It’s Not All Countdown

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.

Early Purple Orchid

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.

Sundials are much quieter than ticking clocks…potentially more earth friendly, too…

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.

MACGeopark Poetry Map Work Continues

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!

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 10

Hello Earth lovers and poetry writers! Day 10 of our MACGeopark Poetry Map prompts visits Tullydermot Falls. We are seeking geoheritage themed poems on various sites across Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. MACGeopark, as we who know and love it refer to it for short, was the first international, cross-border Geopark on the planet given that it has sites in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, part of the UK, as well as sites in County Cavan, Republic of Ireland. The geology of the region carved by sliding ice sheets over millenia knows no international boundaries. MACGeopark came into being in 2004, Marble Arch Caves and Cuilcagh Mountain Park forming the original boundary. It later expanded into County Cavan, covering some 18,00 hectares and over 90 sites of importance. In 2015, UNESCO gave MACGeopark it’s highest designation, recognising the world heritage importance of the region.

Here we are in a global pandemic in a time when geoheritage is of massive importance to the global future. In this Great Pause, which is tentatively hovering over the ‘on’ switch, MACGeopark has launched this digital Geopark Poetry Map to engage with the wider public, those both at home and abroad, adults and school age children. Over this fortnight until this Spring Bank Holiday Weekend (in Northern Ireland), I am publishing ‘sparks’ to help you engage with a site’s geoheritage and cultural significance to inform your poetry making.

Nature poetry has a long and strong tradition. The pastoral has given way to environmental and climate change poetry. But at the basis of all is the earth and how it shapes us. How we live, earn our bread, grow our food, our language and customs are all bound up with the shape of the land.

So, to today’s site! Tullydermot Falls, close to Swanlinbar in County Cavan.

In flowing to the sea, rivers try to deepen their valleys to the same level as the sea. Old and
mature rivers tend to have broad flat river beds whilst younger rivers are characterised by
water falls and rapids. This is especially the case in the upper reaches of rivers such as at
Tullydermot Falls. Tullydermot Falls occur in the upper reaches of the Claddagh River, a
tributary of the Erne River, which flows eastwards from its source in the Cuilcagh Mountains towards Swanlinbar. The falls are caused by the action of the water on the underlyingbedrock which consists of alternating layers of hard sandstones and softer shales. The fast flowing river erodes the soft rock leading to the undercutting of the overlying hard rock. The derelict cottages and farmhouses that are dotted across the landscape in this part of County Cavan are a stark reminder of the thriving farming communities that would have once been found throughout the Irish countryside. Many other landscape features also remind of this bygone era. Remnants of ‘lazy beds’, a method of forming ridges of earth to provide for crops can be seen in the fields nearby. Carefully packaged stacks of traditionally hand-cut turf dot the fields on either side of the Claddagh River, a technique that is still employed throughout Ireland to this day

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

If you are wondering what hand cut turf looks like (and you can see it in peat bog close to Tullydermot Falls), this is what it looks when it it is harvested each summer.

Here is some video footage to give you a taste of the ‘water and the wild.’

I hope that some of these poetry prompts over this fortnight will spark poems that appreciate the layers and nuances of our geoheritage here in MACGeopark. You can get guidelines from GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date for submissions is 15th June 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 9

Greetings from a scattered sunshine day here in a MACGeopark community. I say scattered sunshine because there is still the odd raindrop now and then. But at least it is not the hail stones that drummed on our roof yesterday! Spring is coming late to us in 2021, which may be why we just bought ourselves an upcycled fire pit. It is made from old tire rims and other bits and pieces. If we are going to have a cuppa with friends outdoors then we shall be swathed in blankets and can toast our toes along with the marshmellows this summer!

For today’s Geopark Poetry Map prompt I am sticking with the water theme. Because, along with rocks, water is a lot of what we have got! Today, I want to highlight Shannon Pot, the point when the underground source of the River Shannon bursts above ground to pour itself along ever widening banks down the length of the Republic of Ireland. My husband and I live in Dowra, the first village on the River Shannon after it’s rise a few miles north We pitched up in Dowra on a Mart Saturday back in September 2001. Little did I know then that this small corner of Geopark heaven would wind up being the place I have been resident longest in my lifetime. Who would have thunk it?!

