In the winter forest
The trees move in the Winter Forest,
They sway with the gental breeze.
Naked as the leaves fall to the ground,
And the water will slowly freeze.
The forest casts shadows on the snowy grounds,
As the light of a thousand stars shine through.
The angels dance and sing in the snow,
As the sky turns to a midnight blue.
One angel sings of the moon and stars,
Another sings of the sun.
They play in the trees and howl with the wind,
Their wings glistening as through the forest they gracefully run.
By day the Winter Forest is quiet and peaceful,
But by night it’s alive with games and song.
The angels, fairies, moon and stars,
Beckon you to come along.
Join in with their dance in praise of the night,
Run with the wolves fast and free.
When the sun comes up they will say goodnight,
Silent again the Winter Forest will be!
Blackthorn is the 12th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet, representing P, yet another controversial letter. There was no P in the Gaelic alphabet until recently, so some tree has had to stand in. As Blackthorn was in the original alphabet (for St, as its old Gaelic name is Straiph, but St is no longer considered a letter in its own right). As Blackthorn’s latin name is Prunus spinosa, it fits the bill. Its modern Gaelic name is Draighneag or Airne (sloe) or Sgitheach dubh (black hawthorn).
Snippets of Lore
Blackthorn is the 12th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet representing P, controversially, as there was no P in the alphabet until recently
For my explanation of why Blackthorn stands for P see http://mandyhaggith.worldforests.org/index.asp?pageid=359149
Blackthorn’s latin name is Prunus spinosa. In modern Gaelic, draighneag (pierce), airne (sloe) or sgitheach dubh (black hawthorn).
Blackthorn’s fruit is called sloe. They are very high in Vitamin C.
To get a taste of the bitterness of sloes, nowhere better to start than Vicki Feaver. http://www.spl.org.uk/best-poems_2006/feaver.htm
Too much sloe gin may be too much of a good thing.
Sloe gin infused with pennyroyal and valerian was the original ‘Mother’s Ruin’.
Blackthorn is the ancestor of all plum trees.
Sloe stones have been found in Neolithic cairns and crannogs.
The Ice Man was carrying a sloe, presumably to eat.
Sloes are better flavored if frosted, or dried then rehydrated.
Sloe jelly is best made with apples.
Sloes are good for the bladder, kidneys, stomach and lung complaints.
Sloe juice and bark gives indelible ink.
Sloes gives a pinky purple dye, and blackthorn bark produces a red or orange dye.
Blackthorn bark can be used to reduce fever.
Use blackthorn leaves for tea. It’s good for tonsils and larynx.
Have another sloe gin (by Seamus Heaney) http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/IrelandGenWeb/2003-11/1069876152
Responding to Heaney, Tom Rawling’s Sloe Gin: http://www.xen19.dial.pipex.com/dec_2.htm
And another moody blackthorn poem, this one by Louis McKee, coming into blossom. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-blackthorn/
Blackthorn produces beautiful snow white blossoms early and before the leaves come.
Blackthorn’s leafless stems, in flower, evoke a place between death and life.
Blackthorn blossom is unlucky indoors (maybe for the same reason as hawthorn?)
A tisane of blackthorn blossom ‘purges to the depths’.
Rough weather in March is called a Blackthorn Winter.
Blackthorn is the sister of Hawthorn: Blackthorn governs Nov-April, Hawthorn governs May-Oct.
Blackthorn wood is hard and good for walking sticks and weapons. Best walking sticks are blackthorn entwined by honeysuckle.
Irish sheleilaigh sticks are made with blackthorn wood.
Blackthorn trees give good shelter for birds to nest in. It makes excellent hedges.
Blackthorn is supposed to never exceed 13 feet.
Proverb: Better the bramble than the blackthorn, but better the blackthorn than the devil.
Blackthorn helps you see beyond negatives to opportunity.
A hero fleeing from giants needs a magical blackthorn twig which will sprout into a thicket!
Blackthorns were believed to spring from the blood of Norse invaders.
A blackthorn thorn tipped with poison is a subtle weapon known as ‘a pin of slumber’.
