Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 14

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.

Magho Cliffs

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.)

Boho High Cross

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.

Pollnagollam Falls

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.

Boho, Fermanagh and Pollnagollam Falls & Cave

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.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 12

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.

Image by Joan Shannon

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.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 6

Hello Earth Lovers and Poetry Writers! We are in Fermanagh today for the Poetry Prompts to spark geoheritage themed poems on sites ranging around Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. The closing date for submitting your poem for this digital Geopark Poetry Map is 15th June 2021. Email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for full guidelines and some background research that Geopark staff have prepared to help ground your poem in the geoheritage of each site.

Yesterday’s prompts looked at some of the ecclesistical sites that are dotted around the Geopark. Today I want to look at Holywell in Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh. The limestone geology of the region creates many springs across the region. From Holywell itself you can probably track a local holy well about every mile and a half . Many have been forgotten or fallen into disrepair, but many are still the focus of personal spirituality.

Here is what Martina O’Neill of Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark writes about this site.

Located just outside the village of Belcoo, St Patrick’s Holywell is one of many locate throughout the Geopark. The predominant limestone bedrock in the area dissolves in weakly acidic water allowing channels to be eroded both on top of and within the rocks. Much of the water in this regions flows through limestone rocks and where it reappears at the surface it is called a spring. It has not yet been confirmed where the water that flows into the well has it’s origins, although it is widely believed that it originates within the nearby Ballintempo uplands. Many of these springs have been termed ‘holywells’ and the example here is said to have been blessed by St Patrick himself. St Patrick’s Holywell is unusual as it flows in two directions and is also said to be the coldest in Ireland. Many such springs are said to have healing powers and as a result St Patrick’s Holywell is a place of pilgrimage for many local people who perform the Stations of the Cross during the Festival of Lughnasa at the end of July.

Martina O’Neil MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement
Holywell, Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh

This water flowing in two directions is not unique to this locality. As you climb to the village of Boho, about five miles above Belcoo, you can look down at the Sillees River at a point behaving in just the same way! What’s that all about?!

Here is a short video clip of the thundering of the stream into the wellhead that I took a few years ago.

Video made by Irish Blessings Tours

This video made by Fermanagh TV tells much more of the folklore that is part and parcel of this holywell that has been sacred since the cult of Crom Cruich. St. Patrick came to bless the well with the coming of Christianity (also probably to discourage backsliders). Much is said of how cold the water is and I can confirm that it is extremely cold even in high summer. Many holy wells have ‘cures’ associated with them. Traditionally, Holy Well is associated with helping to relieve nervous conditions. The film is ten years old but ‘keeping the pattern’ has faithfully been performed until Covid disrupted everything.

In the film Mairead O’Dolan mentions the ash trees around Holywell. Ash does very well in this region. While in other parts of Ireland hawthorn trees are associated with holywells, here in the Geopark it is the ash that stands straight and tall beside many of our holy wells. My own local well just up the lane has a miniature wet ash woodland beside it, like a pocket sized Claddagh Glen. ( See Day 2 of these Poetry Prompts for more about that site. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/05/17/geopark-poetry-map-prompt-2/

I hope you get some inspiration to spark a poem on this MACGeopark site. But if this doesn’t speak to you, fear not, there will be another poetry prompt on the morrow!

Mythic River

After seven years campaigning the Republic of Ireland legislated a ban on fracking the land in 2017, in the only private member’s bill  to ever pass in the Dáil.  Just over the border, the company vanquished at the eleventh hour from doing a test drill is trying it on all over again. Lack of planning permission was the obstacle last time and now they are making moves to gain those permissions. All within five miles of the border with the Republic of Ireland. The country with a fracking ban down river from where they want to frack. Because they want to drill within miles of the source of the River Shannon, the longest river on this island, the one that runs right down the country, meandering inland and then emptying herself into the Atlantic Ocean in Limerick. The impact is particularly potentially catastrophic since Ireland’s economy is mostly agriculture and tourism. Put hundreds of fracking drill pads across southwest Fermanagh and you destroy not just local lives and livelihoods. You impinge upon a geopark, an area that UNESCO reckons should be recognised and conserved because it is part of the world’s heritage.  We keep its heritage – both natural and built – not just for ourselves but for everyone. And so we are resolved to continue doing so.


Shannon

A river runs through us all

crossing borders underground, in secret,

stealthily raising Her watery head

over The Pot’s lip.

She streams quietly over that parapet,

slips down the rocky slopes.

Breathing easier, she eddies and flows

around Lough Allen, stretching out, 

flexing her new muscle, 

swimming across the Midlands,

stroke upon stroke to meet

the Atlantic Ocean.

What story do we tell ourselves?

How Síonnan reversed

all the Elders’s spells?

The old magic had its strength

before the stench of guilt,

its shiny shaming,

greed grabbing for me and mine, 

absconding before any blame

could be laid, or blood shed.