But…back to the Shannon Pot:

The Shannon Pot is located in the foothills of Cuilcagh Mountain and is regarded as the
source of the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland and the UK, with a length of
approximately 280km. The river flows from its source on Cuilcagh Mountain, to its estuary
below Limerick, and together with its tributaries drains an area of some 15,500km2, or about
one-fifth of the island of Ireland.
The Shannon Pot’s fame can be traced to the legendary Finn MacCool and the Fianna, the
great warriors of Irish mythology. Legend has it that Síonnan, the daughter of Lodan (a son
of Lír, the Celtic God of the Sea) came to the Shannon Pot in search of the great Salmon of
Wisdom. The salmon was angered by the sight of Síonnan and caused the pool to overflow
and drown the maiden. Thus the Shannon Pot was created. As surface water flows down from Cuilcagh Mountain, it will eventually sink and flow as underground streams and rivers. Up until recently it was thought that the Shannon Pot was the ultimate source of the River Shannon, but water tracing experiments have revealed that the Shannon Pot is fed by a variety of streams that sink on Cuilcagh Mountain, the furthest of these being over 10km away in county Fermanagh.
In this region, whenever water sinks underground, it works its way downwards through pure limestone (Dartry Limestone Formation) until it reaches the impermeable muddy limestone(Glencar Limestone Formation) below, forcing it to travel along this boundary until it intersects the surface as a spring or resurgence. However, the Shannon Pot is unusual as
the resurgence here is found within sandstone and shales, meaning that there is an
additional influence on the underground hydrology, apart from the lithology. In this instance
there are a number of faults that are most likely to have controlled the flow of groundwater,
acting as conduits instead of the limestone itself.
The hydrology of Cuilcagh Mountain has been studied for over 30 years, with many
important water tracing experiments being conducted to determine the underground flow of water.

Martina O’Neill, Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Development Officer, Partnership & Engagement

Our very first Christmas in Dowra we visited Shannon Pot before having our dinner. We had closed on the sale of our new home not three days prior. It felt very peaceful and we were completely in a state of awe and gratitude that we could afford to live in such a gloriously beautiful place, so close to nature.

I also have very fond memories of visiting Shannon Pot with a USA visitor on a misty and rainy April day. The hawthorn was blooming in the hedgerows that line the path down to the Pot. Through the mist we saw this very white horse (often called greys) with a sheep. It felt very ‘into the magical.’

You can visit the Shannon Pot if you are in Ireland. It is along the posted Cavan Way hiking trail. If you visit by car there is a picnic spot and small playground to exercise the little ones.

Here is a video that my friend Jane Gilgun posted on You Tube ten years ago. The information is all still relevant and it gives a good feel for the landscape.

Geoheritage of Shannon Pot

I hope these blogs will prompt geoheritage-themed poems that will put this site on our digital Geopark Poetry Map and inspire you to visit the Geopark. All the sites are open to the public now. You can get full submissions guidelines by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date for submissions is 15th June 2021.

River Shannon between Shannon Pot and Dowra

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 7

Having a good weekend Earth lovers and Poetry writers? I hope so. To spur on geoheritage poems on #MACGeopark sites for our digital Poetry Map, I have been posting blog prompts for a week now with every intention of offering another week’s worth of poetry prompts. All the Geopark sites are open for visits and we are, at long last, able to travel outside our own county. You can get full guidelines and some great research resources by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com . The closing date for entries is 15th June 2021.

Today’s featured site is Lough Annagh, near Belturbet, Co. Cavan. The photos featured today are by my Zoom fitness instructor, Claire Shannon, who lives virtually beside the lough. She is also part of an intrepid group of year round swimmers known as Lake Annagh Dippers.

Remember back to Poetry Day Ireland and my poem about ribbed moraines? No? Here is a refresher.https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/04/29/mapping-a-part-of-the-geopark-this-poetry-day-ireland/ Lough Annagh is part of the Lough Oughter system of ribbed moraines.

It is also part of a Special Protection Area and Special Conservation Area as a natural eutrophic lake. Whooper Swans over winter here from their Icelandic summer nesting home and year round residents include widgeon and crested grebes. So plenty of geoheritage happening here to find its way into a poem!

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!

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 5

Hello Earth lovers and Poetry Lovers! For the fifth day of highlighting sites which your poem could potentially put on our digital #MACGeopark #PoetryMap, I thought we would look at how the land relates to the region’s ecclesiastical heritage. With the coming of Christianity many monastic sites were founded on islands in the loughs and rivers in the Geopark region. Lough Erne and the Shannon River and its tributaries acted as a medieval motorway. There was a chain of monastic communities up and down Lough Erne.

In County Fermanagh, two of these former monastic communities are now Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites. Cavan’s St. Mogue’s Island in Templeport Lough is also a Geopark site.

Here is what Martina O’Neill, the Geopark’s Development Officer for Partnership and Engagement writes about Inishmacsaint , Devenish and St. Mogue’s Island.