Blackthorn is associated with Sleeping Beauty – after pricking her finger, the castle was thorn-bound until love came.
Witches stick blackthorns into wax effigies of their enemies.
Blackthorn was used for pyres when burning witches.
Blackthorn was believed to have been used for Christ’s Crown of Thorns, hence unlucky.
For fertile fields, make, wear, then burn a blackthorn crown and spread its ash.
Blackthorn represents the inevitability of death, and of dark secrets.
Evil fairy-folk stole babies – and hid them in blackthorn bushes.
‘Many sloes, many cold toes’ – presage of bad winter ahead.
The Secrets of a Tree
Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence. And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky. For these reasons it is natural to feel we might learn wisdom from them, to haunt about them with the idea that if we could only read their silent riddle rightly we should learn some secret vital to our own lives; or even, more specifically, some secret vital to our real, our lasting and spiritual existence. (Kim Taplin)
Some two weeks ago I took a part here on my blog in a seven day Black and White photography challenge, I loved these seven days with my camera with only light to work with, very much. However ever since I just wanted to get out and find as much of natures winter colours as I could find. At first this task looked a little harder than I thought it would be, so much of nature has died back as we slip into the early winter weeks, yet the more you look the more you find.
Like these strong reds of slowly rotting berries I found just sitting on a fallen Oak leaf.
Red has to be on of the strongest colours of autumn and early winter, it feels like the colour of the last signs of life as much vegetation turn red just days before its finally returns to the ground, the very place it took its first energy of life from.
Yesterday on my facebook page I was tagged by a great photo blogger and friend Sharon Walters Knight to take part in a seven day black and white photo challenge !
Day 1: Is this image from one of our local forests. Forest floor matting , When the forest workers finish clearing and area of woodland they save a lot of branches for matting, this matting is used to lay down tracks for their heavy machines to drive over , these roads of sticks save the environment along with many insects and plant life including seeds.
While not a stunning image as such, I felt it just captured a part of the processes involved in forestry
into the coppery halls
of beech and intricate oak
to be close to the trees
as they whisper together
let fall their leaves,
and we die for the winter
From Katherine Towers’ The Remedies
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens
And all up in the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!
Pleasant summer over,
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.
Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Hairy Wood Ants (Formica lugubris) photographic project
Over the last few years I been involved working on a project around county Tipperary,Ireland involving photographing nests of Irish Wood Ants (Formica lugubris), this has been one of the most interesting photo project I have ever worked on.
The images in this post are captured between 2014 and 2017 ….
These Ants are on the international endangered species list and exist in locations that are kept reasonably private, just to find and get to see these nests themselves is a task and an amazing feeling.
When you get closer to the nests for the first time you will notice just how large they are (3 feet off the ground) and how many Ants that each colony contains, each nest can hold tens of thousands of Ants, the entire surface of the nest is on the move with Ants coming and going from small entrance holes. This flow of movement is 24 hours long during the months that the Ants are active.
They create a clear trail through the woods as they clear a path, traveling both outwards from the nest and returning again with food for the Queen Ant living deep in the ground under the nest itself.
It is thought she lives in a protected area some two meters underground.
In order to protect themselves and nest with its queen, they can shoot out acid some four feet from their bodies.
I will be working on this project most of this summer and look forward to each return, watching these wonderful Wood Ants is an amazing experience and working around them with a camera is great fun.
Light Between The Trees
Author: Henry Van Dyke
Long, long, long the trail
Through the brooding forest-gloom,
Down the shadowy, lonely vale
Into silence, like a room
Where the light of life has fled,
And the jealous curtains close
Round the passionless repose
Of the silent dead.
Plod, plod, plod away,
Step by step in mouldering moss;
Thick branches bar the day
Over languid streams that cross
Softly, slowly, with a sound
Like a smothered weeping,
In their aimless creeping
Through enchanted ground.
“Yield, yield, yield thy quest,”
Whispers through the woodland deep;
“Come to me and be at rest;
I am slumber, I am sleep.”
