IN search of a woodland, I’ve found myself entangled in the small back roads of Cobh Island.
The signage isn’t blaring at you, but rather quaint and easily missed. Heading east along the northern perimeter and through some quizzical crossroads will eventually take you to Marlogue Wood.
It isn’t so obvious from the drive that you’re about to entire a woodland, which makes what you find all the more surprising. The car park is a humble one with rarely more than three or four cars there. It’s encased with trees and you’re greeted with a handful of directional options.
I decided to loop around clockwise, so began by heading straight through the unpaved forest to the left.
I walked through the first bit of wood until I met the gravel path and then followed it left again.
There’s roughly 22 hectares of forest and what I find so unique about Marlogue is its different elemental textures.
After walking through a typically leafy patch of deciduous forest, I began to feel the gradient of the island. I was up high and could see the shimmering blue water of Cork Harbour undulating through the vegetation.
Walking along this gravel aisle, I felt very tiny as I was flanked by giant walls of coniferous trees. Fluffy looking firs, with slightly wobbly, knuckled trunks raised high over head and were taking an onslaught of low sun from the west. This beamed through like an avalanche of light and fell down the slope where the western hemlocks stood tall and straight like regal soldiers on duty.
The glow of sunset got sliced into wedges as it slashed and cascaded down and through the trees.
There’s such an epic feel to this wood. The enormity and height of the trees, the intense projections of light at sunrise or sunset, the lapping sounds from the tidal energy just beyond the trees, the avian orchestra all around you, the omnipresent scuttles in the densely scrubby bushes and the breeze finely combing itself through the billions of pine needles that surround you.
I feel transported when I’m here to somewhere almost tropical, but not quite. Rather than simply a social and recreational zone, there’s a distinct whiff of wildlife in the air.
The forest floor was thick with a spongy layer of rust-coloured pines so I sprang along as I scaled my way down toward the water.
The tide was out so I was able to step onto the crunching shoreline of fine shingle.
At the eastern and dark side of the island, the air was shadowy and cold. The Holy Trinity Church was visible sitting snuggly amidst the trees across the water, bathing in the final hours of evening gold. Dried seaweed lay strewn across the jagged slabs of exposed sandstone rock, looking eerie, like the bedraggled, tattered garb of a bean sí. Some of it hung on overhanging branches and dangled over the rock, parched and black.
I walked along the shoreline some more until I entered the forest again. There’s a lovely spiralling network of paths that whip around this wood, surrounded by a nice composition of mature oaks, some young beech and sycamore, the odd tall ash, and thickly overgrown bursts of briars and nettles — which is where the constant pattering sounds emanate from, from birds and rabbits and many other little woodland dwelling creatures.
As the giant deciduous trees are still bare of leafy vegetation, their dark silhouettes of curved and twisted branches can resemble powerful antlers that loom over the wood.
In the south-west corner of the wood there’s the faint outline of what was once a summer home. It’s utterly consumed by the forest, covered in moss and ivy and littered with fallen logs and leaves. No roof or doors or almost any evidence of a home exists, other than the remnants of a fireplace, a chimney stack and some fragmented old structures.
In the evening, with the place surrounded by ferns and their unfurling coils being singed with bright light, it’s a real treat on the eyes and a nice place to let your imagination roam.
As I returned to the car park, I was greeted by some ladies who were chatting on a bench under a dome of forest colours. Their dogs were playing and skipping around them.
“Beautiful light tonight, isn’t it? Did you get some nice photos?” she asked me with a smile.
“It’s gorgeous here on evenings like this. I did... I got a few nice ones.”
Next week, Richard Gordon visits Gougane Barra.
You can catch up on Richard’s Exploring Natural Cork series online at EchoLive.ie