Geopark Poetry Map, NaPoWriMo and More

I have had quite the hiatus from the blog. Initially, I told my Zoom group I was going to take time out in March to write. But actually, life, the universe and everything had other objectives. No worries, I am well. And just a little miffed that some doctor is opining that those who have not had Covid-19 so far have no friends. I certainly have friends – I just know how to interact by socially distanced means and have kept face-to-face interactions rationed. Well, until March anyway. And I am still fine. Just very busy. Also keeping track of those who did get felled by the illness this past month. Moral and spiritual support is a vital ingredient to all truly meaningful friendships. And March has been an intense month on both the macro and micro levels.

So, not a lot of writing done except for some haiku and a speech on UNESCO World Poetry Day when we launched the digital Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark Poetry Map. It was fifteen months in the making and the pandemic offered many challenges but the project is done! You can read and listen to the poems here. Scroll down the Communities page and you will find the link to the Poetry Map. https://cuilcaghlakelands.org/discover-explore/communities/

You can hear how the project grew and developed over that fifteen months in the video of the launch at Cavan Burren Park (yes, we did it outdoors, sheltered but open at two sides to ventilation; nothing, but nothing was going to stop us getting this project launched!) You can also listen to some poets reading their work at the launch in the video..

On the foot of the March 21st UNESCO World Poetry I conducted some haiku walks in the UNESCP Global Geopark with adults and school children.

Adult Gingo (Haiku Walk) for 2022 UNESCO World Poetry Day

For some of those kids it was the first school outing in two years. The Fermanagh primary pupils did nature art with Geopark colleague Julie Armstrong, while the older children wrote haiku poems inspired by the sights seen and touched. They got to run fingers over multi-millenial aged rock art, mosses, lichens, liverwort and lung wort. (The proliferation of the latter near where we live is an indication of our clean air quality, which other doctors reckon might have accounted for our ducking the virus. Also, we have lots of trees. And we garden so our Vit D levels might be good from exposure to sunlight year round. We do SO have friends!) The children were out and about in the fresh air for two hours before heading back to school for the afternoon classroom sessions.

Rock Art at Cavan Burren Park
Tullygobban Lough, formerly a turlough

Peering at Prehistory. View of Calf Hut Dolment
What animal do you see?

And as to that question – and from which side you look at this glacial erratic, you get many opinions. Some see a snake’s head. Others see a cat, but not necessarily the domestic variety. Still others see a frog. Here’s the haiku I wrote with the Tattygar Primary School P5 class.

Limestone tortoise crawls

Slowly – for eternity

Across old sea floor

Bee Smith, 29th March 2022

For the first time in five years I am not doing the write a poem a day challenge for NaPoWriMo. I highly recommend this exercise, but though it feels a bit weird not to participate, it also feels right. It is an intensely busy, as well as an intense time for our planet. There is plenty needs doing in the garden. Also, sometimes you need to let things fester a while before you face the page. The rapid response with a daily poem feels somehow…ill-conceived…for 2022. Certainly this time needs poetry, but it feels, to me at least, that a time of consideration is needed at the inception. A week of playing around with a phrase from the ginko on 19th March wound up as the refrain in a much longer poem written yesterday.

But don’t let that stop you from writing a poem a day this April! Work away!

I am very much enjoying the resumed Zoom creative writing group of about eight women who get together to free-write on themed topics each Saturday afternoon Irish time (though it is 10am for the participants Zooming in from Ottawa and Rhode Island.) The Irish group is also cross-border, with women tuning in from Fermanagh, Leitrim and Cavan. This group has really bonded and feels a very precious part of my life.

See! I do have friends! I just see them on Zoom a lot of the time still.

National Poetry Day in Britain

Today is the UK’s National Poetry Day. Since Northern Ireland is part of the UK and my husband was born in Northern Ireland I like that I get to celebrate a National Poetry Day twice a year. Three times if you include my birthplace, the States. But today, I want to wish all my British poetry friends a wonderful poetry filled and fuelled day.

Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark is partly in the Republic of Ireland and also in Northern Ireland. There is a UNESCO World Poetry Day every 21st March, too. So we get three opportunities at celebrating our earth’s heritage and the natural environment each year. I felt that today is an appropriate day to give you an update on the Geopark Poetry Map.

As all things in the time of Covid, in a time of remote working and summer holidays, projects can snail pace at times. We are working steadily towards the launch the Geopark Poetry Map. The long short list has been read and re-read, silently and aloud and the final eight poems have been selected from our Open Call. Those who will be included have been informed. In the final formation I am satisfied that we have a balanced representation in terms of geography and gender. We also have poems, cinquain and haiku, from school children from Cavan and Fermanagh so we have also involved young people in the project even under very restrictive circumstances. We were also lucky enough to have Dara McAnulty, who spent his childhood within the Geopark, to agree to writing a new poem for the Geopark Poetry Map even as he was working on his A levels!

Sidebar: I am so grateful that two schools stepped into the project given that they have had a horrid year and incredible academic challenges during Covid. The Fermanagh school has a kind of bell tent pitched so that there is a foot off the ground to allow air flow. This gave us some shelter from the rain the day of our workshops, though the midges were feeling pretty frisky! The Cavan class was very small and they cheerfully carried their desks and chairs outside and remained masked because they shared desk space. Which I found very moving – considerate of others’ health, stoical in the face of current realities and still engaged with the creative process! The principals of Florencecourt Primary and Curravagh National School are heroes in my estimation. Despite all the bureaucracy, both public health and educational, they wanted their kids to be able to do something creative. And mostly to engage with someone who was not the same face seen every day for that past eighteen months. Truly, they are educators with a wholistic sense of welfare for their pupils.

Meanwhile, during this week of UK Poetry Day, Ramor-Townhall Cavan are busy casting the actors and recording the voice overs of the texts written by the five commissioned authors, the four schoolchildren and eight adults selected to have their poems mapping the geoheritage of various sites around Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. We are plugging along and are getting closer to the finished product.

We hope to have a launch date for the Geopark Poetry Map firmed up soon…but as Mercury is retrograde until 19th October and Mercury Retrograde tends to slow down and snarl alll things internet, transport and communication, I am waiting with bated breath…

In the meantime, I include the geoheritage poem I wrote to Poetry Ireland Day last April.

The Hindmarsh Theory of Instability
In Ribbed Moraines

The world is made of caprice and chaos.
Or so it may seem.
Even as the land quakes and is sliding
avalanches, sacred geometry
spirals around ice
its melt, clay and rock.
Though you might not see.
Though the evidence is there at your feet.

Boulder and clay fractured by ice slide.
Dragged like Jayne Torville
in the grand finale to Bolero,
Dean pulling them prone,
their skates scarring tracks across the surface.
Parallel ripples 
evidence of creation’s  mammoth feat.

Minibus bouncing down a Cavan lane,
a verdant hummock,
suggestion of the ribs in the moraine.
More like lazy beds
built for giants’ appetites in times
before potatoes
would be a feed in a fulacht fia.

A lough pocked land where little rivers run
between, twisting,
gnarled like the antlers of the Giant Elk
dropped off at the end
of its last rutting season. Extinction.
Fossil memory.
The sacred geometry in chaos.

The buzzard flying high above can see
the lines that ripple
running down ancient Grandmother Earth’s cheeks.
The buzzard can see
more than we who have all the evidence
there beneath our feet.
Caprice. Chaos. Sacred geometry.