Then the weary feet would fail,
But the never-daunted will
Urges “Forward, forward still!
Press along the trail!”
Breast, breast, breast the slope
See, the path is growing steep.
Hark! a little song of hope
Where the stream begins to leap.
Though the forest, far and wide,
Still shuts out the bending blue,
We shall finally win through,
Cross the long divide.
On, on, on we tramp!
Will the journey never end?
Over yonder lies the camp;
Welcome waits us there, my friend.
Can we reach it ere the night?
Upward, upward, never fear!
Look, the summit must be near;
See the line of light!
Red, red, red the shine
Of the splendour in the west,
The National park Killarney , county Kerry, is one of Ireland treasures as far as landscape photography is concerned.
The basic details of the park are as follows :
“Killarney National Park (Irish: Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne) is located beside the town of Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland. It was the first national park established in Ireland, created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish state in 1932. The park has since been substantially expanded and encompasses over 102.89 km2 (25,425 acres) of diverse ecology, including the Lakes of Killarney, oak and yew woodlands of international importance and mountain peaks. It has Ireland’s only native herd of red deer and the most extensive covering of native forest remaining in Ireland. The park is of high ecological value because of the quality, diversity, and extensiveness of many of its habitats and the wide variety of species that they accommodate, some of which are rare. The park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981.
The park forms part of a Special Area of Conservation.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for the management and administration of the park.Nature conservation is the main objective of the park, and ecosystems in their natural state are highly valued. The park is also known for its beautiful scenery. Recreation and tourism amenities are also provided for.”
I have visited many times here over the last few years and hope to return for many more landscape images in the coming months.
On my last visit I did a full image study of Muckross Abbey – of which there is one image in the Gallery below. I will upload a full post next week on this fantastic place 🙂
Killarney National Park – Landscape image Gallery
Secrets of the Forest
There’s a dead tree connecting the earth to my heart,
And yet it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
One silver root, and four dark leaves.
A branch is at my neck,
And there is a leaf telling me secrets,
Gently in my left ear.
There are vines strung elegantly from trunk to my teeth
And I’ll play them for you.
The rain is the beat,
It’s the same as your pulse.
My blood runs cherry with every note.
Most of the time when I am out taking Landscape pictures, its the simple things that catch my attention, like this simple line of trees at one end of a large woodland, set in the hills above Windgap, county Kilkenny.
When trees are young like these ones they are planted very close together. later this area will be thinned out and half these trees will be cut down so that there is space for the best trees to develop and grow, the cut trees will be sold as firewood so it is not wasted.
There are so many things we just don’t notice, I think this is one thing I love most about doing about Landscape photography, it makes you look at and see things so often lost in the bigger picture of daily life.
It’s almost Christmas , so a big Happy Christmas Holidays to you all 🙂
While I was on an evening walk yesterday in one of county Kilkenny’s woodland parks – the Millennium forest, I came across a tree I see every year and every Christmas this one tree has been decorated with all kinds of great Christmas decorations !!!
Each year I have wondered who comes here to do so, as its a great thing to do and see as you walk past !
I think it has something to do with the origins of this forest , in the year 2000 the Irish forestry company coillte planted one forest in each of the Irish counties and made sure that each forest contained at least one tree for everyone living there. They then sent a letter to everyone telling them where in the forest their own tree was. each tree is not numbered as such but you can locate the area/plot number for your tree.
Clearly someone has taken full ownership of their tree, decorating it each year as they would a tree for their own front room.
So I think the great mystery of the Decorated Millennium Christmas tree is partly solved , I hope to be lucky next year and come across who ever it is who comes back to their tree each year.
Who every you are, Thank you and Merry Christmas to you !!! 🙂
Way back in the year, February 2014 our forests here in county KIlkenny lost a lot of their trees due to very bad storms with high winds, it has taken almost ten months to clear most of this damage but the task is almost complete.
While out walking yesterday I noticed that the last of the many forest areas had been cleared of it fallen trees, I guess this is a great point to reach as the job of planting many new trees can now begin.
