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 8

Greetings Earth lovers and Poetry writers this watery Sunday. We are on a land of lakes theme this weekend (and I do not mean to plug a certain USA brand of butter from Wisconsin. Wisconsin may have more lakes, but it is also twice the size of the island of Ireland.) Both Fermanagh and Cavan, however, claim to have one lake for everyday of the year. Which is why Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark can claim to be the Lake District of Ireland. With so many to choose from surely you can put today’s lough on #MACGeopark digital Poetry Map.

Today’s lough is one that is close to my own home. Lough MacNean straddles the international boundary between Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh and County Cavan in the Republic. There is an Upper Lough MacNean and a Lower Lough MacNean. Lower Lough MacNean is completely within the Fermanagh boundary. There is a little strip of river and wetland between the two with a bridge that links the villages of Belcoo in Fermanagh and Blacklion in Cavan.

The freshwater would have provided abundant fish and the system of loughs and rivers would have been a good way to navigate to better hunting grounds. Cushrush Island in Lower Lough MacNean shows evidence of habitation from the Mesolithic Age, when people first migrated to the island of Ireland. The many small islands would have made convenient stop offs. There are also remnants of crannogs in Lough MacNean, those man made islands (!) that modern eyes see as easily defended from marauders. But that is pure speculation. Some early ancestor decided to experiment with engineering. But, given the many megaliths surrounding the Lough MacNean area, it seems that the early dwellers were keen engineers, which is not pure speculation. We can still see the evidence of their labour and ingenuity.

This is the geological background to how this landscape was formed.

The single biggest impact on the landscape of the Geopark comes from the last glaciation.
As huge ice sheets slowly crept across the entire area, acting like giant sheets of sandpaper
and removing everything from their path. Some of the ice moved westwards forming the
glacial valley of Lower Lough Erne and Lough Macnean. Indeed many of the islands located
within Lough Macnean are in fact drumlins. These form from till or boulder clay that was
sculpted into this shape as massive ice sheets slowly crept across the landscape during the
last glaciation. Glacial moraines are another relict of our icy past and this is a general name
given to material left behind as the ice retreated at the end of the last glaciation. They tend to be primarily composed of sands and gravels and the land bridge that connects Upper and
Lower Lough Macnean is an excellent example of a glacial moraine.

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

Moraines and drumlins walk hand in hand across the landscape. The island of Ireland has the largest moraine field on the planet and the Irish language gave geologists the word drumlin. It comes from the Irish droimnín, translating as little ridge. These whale-backed hills (metaphorically) swim in pods across the breadth of this island from County Down to Donegal.. You can find moraines and drumlins in many counties in Ireland. The moraines may not be seen, but the drumlins certainly can be seen and are the visual clue to what has gone on over the eons under your feet.

I hope thaat you have been finding some inspiration to submit poems to the Geopark Poetry Map. All sites are open to the public. But if you have to be an online visitor because of these pandemic times, you are also welcome to visit with your imagination and submit a poem, too. You can get full guidelines by emailing GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The closing date is 15th June 2021.

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/

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 3

Hello Earthlovers and Poetry Writers! This is Day 3 of a fortnight of poetry prompts to help you write a site specific, geoheritage poem that will put that site on the digital Poetry Map of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. You still have time to submit your poem. The closing date is 15th June 2021.You can email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com and I can email a map of the Geopark and plenty of supporting material that will give you useful background to many of the sites.

Today I want to look at the interaction between the land and how it influences the development of industry in a region. Belleek Pottery is an international brand. So many of us have been given some Belleek ceramics as a wedding gift or a landmark birthday or anniversary present. When I led the Celtic Women International Brigit’s Day Tour in 2011, a visit to the factory in Belleek was a special request for the itinerary for a group of visitors from the USA.

But the reason Belleek has become the internationally renowned ceramic brand is down to the feldspar and kaolin deposits in the region of Castle Caldwell. Let me quote from the document created for the Geopark Poetry Map project by Martina O’Neill, Development Officer-Partnerships & Engagement.

During the 1840`s the Caldwell family fortune declined, leading to the entire estate,
including the village of Belleek, being passed to John Caldwell Bloomfield. It was Bloomfield
who commissioned a geological survey of the estate, revealing rich mineral deposits
of Feldspar and Kaolin (china clay). These minerals are important raw materials used in
the production of fine china and so Bloomfield capitalised on his good fortune by founding
the now world famous Belleek Pottery and to this end a large industrial lime kiln is present
along the loughshore.