That, too, is a river.

Just as long.

Poison still circulates

because its the law of flow.

The more dilute, 

the more it lays waste.

What happens upriver

will never stay there.

That’s not just a story.

It’s how a river’s nature goes.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Don’t Frack With The Fairies

It has been ten years since we were first alerted to the fact that this pristine area of the world, a large part of which has the UNESCO recognition for its unique international significance for its natural, as well as built, heritage was under threat from fracking. A good chunk of the what geologists call the Lough Allen Basin lies within the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. It is an international, cross-border venture. As was the initial campaign to prevent drilling in Fermanagh, in Boho back in 2014. At the eleventh hour it was discovered no planning application had ever been made on the quarry drill site. Mark Durkin, the Northern Ireland Secretary of the Environment, ordered that drilling was not possible.

In the meantime, in the Republic of Ireland, activists put through the first ever private member’s bill to ban fracking in the Republic. Just last week the Republic of Ireland was the second nation in the world to declare a Climate Emergency. Much research concludes that the fracking process is catastrophic to the environment. Not only that. Our natural gas isn’t even that good quality.

This week Fermanagh’s newspaper The Impartial Reporter, announced that Tamboran, the corporation vanquished five years ago, has begun the planning application process to frack 600 square kilometers of southwest Fermanagh.https://www.impartialreporter.com/news/17631493.fracking-licence-to-cover-over-600-square-kilometers-of-fermanagh/

This application covers miles of boundary with the Republic. If the whole Brexit worry over the border wasn’t enough, now we have to worry about genocide by enviromentocide. This move feels provocative to me, coming at this time while the Brexit negotiations grind on and the wrangle about how to handle the contentious boundary.

But be in no doubt. Fracking has a well-documented adverse effect on public health, and a negative impact on agriculture and tourism. That’s the backbone of our economy for the many and it will be destroyed. Fracking is another 1% move on destroying people in the name of profit for the very, very few.

But what was miraculous in the campaign against the frackers five years ago, is that it united the population and cut across the sectarian divide. Because everyone here loves the land. And the land herself was under attack. It is again.

So poetry practice meets agitprop today. The new poetry form I found is, appropriately, an Irish one, the treochair. It is made up of tercets, or three line stanza of 3-7-7 syllables. The first and third lines are meant to rhyme and alliteration is strongly encouraged.

Whether you are a fairy agnostic or not, be in no doubt that they helped us upset the Tamboran plan last time. We are allies in this fight.

Don't Frack With the Fairies

Fermanagh
Don't frack with the fairies!
It's a toxic formula.

Forsooth! Frack
at your peril. Don't let loose
cracking egomaniacs.

Believe you me,
Tamboran will have no luck
tampering with those tinies.

Just listen!
It's just never healthy
to snort, give out derision.

Not so wee
The Good Folk. Or the Auld Ones.
Call them as they may be.

Whatever
your position on fairies
this is a doomed endeavour.

Fermanagh
The planet needs patching up.
Join the Fairy Fianna!

Mother Earth
Needs all of us as allies
protecting purity's worth.

Frack fairies?
The truth? Their revenge will mean
apocolyspe, catastrophe.

Not just for
us, or you, or family.
Fracking is forevermore.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Housewarming

It’s chilly this morning and I burrowed down under the duvet. I was glad I put on the brightest duvet cover yesterday with the red bed spread. You need a bright splash in your decor when winter finally sets in and its rainy, chilly and grey. It reminded me of a little outing my husband and I took one January when we needed to get out from under cabin fever. We drove across the border to Fermanagh and took the road up from Belcoo’s Holy Well towards Boho (which is pronounced Bow that rhymes with Sew, not to rhyme with Soho!)  There we happened upon Margaret Gallagher’s thatched cottage. She was in residence and invited us in to have a look around in a family homeplace that has not changed that much in 200 years. She was busy making her morning fadge, or soda bread, over the open fire. She lives her heritage, not just interprets it for visitors.

The hearth with its chain and creel

Fadge made on an open fire
The Irish Dresser and its delph
The creel and chain cooking arrangement over the open hearth
The cottage is not electrified. Winter light at midday

Memory is said to be the parent of poetry. That winter time jaunt a few years ago came to mind this morning as I set about poetry practice. The weather is very dull, with a hard rain.  I had learned something from Margaret. When a climate can be dismal keep your interiors cheery.  Today’s poetry practice celebrates Margaret Gallagher’s recipe for housewarming.



Margaret Gallagher's Housewarming

Dawn came without its usual
fire. The east’s staying schtum today.
It promises a permanent dirge,
a milky murkiness upon
our earth. But across the lintel
door within a house all dressed up
in primary reds and yellows,
the blue delph stacked in the dresser.
 
Even without the creel and chain
or hearth to cheer, it cheers through rain.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018