Kilkenny Landscape Photography, on the forest road : Gallery
Rhododendron laden hillsides
Comes ’round again,
Bringing life back to flow’rs.
Roses shall start to bloom once more,
And mighty White Oaks shall be green with leaves.
Rhododendron laden hillsides
And Lady Slippers nod:
Rhododendron hills , Image Gallery
In a Sleepy Hollow, Wild Sorrel grows
Glenbower woodlands is located near the village of owning in the south of county Kilkenn. In the middle of the wood is located a deep and very sleepy hollow, in winter the hollow is covered in fallen leaves from the trees that are located on the very edges of cliffs above.
Spring time however brings new life with fox dens located in the cliffs and a carpet of ferns and Wild woodland Sorrel with its many white and purple flowers.
Sorrel is found carpeting many Irish old, undisturbed woodlands in spring, this pretty downy perennial also grows on moss-covered trees and shady stone walls and is widespread throughout the country.
Each pretty white flower has five petals, bell-shaped some (10 – 15 mm), held on a stem which comes directly from the roots. The petals are lined with a tracery of purple veins through to the golden centre of the flower. The three petalled heart-shaped leafs fold up towards late afternoon or in rain as do the fragile flowers.
They Can be eaten and have a sharp taste of oxalic acid, wonderful with salads and as a garnish. The flowers blooms from April to June.
Wild Sorrel is a native plant to Ireland and belongs to the family Oxalidaceae.
Sleepy Hollow Image Gallery
On Wednesday last week Ireland was hit by one of the biggest Storm’s for many years .
We have had a series of them over this winter and over 262mm of rain this year to date, I have posted over the last week or so about the flooded local rivers which I spend a lot of time walking along and the effects of all this rain is clear to see.
The other locations I do a lot of walking in however is county Kilkenny’s Forests and woodlands, the images below are taken in one of our local forests Castlemorris woodlands.
On this visit however I was in complete Awe of Nature and the power it holds, The forest has lost many of its great trees and I feel that the images can only get some of the sense across of just how bad this last storm was. I can only imagine the noise and the almost complete mayhem that these woods contained during the storm that powered its way through these trees.
Many of the trees have fallen and had their branches ripped from them, the visit was one of the most amazing I think I will ever have, it was silent apart from the sound of trees creaking in the wind , the sound of broken branches resting against other trees, survivors of the days storm. It was an amazing feeling, a real lesson in the power that nature holds.
You can see in the images that the path into the woods is completely blocked with fallen trees and it will take many days to clear these woodlands and return them to normal, many gaps with be visible and many trees missed.
I will let these images tell the rest of the story!!
When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
The Old Dead Tree
By : David Harris
The old dead tree stood
gnarled weather torn;
its limbs were now brittle.
What stories could it tell
of the centuries it had lived,
the passing lives it had seen,
and the storms it had weathered
when it was young and strong.
When its foliage was green
and gave shelter from the rain.
Now it stands bare and broken,
a sorry sight to be seen.
It must have been beautiful
when it was young
with its canopy of green,
and a nesting place for little birds
among its evergreen.
Now they only used it
as a resting place whenever they pass by.
The old dead tree,
which had seen so much life.
I just spent today working on some images for a local forestry team, these images are for a brochure that they are about to publish.
The weather was just wonderful and I just love being out in the woods watching the tree being thinned out and working with a camera along side these men. the sound of the machines and the speed at which they work in amazing.
Thank you to the men in this forestry team, who helped so much, to create some good and very interesting working images !
Nikon D700, 24-70mm f2.8 lens
Found objects in the Irish woodlands
Irish Landscape Photography : Nigel Borrington
From a personal Stand point one of the things I love doing most photographically is to just explorer my Local surroundings, I walk our dog Molly a 10 1/2 year old Golden retriever everyday and carry a camera with me for most of these trips out. the Local Kilkenny woodlands in December are still surprisingly full of life and things to capture.
The following Gallery is from a trip to Castle Morris woodland, last week.
Found things in the Kilkenny woodlands