A byway taking off to the north just after the Cross House on the Skibbereen to Ballydehob road – signposted to Corravoley – will bring you to the townlands of Ballybane West and Ballybane East. That little boreen will take you past some Rock Art, and then on to the Magic Forest. If you find your way in, keep a lookout for the Other Crowd!
We accepted an invitation from the creator of the Magic Forest – Thomas Wiegandt – to come and visit while the bluebells were out – and we were enchanted by the woodland walks and all the experiences which excited our senses once we were there.
It’s hard to describe Thomas – he’s a musician, an artist, a poet and – above all – he has a quirky and witty way of looking at the world… I like that way of seeing things. He has lived for years at Ballybane and pursued his creative career as well as working on and caring for his few acres of West Cork wildness, which is based around an old sally grove – a place which hadn’t been used for around 100 years and which had been sold as ‘waste land’. As you make your way through the Magic Forest (and take care – there are some rough paths and a few stony steps to be negotiated) you will be taken through his thoughts and into his imagination.
Thomas believes we are all musicians at heart (I agree) – and invites us to have a go at the Ballydehob Gamelan – a wonderful collection of ‘rescued’ objects with which we can create rhythms and explore a whole world of sounds: you can play an array of drums, cans, goblets, makeshift xylophones, even stones… Finola had a whale of a time!
There is art and poetry set amongst the willows, often with the most unexpected juxtapositions. One of my favourite discoveries in the Magic Forest was Natural High – a little knoll looking out to Mount Kidd: there are two garden seats there where you can sit at ease and frame the view of the mountain, with two dogs as companions: one of them is real!
There were some messages here – about how we treat our world (or mistreat it), but they weren’t intrusive to the enjoyment of the whole adventure. If anything they were thought-provoking and – overall – a very good lesson in how we can all positively re-use things that seem to have transcended their original purpose.
In another life, Thomas might have been a shaman or medicine man: walking through the forest can be seen as therapeutic and refreshing in the context of our modern busy world – and it will certainly make you laugh at times. I really liked the idea of picking up a phone and talking to our ancestors!
You can discover more about the Magic Forest – and about Thomas Wiegandt – on his website: Cosmic Radio. You will find his poetry and his music there, and you can download many of his compositions for free. But do go and visit this unique piece of West Cork for yourselves: I hope you will be as delighted by the experience as we were.