The rock that surrounds Castle Caldwell Forest form part of what is known as the Lough
Derg inlier, inlier being the term given to an area of formation of older rock surrounded by
younger ones. The inlier allows a window through the ‘shallow’ sub-surface rocks to reveal
deeper and older formations. These are metamorphic rocks, pegmatites, have been formed
due to the transformation of existing rocks, by heat and pressure. These are coarsely
crystalline granitic rock produced in the final stages of cooling from the molten state. Veins
of unaltered pegmatite are found in this area, cutting though the earlier rocks and their
structure. They contain quartz, microcline feldspar and the micas biotite and muscovite. It
primarily this microcline feldspar, along with a clay similar to Kaolin also found on the estat that provided the original raw material for the porcelain produced at Belleek Pottery. Kaolin
is typically associated with the weathering of rocks rich in feldspar.

Martina O’Neill for Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark

Do you have a poem about Castle Caldwell or Belleek china? Did you purchase some as a souvenir of a trip to Ireland? Or was it a wedding present? Consider how the land has sustained employment for generations in the area and its by-product travelled the world.

If you do have a poem about this MACGeopark site, please submit your poem to be considered for the MACGeopark Poetry Map. Email me for full submission guidelines at GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com.

The Weekly Poem – The Do Over

Bearing in mind that Mercury goes retrograde on May 29th, the poem for this week contemplates all the ‘re’ words. For the non-astrologically minded reader of this blog, Mercury going retrograde is associated with all kind of technological snarls, travel delays and episodes of “What on earth were you thinking?!” Some astrologers say that it can last longer than the irksome three weeks with a shadow period. In which case, the complete fiasco with my Zoom Soul Journeys and Maps group this past Sunday was right on cue. So I am backing up all my Geopark Poetry Map files for sure!

Those words beginning with the prefix re are said to be well-starred during Mercury Retrograde periods, while we are gnawing our elbows over technical snafus and equipment collapses.

Speaking of the Geopark Poetry Map project, each day this week and next I am posting a daily poetry prompt based on one of the sites featured in a marvelous document compiled by Martina O’Neill, Development Officer for Partnerships and Engagement. at Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. So check out the blog each day if you want a bit of poetry prompting and motivation. Anyone anywhere in the world is welcome to submit a poem, though only people in Ireland can visit the sites in person . And that is only fairly recently when travel restrictions were eased.

One of the things we are doing again now is taking walks in local forest parks like Cavan Burren and Glenfarne Demesne just over the county line in Leitrim. I like my lane for walks, but a change of scenery is very welcome. Some snaps from Sunday’s walk. The internet may have let me down, but nature never fails to uplift.

The Do Over

Rewind and now resurrect.
Go back and now retrace steps.
Review all of one's options.
Reconsider a career-
perhaps as Mary Poppins.

What life could have been like
if one had only veered left...
Review every little thing,
done or left undone, incomplete -
like that long abandoned college
course credit just short of a degree.

Slip off the snakeskin of failure.
Throw away that winding sheet.
I  t is only made of paper.
Remove to Boston, fly away
to Australia if only
in your imagination.

Reconsider your options.
What is done? What is do over?

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 1

Over the next two weeks I will be posting images on social media and short blog posts that may spark a geoheritage themed poem based on one of the sites dotted across the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. While many submissions are coming from Fermanagh and Cavan residents, I have noted interest from outside of the Geopark region and Ireland. So to help poets who live outside the region or who have been unable to visit a site, I shall be posting photos as poem prompts over the next two weeks. The digital poetry map will chart sites across the Fermanagh and Cavan Geopark region with geoheritage themed poems inspired by sites around the Geopark.

The lifting of the inter-county only travel restriction in Ireland spurred the Geopark to extend the deadline for submissions until 15th June 2021. That will allow nearly a month for Irish residents to come and mosey around a site of their choice. All poets have a different process, but some do like to visit the site before they compose their poem. Others are content with images and research and memory. All the Geopark sites are outdoors and open to the public.

For the first Geopark Poetry Map Prompt I have chosen the Rock Art and megaliths of the Cavan Burren. When I have guided visitors around Cavan Burren Park I always make a point of reminding them that the megalith building and the art chipped into the glacial eratics with stone tools happened before Neolithic humans got around to inventing agriculture. Making, or art or burial chambers for loved ones, was a primal impulse, one stronger even than food security.

Unsure what the hay is geoheritage? Read my blog from last week to clarify that definition. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/05/11/what-is-geoheritage/

Let your imagination rock n roll! Full information on submission details and supporting research material about sites around #MACGeopark can be requested from GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is 15th June 2021.

Look out for memes posted on my Twitter @irishblessingst, Facebook Word Alchemy and beesmithdowra Instagram accounts with the hashtag #MACGeopark #PoetryMap.