geopark Poetry Map exercise is to rectify that misapprehension. The Caves and the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk, nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven, are two of the most heavily visited sites in the Geopark, but the Geopark is so much more.
Today I am going to conclude this series of geoheritage poetry ‘sparks’ to inspire poems for the Geopark Poetry Map with two sites in County Fermanagh that have been put in the shade by the better known neighbours. The first is a dramatic viewpoint that can beat even the breathtaking expanses seen from Marlbank. The Magho Cliffs offer, on a clear day, an unparalleled prospect.
The spectacular view from this location is arguably one of the most dramatic in Ireland. The bird’s eye view of Lower Lough Erne and its islands allows you, on a clear day, to see the rounded Sperrin Mountains to the east, the Blue Stack Mountains to the north, and Slieve League, Donegal Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
The most striking feature from this location is Lower Lough Erne itself with its breathtaking size only really appreciated from a viewpoint like this. Like so many places on the island of Ireland, the present landscape is a direct result of the last glaciation, which ended around 13,000 years ago. The valley that is now occupied by Lower Lough Erne probably contained a pre-existing river and was a v-shaped valley.
Glaciers usually follow the easiest route along which to flow, often a pre-existing river valley. The erosive power of glaciers, resulting from the debris embedded within the ice, changed the original v-shape of this valley to form a wider u-shaped valley. Further evidence for this is the presence of many drumlin islands in the lake, formed as glaciers moved across the valley floor. Once the glaciers melted, sea-levels rose and this huge valley became flooded and formed the over-deepened glacial lake that we now call Lower Lough Erne. The drumlin islands of Lower Lough Erne are clearly visible from this location.
The Magho Cliffs themselves upon which the viewpoint is perched are a 9km long limestone escarpment dominating the southern shore and skyline of Lower Lough Erne. These are hugely significant in their own right both geologically and ecologically.
Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement
The other site I want to mention is Belmore Forest. Drive up towards the village of Boho (pronounced like the gentleman caller – beau) from Blacklion’s Holy Well. You pass Margaret Gallagher’s Cottage on the way, which has been kept exactly as her ancestors lived in it.
Boho Village is worth a stop if you are like me and like to wander around graveyards. They have an impressive High Cross and some very cool skull and cross bones on gravestones. (You can see those at Drumlane Abbey, too.)
Belmore Forest is above and beyond the village, which is prime caver country. It also hosts Pollnagollam Falls which fans of Game of Thrones will recognise as one of the series’ sets filmed in Northern Ireland.
Belmore Mountain lies above the village of Boho in western Fermanagh and is substantively covered in coniferous forestry. Belmore Mountain with a summit roughly 398 metres, is the second highest point in Fermanagh and provides breathtaking views of Boho, Lower Lough Erne, Lough Navar and to the east, Brougher Mountain with its distinctive television masts on top.
The forest is at the heart of Fermanagh`s Boho cave country and beneath your feet lies an extensive maze of caves which attract cavers and potholers from far and wide. The geology of Belmore Forest is dominated by limestone, which is found as horizontal layers (beds) that formed at the bottom of a shallow tropical sea over 340 million years ago, during the Lower Carboniferous period. A viewing platform at Pollnagollum Cave provides a great vantage point to see the impressive cave entrance which is fed by a beautifully cascading waterfall toppling down a 12 metre limestone cliff to disappear into the depths of darkness. The viewing platform is located in a feature known as a collapsed doline, these form when a cavity is hollowed in this case in the limestone rocks below by a process of dissolution and then collapses. The first exploration of this cave was undertaken by two cavers known as Édouard-Alfred Martel and naturalist Lyster Jameson in 1895 (the same gentlemen who explored the nearby Marble Arch Caves) and during Victorian times the cave was opened as a show cave. Depending on the time of day and year keep a watchful eye out for bats and birds around the cave entrance.