The small island of Inishmacsaint can be reached via a small pontoon accessed after a short
walk from the car park. Inishmacsaint is one of several important ecclesiastical sites located along the natural waterways of the Geopark. The founding saint, St Ninnid, lived in the 6th century, and was a contemporary of St Molaise of Devenish and St Mogue of Drumlane.This early monastic site contains a comprehensive record of different church styles is also home to a High Cross, thought to date from the 10th or 12th centuries.

Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnership and Engagement

St. Ninnid’s name is immortalised in the hill overlooking Upper Lough Erne, Knockninny. as well. St. Molaise’s name crops up in parishes across the region, not just on Devenish Island. Back in the 1930s, Duchas, Ireland’s Heritage Council, collected folklore from school children. One of the stories that is in the online archive can be found here: https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4602719/4598212/4630220.

Devenish Island can be visited by boat. Here are some images from a visit I made back in 2015. The roundtower, built during the Viking invasions as a defense, is as fine an example as the one that can be found in Glendalough.

St. Mogue’s Island in Templeport has a reputed ‘cure’ from the clay on the island. Miraculous and protective qualities are part of the folklore of many sites with a spiritual history. One of the stories involves the flouting stone that St. Mogue was sent off the island as a newborn to be baptised post haste. The floating rock was pumice, which is found locally. St. Mogue is also associated with Drumlane Abbey, which is a Geopark site.

I hope you find some inspiration from these visuals and research pointers will help you create and submit your geoheritage themed poem. We want to put less well-known Geopark sites ‘on the map’ in the public’s consciousness. If you would like to get submission guidelines email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. Closing date for submissions is 15th June 2021.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 4

Good morning Earth lovers and Poetry writers! To get your geoheritage themed poetry juices flowing Day 4’s poetry prompt has us visiting the Cavan Burren Park again.

New to this concept of a Geopark Poetry Map? Well, it is born out of the pandemic as a physically distanced way to connect us. The map will be digital and will include commissioned poems from Dara McAnulty, author of Diary of a Young Naturalist, Geopark born poets Maria McManus and Seamas Mac Annaidh, Cavan poet Noel Monaghan, and A. J. Quinn, better known for his crime writing.

The daily poetry prompts are part of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark’s open call for poems inspired by specific Geopark sites written by new and emerging poets. I will also be doing outreach with schools along the Cavan and Fermanagh borders to involve primary and national school age children in the project, although we are still trying to figure out the safest way of interacting with classes in two jurisdictions.

While yesterday looked at how the land’s geology launched an internationally famous china brand, today’s prompt looks at a cottage industry. You see dotted across the limestone landscape around the Cavan Burren remnants of Lime Kilns. There is the remains of one in Cavan Burren Park known as McCaffrey’s Lime Kiln. My friend Morag took some snaps when we visited the Cavan Burren last week. (And it was a celebratory cross border visit since it was the first time since Christmas she could cross over from Fermanagh into Cavan given the Covid travel restrictions. It was a happy reunion in the open air.)

Here is what Martina O’Neill, MACGeopark Development Officer for Partnership and Engagement writes about this site.

This lime kiln located in the Burren would have been for use by the adjacent farmhouse.
The farmhouse would have been abandoned 50 years ago but the lime kiln may not have
been used in the last 100 years. The material produced from working these kilns, quicklime,
had many uses including as a fertiliser, pesticide, mortar and for bleaching linen. In this
particular limekiln, limestone rock was broken into small, fist sized lumps. It was set-up with layers of wood, turf and limestone. When lit, turf and limestone were added in equal
quantities and it would be kept burning overnight. The burnt lime, quicklime was recovered
though a small opening at the bottom, accessed through an inverted stairway structure.
Quicklime is chemically unstable so whenever water is added to it a chemical reaction
occurs and great temperatures are produced hence the inverted stairway structure and use
of a long poled shovel in this case to remove the quicklime.

Martina O’Neill, Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement

Ireland is often associated with pretty white cottages with thatched roofs. Before there was commercial paint there was limewash. And, you guessed it, it was made from limestone and lime kilns were involved in the manufacture of the components.

Do you think you have a poem about a lime kiln to offer to the Geopark Poetry Map? The closing date is 15th June 2021. If you live in Ireland you can see the lime kiln in Cavan Burren Park. All the Geopark’s sites are open to the public. And it’s FREE to visit!

If you live beyond our island’s borders I hope that some research and imagination may help spark a poem. You are also eligible to submit a poem. For full details email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com.

Still a bit unsure about what geoheritage is exactly? Maybe my previous article will help https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/05/11/what-is-geoheritage/