TO the north-west of Cork city there are vast areas of sloping hills, agricultural greenery, and many small nooks of woodland.
One particular wooded ravine that slots into a lowland is Mullinhassig Wood. It’s located in Aghavrin, is managed by Coillte, and boasts areas of recent coniferous regeneration, as well as older, more mature native woodland.
To get there, you must drive the winding back roads through villages like Dripsey and Coachford until you reach a small parking alcove that sits in the shade of high trees.
You’re then met with two choices, you can walk down into the bottom of the valley, where the paths are worn, muddy, and — shall we say — more natural. Or you can take the balcony-esque walk that’s flat, has been clearly and neatly cut into the land, and will carry you around the canopy of the wood, offering great views down into the area.
Two great walks offering different vantage points and ways to experience the forest. I would recommend the loop and take both of them, just be prepared to get your boots mucky.
The woodland is very lush with a meandering river passing through the centre of it. The shallows of the river glow with amber hues when the sunshine penetrates it. The rocks and stones of the riverbed appear cobble-like and can be seen clearly as the water is clean and translucent.
There are parts where trees lean and grow over the water, with many fallen logs to be seen too. There’s a real jungle feel to the place when you’re standing by the river, as the steep sides of the gorge are covered in vegetation and when you look up beyond them, all you can see is the sky.
The Glashagarriff river flows through this glen, and as you follow the snaking path, you’ll meet many small waterfalls where there’s a build-up of large rocks, then riffles where the water is moving quickly, then pools where the water is more calm. A family were having a quiet picnic at one bend in the river and with the evening light casting its gold over them and the children splashing in the shallows, it looked like an antiquated scene of countryside joy.
The grand crescendo of the woodland walk is the waterfall that appears from the darkness.
Poulanassig, or, ‘Poll an Easaigh’, which translates to pool of waterfall, is the ancient name of the site. The loud, rumbling noise can be heard before it’s actually in view. Encased by large blackened boulders in a shadowed pocket, a powerful torrent careening through the rock blasts out into a white downfall.
The water looked and felt so tempting to swim in as I dipped my hand and felt its relative warmth. Summer is here and temperatures have risen, but also the speed of flow and shallowness of the water body enables it to warm quicker than a large body of water would. I decided to get in and could immediately feel underfoot the slippery biofilm that’s accumulated on the rocks, so I paid careful attention not to fall. It was a fresh dip indeed as I floated around in the cavernous surroundings, with the steady crashing sound of freshwater offering a different kind of silence.
There’s a lot of romantic folklore attached to the area, including tales of a mermaid who lives in the small pool at the base of the waterfall.
It’s been said she entices anglers to the bottom of the pool — and the bottom of the pool can’t be found. Salmon can’t be caught in that pond because she protects them. It’s difficult to corroborate this as fact, however it’s a charming tale nonetheless.
The footpaths have been so trodden on that there are parts of exposed roots that act like bracketing systems, holding the forest floor in place. Their wild and intricate patterns are very beautiful as they’re speckled by little blushes of bluebells and other wildflowers.
Douglas fir, sitka spruce, Japanese larch and oak are the main tree species that dominate the wood. It is approximately eight hectares in size and the looping walk is less than 2 km. A short walk, a small wood, but one of gorgeous beauty and charm.
During my visit to this lovely area, I passed so much litter such as empty cans, cigarette packets and even bits of old clothing. I picked them up as I had a plastic bag with me and dumped them appropriately myself. I’ll use this as an invitation to ask any visitors to the site to respect the wonderful, natural amenities that we have and to please discard rubbish accordingly.
If you are visiting an area near water, it is important to know the do’s and dont’s. See https://watersafety.ie/recreation/. Also stick to public pathways.
Up next week: Barley Cove