One of the most intriguing mammals found in the Belmore uplands in addition, to bats is the Irish hare. Unique to Ireland, the Irish hare is arguably our oldest surviving mammal having been present on the island since before the last Ice Age.
Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement
Here’s a bit of video ambience.
You have until 15th June 2021 to submit your geoheritage themed poem on any of these Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.
I hope they inspire you to write poems of every sort .Please see the comment from Day 13 where a follower has posted what was sparked by that blog posted yesterday.
Poetry writing has an important place in our lives during all times, but, I feel, especially during an pandemic. It is good for our minds and souls to express ourselves in writing. Because, as Jane Hirshfield has noted, a good poem offers us a surprise. She also reckons that poems offer a sense of hiddeness and uncertainty. While these past years have given us plenty of the latter, the element of surprise is often its reprieve. We may have had a lot of drama to process during this pandemic year and more, but what we may have lacked was genuine surprise. A good poem packs some of that.
I am eager to read all the poems submitted to GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com in the coming month. I hope to be surprised.
This is the penultimate prompt for the Geopark Poetry Map challenge. This weekend is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland and next weekend is the bank holiday in the Republic of Ireland. So there is still plenty of time for residents to visit sites around Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark before the submission closing date of 15th June 2021. The Geopark has that UNESCO badge because the natural and built heritage (which is inextricably connected to the nature heritage) is considered to be of world heritage worthiness, just Giant’s Causeway or Brú na Boinne for instance. It’s just that we are spread out over two counties, cross international boundaries and tens of thousands of hectares. We want you to visit both the famous sites and the lesser known ones and we are looking for geoheritage themed poems to put many onto our digital Poetry Map, which will go live on the Geopark webiste in October 2021.
Today, I want to highlight a castle, because I also want to reach out to readers abroad and we know that everyone loves an Irish castle. And ruins can be so romantic… who does not love a stone ruin? So atmospheric! Tully Castle lies close to Derrygonnelly in County Fermanagh and has a dramatic history, as most castles do! But it is also the geology and wildlife of its setting that makes it a prime site to put onto our digital Geopark Poetry Map.
Around 340 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period, the island of Ireland would have been located around the equator. Positioned on the edge of a much larger continent meant that the area was covered by a tropical shallow sea. The lime-rich mud that gathered on the sea floor, has over millions of years been compacted to form limestone, the rock that makes up the majority of the Geopark. As the abundance of sea creatures died, their bones and shells sunk to the sea floor and have been preserved as fossils in the limestone rock which dominates the shoreline at this location.
Tully Castle is located on the western shores of Lough Erne and exposures of limestone are particularly evident along the loughshore, indeed, the ‘scallop’ marks created as a result of the water from Lough Erne lapping onto the loughshore are commonplace. The site command impressive views onto the Lower Lough Erne which was created as huge ice sheets slowly crept across the landscape, until it ended approximately 15,000 years ago, acting like giant sheets of sandpaper, removing all underlying material from their path and forming a valley that would eventually fill with water to become Lower Lough Erne. My of the surrounding hill and islands that are visible from Tully Casle are drumlins, which are formed from till or boulder clay that was sculpted into this characteristic egg-shape as massive ice sheets slowly crept across the landscape during the last glaciation.
It has a range of woodland, grassland and wetland habitats, including Northern Ireland Priority Habitats of high biodiversity value. Broadleaf trees, mainly Alder, Ash, Birch, Hazel and Grey willow, occur in woodland on the drumlin slopes and the lough shore. The woodlands are rich in flowering plant species such as Bluebell, Early purple orchid, Golden saxifrage, Wild garlic and Wood anemone, together with the Soft shield-fern, mosses and fungi. The Castle grassland, has over 100 flowering plant species including the Cat’s ear, Common spotted-orchid, Knapweed, Ragged robin and Yellow rattle. The main species are Common bent, Jointed rush, Ribwort plantain and Sweet vernal-grass. Grassland and woodland edge habitats support the butterfly species Green-veined white, Meadow brown, Silver-washed fritillary and Small tortoiseshell. Red squirrel and Otter occur and bird species such as Kingfisher, Red- breasted merganser and Whooper swan can be sighted.