Map of ribbed moraine area that straddles North and southern parts of Ireland

Cuilcagh Lakelands Global Geopark Poetry Map Update

Did I mention that we have had a name change for our Geopark? What was formerly known as Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has rebranded as Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. The Cavan Geopark Ambassadors and some of the Fermanagh Heritage Champions were in on the rebranding consultation process and we all were more than satisfied with the final decision. It more completely embraces a truly crossborder identity, marrying the iconic Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the border along with the many lakes and other waterways that meander back and forth across the international boundary. The mountains and drumlins and the waters winding through and around them are the characteristics that define this Geopark region. While Marble Arch Caves is responsible for there being a Geopark in this region in the first place it limited the identity and confused visitors who did not quite grasp that there are over fifty other sites they can visit in Fermanagh and Cavan as well, each packed with geoheritage significance.

The past couple of weeks have been immersed in other people’s words. There has been the anguished process of drawing up the long shortlist from the nearly fifty poems submitted for our digital Geopark Poetry Map. May were outstanding, some awesome in their execution. But all the poems submitted had a bedrock of genuine love for this region and its geological heritage. Many said they had really enjoyed the challenge of creating a geoheritage themed poem; it was a welcome activity that broke up the routine of Lockdown. When travel restrictions were lifted it spurred on the stream of submissions. Yet, this is an interesting statistic. In 2020, the visitor tickers around the Geopark clocked up nearly half a million visitors; that was the most ever recorded. Clearly, people were returning again and again to this awe-inspiring and uplifting landscape. We needed nature more than ever before, even as nature in the form of a virus was changing our lives utterly. All the submissions had great heart. Which is why the selection process has been so anguishing.

As of yesterday, all the commissioned poets have delivered their poems on various sites. Each is in a very different style, but all have addressed various aspects of the landscape in their geological and mystic wonder. There is an Irish/English poem from Séamus Mac Annaidh on Cuilcagh. Belcoo born poet Maria McManus offers a stunning view from the depths of Marble Arch Caves. Dara McAnulty takes us up to the raptor heights of Big Dog Mountain. Noel Monaghan travels the finger like tributaries of Loughs Oughter and Erne. Anthony J Quinn’s visit to Devenish Island is an exploration of hiddenness, uncertainty and surprise.

The next stage will take these offerings towards their eventual digital home. Watch this space for news of its launch.

I am working on a poem for submission elsewhere so there is only the briefests of haiku from the archive fthis week. But they all celebrate aspects of Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark and geoheritage. And I decided to share some of my Geopark inspired haiku from ginkgo we have taken at various sites in years past.

Shakehole, Claddagh Glen
Fossils under your feet
Because August 15th was the Feast of the Assumption and there was a Mass celebrated at the local holy well. No four-footeds in attendance though

The world is, as the Aussies say, doing it tough, this week. Read a poem, hug a tree, pat a mossy rock or a pet. Watch birds in flight. Listen to their calls. Be well and stay safe.

Weekly Poem – Magpie

While there was a little lull in the Geopark Poetry Map proceedings I have been catching up with some house and garden tasks put on the (very) long finger. But now I am again reading submissions, this time from the school children of Curravagh National School and Florencecourt Primary School. With both groups I had introduced the haiku on previous visits pre-Covid 19 and as a preparation lesson before my school visit. In the session I also introduced the poetry form of the cinquain. It is a five liner, but unlike a five line form like the tanka you do have license to rhyme if that is how the muse leads you. In addition, we had to talk about the geoheritage and Geopark site element that was an important component to the poems, too.

While only two children had never visited a Geopark site before, many had visited a wide range of sites across the Geopark – Castle Archdale, Ely Park Lodge, Devenish Island, White Father’s Cave, Pollnagollam Waterfall, as well as sites closer to home like Marble Arch Caves, Claddagh Glen, Shannon Pot and Cavan Burren Park.

However, I was really struck by a poem written by a child who is considered educationally ‘challenged.’ While he did not write a poem about a Geopark site, his poem about the den in his garden was a standout. It had vivid images. His simple language conveyed a contentment and feeling of security and serenity that is marked in these uncertain times. I wish I could include it, but sadly it does not fulfill the geoheritage criteria. But I made sure to write his principal to ensure that he gets some praise heaped upon his head for his very well conceived and executed poem.

