Time in nature is a wonderful medicine

Student ecologist and writer RICHARD GORDON continues his series this week, as he explores the beauty within 5km of his home in Cork city. Today he visits Ballybrack Woods (The Mangala).
Time in nature is a wonderful medicine

Luminous Portrait by Richard Gordon

THE autumn lockdown of 2020 is well underway. The tension that was with us in the spring, when the first lockdown kicked in, isn’t quite as palpable anymore. Rather than society screeching to a halt, this time around, it feels like we’ve switched to a lower gear. The transition’s felt smoother.

People have spent the last six months adapting. Many are already working from home and are now more comfortable with it. College students are accustomed to online lectures so this academic year picked up where the last year ended.

Many coffee spots and restaurants have managed to keep their doors (or at least window hatches) open — now that they’re used to running take-away only premises. Many stores are surviving with online sales.

Even couples on dates are now strolling around the city with take-away pints in plastic cups. We’re adapting as best we can.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still difficult to restrict ourselves to a five kilometre radius.

To maintain our sanity and ward off the dreaded cabin-fever/stir-crazy sensations that almost everyone in Ireland has felt this year, it’s always a good idea to get out and go for a walk.

There are even Covid-19 related advisory messages played over the radio, suggesting that we take time-out every day to exercise and get some fresh air.

It may be 2020 and we may have lived most of our lives through a screen over the last eight-months, but we’re still human, and time in nature is a wonderful medicine. We’re more nature than we are computer, believe it or not. So let the screen go black and take your headphones off. Get yourself outside and fill your lungs with crisp autumn air. If it’s raining — grab an umbrella.

We’ve been lucky to have had some openings in the cloud recently, we’ve even had some skies of endless blue. I’ve been out every day in search of beautiful moments within my 5km. Today my focus is on Ballybrack Woods.

Location 2: Day 11 - 20, Ballybrack Woods (The Mangala). Entrance Coordinates: 51˚51 North. 8˚26 West. South of Douglas Village.

I’ve been visiting Ballybrack Woods, (The Mangala) south of Douglas village. It’s a hidden oasis with a valley-like feel.

As you enter from the north end, over the sloping footpath, you’re met with a long field cut through by a stream. A high, steeping face of trees to your left and more raised woodland to your right. Winding walking trails splinter up and through the woodland. The perfect remedy for a break from our highly modernised lifestyles. I’ve been walking through the woods every day. Here’s what I’ve seen.

Luminous Portrait (main picture above)

This beautiful artwork was painted on the walls by students of the Douglas Community School and the Regina Mundi College. I can’t imagine this footpath without it.

Walking Dogs through the Woods By Richard Gordon
Walking Dogs through the Woods By Richard Gordon

Walking Dogs through the Woods

Some big old German shepherds being walked through the Mangala with a glorious backdrop of autumn colours.

Glistening by the Stream By Richard Gordon
Glistening by the Stream By Richard Gordon

Glistening by the Stream

It was a very wet day, the sun was low to the west and moisture made the place glisten. Douglas River runs through the Mangala. Once called, ‘Dubhghláise,’ meaning; black stream, which was later anglicised to Douglas. Thus, this humble little flow of water gave Douglas its name.

Cascading Light by Richard Gordon
Cascading Light by Richard Gordon

Cascading Light

When the morning sun is powerful and it cascades through the steep woodland gradient of Ballybrack Woods, the spotlight it creates is an awe inspiring one. Like a falling flow of light.

Walking Trails By Richard Gordon
Walking Trails By Richard Gordon

Walking Trails

The winding walking trails are thick with layers of spongy, brown leaves underfoot this time of year. The thick root systems of trees are often exposed, as they hold this slanted woodland in place.

Runner’s Breach By Richard Gordon
Runner’s Breach By Richard Gordon

Runner’s Breach

This runner breached into a pocket of sun just as I was looking in his direction.

The Height of the Woods By Richard Gordon
The Height of the Woods By Richard Gordon

The Height of the Woods

Ballybrack Woods is on a steep gradient and adequate footwear is essential as fallen leaves can be very slippery this time of year. When the sky is blue, the sun to the east feels like it’s an arm’s length away.

The summit is epic when shadows press down over the woodland floor like a giant’s splayed fingers.

Next week: The Marina/Greenway.

Catch up on Richard’s series at EchoLive.ie

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