In 1610, following the Flight of the Earls (1607), King James 1 granted 2,000 acres of land in the townland of Tully, known as Carrynroe, to Sir John Hume. Tully Castle (1611-15) built for Hume, consisted of a strong house and bawn. It is a castle Scottish in design, built by Irish stonemasons. Sir John Hume from Berkshire in Scotland was one of the first planters to settle in Fermanagh. He died in 1639, leaving the castle to his son, Sir George. On Christmas Eve 1641, Rory Maguire, accompanied by a large following of rebels, set out to capture Tully Castle. Sir George and many of the troops were away. Lady Hume surrendered the castle on the condition of the safe release of all there. However, on Christmas Day, Maguire and the rebels massacred all sixteen men and approximately sixty women and children who had taken refuge within the bawn, sparing only the Humes. They then pillaged and burnt the castle, which has remained a ruin to this day. The castle’s location on the Lough shore is one of great beauty.
Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement
Greetings Earth lovers and Poetry writers! I am posting the MACGeopark Poetry Map Prompt a bit later today because…you know…life laundry, messages (as they call those hunt and gather errands in Northern Ireland); a neighbour needed a lift to fetch their car that had been mended. They day evaporated and I am just getting down to this after a hastily eaten tea whipped up in the space that of a Bewitched nose twitch. (Beans on toast with a fried egg if you are truly curious.) Today I want to highlight a dramatic site in Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark that you cannot fail to notice if you travel the Blacklion (Cavan) to Florencecourt (Fermanagh) Road. The border seamlessly moves from Cavan with a segue into a “Welcome to Fermanagh” sign – no Customs post or passport control. This road known locally as the Marble Arch Road and it leads to many of the Geopark’s best known sites. Hanging Rock dominates the landscape. I remember seeing it for the first time twenty years ago and feeling full of awe as we drove past. It has showstopper writ large. If it were a Broadway musical it would be the 10 o’clock number.
But as I passed by with the jaw hanging loose, little did I know its truly remarkable nature.
Overlooking Lower Lough Macnean is a magnificent 50 m high limestone cliff – the Hanging Rock. The limestone from which the cliffs are formed was created around 340 million years ago during the lower Carboniferous geological period, when Ireland lay close to the equator. Located on the edge of a supercontinent, where sea-levels were higher, the area that we now call Ireland was covered by a shallow tropical sea. The limestones formed by the accumulation of lime-mud on the bottom of this ancient sea floor and from the remains of dead sea creatures that would have thrived in these waters. Limestone formation is a very slow process; layers and layers of limey deposits build up on the ocean floor and are compacted by the weight of the water over millions of years. Closer inspection of the limestone will reveal, fossils (typically bones or shells) of creatures that lived in this ancient tropical sea. This specific type of limestone is known as Dartry limestone.
Interestingly, two stream risings lay at the base of the cliff, known as the Hanging Rock Risings. One of the risings is constantly active, while the other dries up during times of low rainfall. The risings are traced to only one source, Legacapple on the Marlbank above, but the water is believed to combine from a number of other sources.
Yew and juniper cling to its face. At the bottom of the cliff is one of the finest ash woodlands in Northern Ireland. It is believed that the great variety of lichens found here indicate woodland cover since ancient times. An area was clear felled in the early 1940s and has now grown back naturally.
To the west, in Rossaa Wood, oak, beech, great willow and elm have grown to full maturity and shelter a rich variety of plants. There are slopes covered in grasses amongst which grows the colourful Welsh poppy. toothwort, a parasitic plant, lives on the roots of hazel and elm. It looks unusual as it is totally white and stands out against the mosses on the damp woodland floor. Red squirrels can occasionally be seen in the woodland while the elusive pine marten has been sighted in recent years.