It really is both a pleasure and a privilege to be reading all these submissions.

For the weekly poem this week I decided to write a cinquain, too. The five liner runs 2-4-6-8-2 syllables per line. The subject has been haunting me these past few weeks, sometimes, rather unnervingly, peering straight at me through my bedroom window in the morning. Yesterday on my dog walk up to the holy well I happened upon a found object.

Magpie

Feather
edge cobalt blue bleeds
to coal black, finally
transitioning to bottle green:
magpie


Meanwhile, it is back to the house and garden tasks. I have a half-finished bedroom that needs the final wall painted. The (fully vaccinated) niece is calling next week and wants to have a peek at all the do it yourself rehab going on. There is also a lot of bindweek and cleavers that needs to be weeded out and burned at the stake!

I hope that you are finding some summertime joy safely, in uncrowded places.

Featured image by Natasha Miller on Unsplash.

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 13

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

It has a tragic history of duplicity and death, and yet on such sad historical ground there is a rich range and refuge for wildlife. I noticed the early purple orchid on my lane is out this week. Maybe you could visit Tully Castle this weekend and spot one, too! If you want to learn more about the site MACGeopark post this helpful leaflet on their website.https://www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Tully-Castle-Leaflet.pdf

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 Prompt 11

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.

Glacial eratics in Cavan Burren Park

The Weekly Poem – Tuning Fork

During a pandemic is is nice to have a routine engagement in the diary. If it is Tuesday, then it is time to write and post the weekly poem, even though it be a first draft. I have been working hard on the MACGeopark Poetry Map project, so it was like rediscovering play this morning when I realised I could write anything at all that I wanted. The sheet was blank. So was my mind, too!

But I took up my Personal Universal Deck, a little activity set during NaPoWriMo2021 last month, and pulled some cards to see what sparked. If you want to create your own set of poetry prompt cards I refer you to that original NaPoWriMo post on Day 3. They post a link that tells you how to make your own. ttps://paulenelson.com/workshops/personal-universe-deck/. It’s quite a long process as my students and I found out. This was the first time I actually put them through their paces.

The benefits of word play…and I stress the play element, is not to be underestimated. It has been a cold, rainy Spring here in Ireland and some outdoor projects have been put on the long finger. Temperatures have been so low at night time we have delayed planting. So play has to devolve to indoor activities a good deal of time this past month. Anyway, a bit of whimsy and word play is a bit of fun on a damp Tuesday.

Tuning Fork

Strike it on my cast iron hearth.
It trembles, quivers as it vibrates, hums
just like my husband's, quiet breath
in tune with his internal beat and flow
(a great favourite word of his).
Even as the cats' whiskers twitch, as do
the little deaf dog's ears alert,
then subside back into slumber. Whose tune?
What melody line flirts around
the kitchen and the living room? Airwaves
stroke like long fingers in concert,
musician's hands working the afternoon
Palm Court crowd supping  fancy tea,
wiping melted butter oozing off crumpets.
All in time to the sweep and sway
of stringed instuments, sometimes lulled, sometimes
breathless with tension,  suppressing
excitement, the breath shallow, chest heaving.
What key do we play in today?
Can we learn to sight read the shivering
airwaves, divine the call for right
response? Or let them dance like dust motes play,
suspended in the late afternoon light.

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.


If it is a dull day and you fancy trying your hand at writing a poem, you could do worse than peruse the poetry prompts I have been posting to inspire geoheritage poems to be submitted to our digital Geopark Poetry Map. I have been making daily posts the past ten days and will do a fortnight’s worth in all. Hope you can have some fun word play today, too. And if it is rainy this weekend you have some inspiration at hand.

Featured image Photo by Magic Bowls on Unsplash