The Call of the Wild...
There can be nothing more delightful than the Wicklow Mountains in early spring, the bogs replete with pungent odour and in the valleys, the first splashes of green bursting forth from winter weary boughs, beneath which nestle patches of shy spring flowers: celandines, violets, primrose and wood sorrel.
A call to the wild beckoned, a rough camp on the crescent of golden sand fringed with willow and alder, the place where the Inchavore River greets Lough Dan. Following the Wicklow Way we climbed Ballinafunshoge which can only be described as a tree graveyard, eerie, dank and miserable, and Sleamaine, which only has views towards Lough Tay to commend it. We then headed down the Cloghoge Valley crossing the river at the stepping stones by a lonely whitewashed cottage standing sentinel close to where the river discharges into the lake.
The sun was setting as we pitched our tent on the shingle shore of Lough Dan. Across the lake, the ghostly ridges of lazy beds were momentarily brought back to life in the shafts of sinking sunlight; the lake, mirror flat, slowly turned a mysterious indigo and bats began to flit about in the darkening sky.
Our campfire crackled and burst into life, sending a volley of sparks heavenward towards a hazy crescent moon that cast a feeble silvery glow. Instant comfort emanated from its glowing embers, embracing us in warmth and a sense of security. Belly full, cocooned and toasty inside my sleeping bag, I listened to the creatures of the night: the shriek of some poor critter who fell victim to a fox; away in the heather, the constant churring of a nightjar filling the air with tremulous cadence, and across the valley, deer trading strange yelps and squeals. Amid it all, I thought I heard ghostly voices emanating from the direction of a group of shattered stone cottages upstream.
The dawn chorus heralded the coming of day. The sunrise cast an almost supernatural radiance across the indigo water of the lough. I sat transfixed, watching fish periodically breaking the surface of this liquid landscape, creating languid concentric circles. A startled heron took off clumsily from the ragged reeds at the edge of the lough, while a barely perceptible breeze vibrated dew covered, gossamer threads of spiders’ webs strung like silvery nets on the grass at the back of the beach.
A cheeky chaffinch, half hidden by plump pussy willows, chirped loudly in the tree above our tent. Bubble bees floated heavily through the morning air as our kettle burbled into life. The sun was rising rapidly and the air had become stuffy and heavy with the fragrance of gorse. As we walked off the beach onto the track, the silence was so great our footsteps crunching on the gravel seemed to fill the whole valley with sound. For one moment the sense of being the only two people in the world had no equal. The tranquillity, solitude, and feeling of being at one with nature was truly uplifting and life affirming.