Local legend says that a rock dislodged from the cliff and fell onto a local salt trader taking shelter from a storm. This rock became known as the Salter’s Stone or Cloghoge and sits prominently at the road side to the east of the reserve.
Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement
A geoheritage poem based on Hanging Rock can tap into many of the elements of this MACGeopark site. First, there is the distinctive profile.
The other components are wind and water, the fossil record in the limestone and.in the many tree species. Yew and juniper are considered some of the ‘first trees’ to have emerged after the Ice Age Melt. Indeed, at Florence Court House and Grounds, a National Trust site further down the road, there is a yew that is referred to as ‘The Mother Yew’ of Ireland, as they have the oldest representative of the species Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’. This is ancient landscape on so many levels.
You still have time to submit a poem to put this site onto our digital Geopark Poetry Map. Your poem may be represented alongside the commissioned work of five poets from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. If you want to submit a poem in Irish that would be very welcome, but please include the English translation alongside it. If you would like full guidelines please email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date is 15th June 2021.
Today I want to highlight not so much a site, but a geological feature that characterises the MACGeopark region – glacial erratics – those huge boulders and pedestal rocks that we find, especially close to Cavan Burren Forest. But I also have to say it is not unusual for you to see one that, having been unearthed when building a new home, becomes a front garden feature roundabouts. Which makes sense since our earliest ancestors saw them as aesthetic objects made of rock. They use them as their palette for some of the earliest examples of human art on this island. In terms of geoheritage topics you cannot beat the beauty, mystery and mystique surrounding glacial erratics. Surely, some poet can sing a hymn of praise to these earthly wonders for our Geopark Poetry Map!
This is an example of a type of glacial erratic, whereby the huge boulder would have been left behind as the ice melted and retreated at the end of the last glaciation. The fact that the boulder is a different type of rock from the underlying bedrock gives rise to the name ‘erratic’. This type of erratic is known as a pedestal rock and these features are relatively rare landforms. However, there is a significantly high concentration of pedestal rocks within Cavan Burren Park where they are considered to be of international significance. In order fora pedestal rock to form, the erratic must be deposited directly on top of the limeston bedrock. Other glacial erratics within the forest have no pedestal suggesting that they were transported within a mass of boulder clay and therefore came to be deposited on top of the boulder clay and not directly on to bedrock. It is thought that the deposition of the huge sandstone boulder directly on top of limestone acted as a barrier to erosion, as limestone erodes readily in weak acidic water such as rainwater. If this is the case, then the amount of erosion that has taken place since the end of the last glaciation is easily estimated as the height of the limestone pedestal is the height that all of the limestone would have been whenthe erratic was deposited.
Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement
Within Cavan Burren Park there is also a rare example of what is called a ‘modified glacial erratic.’ Signposted as ‘The Boulder Tomb’ it is thought that cremated remains were deposited in the niche created by the modifications. There is also rock art at this location. A small spring can be found towards the bottom of the incline. I have to agree with local ceramic artist Jim Fee that this part of Cavan Burren Park has a special and very peaceful presence.
Enter the site and walk towards the huge boulder in themiddle. It is best to view this feature from below so walk downhill before stopping. This is another example of a huge glacial erratic. It displays evidence of alteration by man with rock art on the top surface. This is another example of a pedestal rock with the erratic beingsandstone and the underlying pedestal being limestone. In this instance the limestone has been carved and has been identified as a prototype tomb. If you look carefully at the sandstone you will see that the layers are contorted in places. This is probably due to some form of disturbance before it became lithified, when the wet layers of sand were disturbed causing the water to be released.
Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement
All the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites are open to the public and now we are free to travel round the country. Northern Ireland has a bank holiday this weekend and the Republic will have one the first week of June. You may want to visit Cavan Burren Park and hug some of these glacial eratics to inspire some poems that will put them on our Geopark Poetry Map. Email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for submission guidelines. The closing date is 15th June 2021.