Going With The Wind

We set out to search for a lake in the hills above Ballybane West: it’s known as Constable Lake. There’s a story, of course – which I found in the Duchas Schools Folklore Collection, collected at Corravoley School in 1937. A whole gamut of stories, in fact, packed into two neatly handwritten pages. I don’t think I have ever found quite so much information on local lore in a single entry. Ammunition for a few more posts, perhaps!

In the district of Kilcoe, at the back of the school which I attend, there is a beautiful little river called the “Leimawaddera”. It means the “Dog’s Leap” because it is so narrow that a dog is considered able to leap across it in some places.


It rises at the foot of Mount Kid in Constable Lake. This lake covers over four acres of land. It is so called because a policeman was drowned in it a very long time ago.


After leaving the lake the Leimawaddera comes winding down through marshy land till it reaches Ballybawn which means the ‘white townland’, because in summer when the hawthorn is in bloom the place looks like a mass of white.


The river next runs through ‘Glounakillena’ which means the “glen of the church”, then on through Rossard near to the old ruin underneath which it is said there was a treasure consisting of gold, silver and brass buried by giants long ago.


The Leimawaddera then wends its way through Lishenacreahig, and then divides Ardura from Corravolley and on it goes till it reaches our school. In summer, at play time, the school children love to run down and paddle in its cool waters.


It next runs under a tramway bridge and after that under the Crooked Bridge and it enters the sea at Poolgorm Bay which means the “Blue Hole”.


Lisheenacreahig means the “fort of the fairy kings”.


In How Well Do You Know West Cork? on the Roaringwater Journal Facebook page this week, Finola posted this photo of Constable Lake:

This view is cleverly framed to minimise the clues, but several readers gave the correct answer almost immediately. Here’s a more revealing picture:

Constable Lake now lies within the boundaries of Ballybane Wind Farm and the 21 tall turbines can all be seen from its shores. It’s one of several farms in the West Cork area, strategically sited on the wild heathland ridges, working away at their mission of harvesting nature’s resources in order to provide us with electricity without burning fossil fuels.

Upper – on the aerial view I have marked each of the 21 turbines. Lower – from the Ballybane site the turbines at Drinagh and Coomatallin are visible

I find the turbines dynamic and exhilarating. I know there are many readers who will disagree with my opinion, and social media abounds with polarised views about them from all perspectives. It’s hard to home in on hard and fast truths on anything these days but I have read extensively – and scientifically – on the subject and it seems to me that these wind-turned appliances have a life expectancy of around 25 years, and they pay for their installation in less than two years. Of course, carbon emissions are involved in the construction and manufacturing processes but this is heavily outweighed by the carbon savings from running these instead of burning fossil fuels to produce our electricity. Dismantling costs are built in to the permissions, and there is no doubt in my mind that in 25 years time – or less – technology will have advanced towards other solutions.

A simple chart from 2017 (via FactChecking.org) which graphical shows how well onshore wind farms perform against other fuel sources. Only nuclear power is marginally better

Wind turbines have a huge visual impact on the landscape, so their siting is important. In the case of Ballybane they have been constructed on heathland and in an area that was formerly commercial forestry. I personally prefer the elegance of the actively dynamic structures to a dark, impenetrable and seemingly sterile sitka spruce plantation. The scale is aweing: in the following photographs here’s me at the base of one of the 64m high towers (upper picture) and, below that, you can see me again – the very tiny figure to the left of the main turbine.

The machinery of industry has always fascinated me. Windmills go back a long way. The first image, below, is from the 14th century Decretals of Gregory manuscript in the British Museum. This is followed by our photograph of Elphin mill, County Roscommon, which dates from 1730 and is said to be the oldest in Ireland. Next, an exploded view of the nineteenth century flour mill at Chillenden, Kent, UK (courtesy of John Reynolds) and then a comparable view of the workings of the Enercon E-70 Wind Energy Converter, which is the unit in use at Ballybane and has a rotor diameter of 71 metres.

The Ballybane Farm will power about 40,000 homes a year on average. That’s modest compared to the newest developments. Currently the world’s largest installation – the offshore Hornsea One Farm, Yorkshire, UK – powers a million homes, while in the Netherlands a huge Haliade-X offshore turbine is being developed with a height of 260 metres and rotor blades of 220 metres in diameter: it’s said that each sweep of the blade will keep a house powered for a day. But that’s enough of the technical stuff. I enjoyed the experience of being close to these giants, and hearing the significant swish of those blades powering us into a safer, carbon reduced future.

Above you can see the trackway leading us up to Constable Lake and the Ballybane Wind Farm. On the horizon is Roaringwater Bay and the distinct profile of Mount Gabriel. There’s an ancientness about this landscape that balances the surreal – somewhat ‘science-fiction’ – character of the turbines. For me, these elements complement each other, and the sheer scale of the contemporary engineering sets us apart from our slight, human selves – so vulnerable in these times.

20 thoughts

    • I think the lake is publicly accessible – it always was, traditionally. You get to the lake by going through a gate – no ‘private’ notices – from the lower slopes of Mount Kidd. Once through the gate you are amongst the wind turbines.


  1. Interesting to hear your take on the wind turbines Robert. I’m comforted at least to hear that they may one day disappear in favour of new technology just as copper mines and traditional mills did in their turn.

    What a beautifully written description by young Betty in handwriting rarely seen these days. I wonder if she ever made her mark in the wider world.


  2. Really delighted to read that splendid account Robert of an area Con & I walked only last week. We stayed on the Kilcoe side though so have only seen distant views of the turbines. I’ve always liked wind turbines because they remind me of the whirligig toys we had as children. So I always regret the fact that the turbines don’t sport the magnificent colours of the surrounding landscapes.. Thanks as ever for whetting the appetite!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would be interesting if the turbines were painted brightly – blues and greens perhaps! But then they would attract more complaints, I’m sure! Glad you liked the tour, anyway!


  3. Since I live in one of the three houses in Rossard, I can add a further item of folklore to Betty Connell’s 1937 Schools Folklore Collection account of the meanderings of the Leimawaddera stream and her mention of ‘treasure buried by giants long ago’. Two of the houses in Rossard are occupied, the third, of the alleged buried treasure, is a ruin on the bank of the stream. According to Sonny O’Driscoll, the last indigenous inhabitant of Rossard, the now ruined building was erected by Conor O’Driscoll’s family following their departure from Kilcoe Castle after the siege of 1603. Always referred to as ‘the cabhlach’ (ruin in Irish) the building differs in plan from the conventional simple rectangular form of local 18 / 19C dwellings. Also, it now stands on a floodplain, which cannot have been the case when it was constructed: Sonny added that nothing of interest was ever found in the ruin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brian, for that most comprehensive response to the Schools Folklore Collection item which included ‘Rossard Lore’. One can understand that the O’Driscoll’s, in departing from Kilcoe, might have carried their wealth and worldly goods with them – and one might also wonder what became of it. But it’s a ‘treasure’ indeed to have such history
      on your own doorstep!


  4. Wind turbines are like elegant giants moving across the landscape. Not only do the look beautiful but there is the added sense that they are our guardians whose sole purpose is to capture energy from nature and gift it to us in the form of light and heat. They are our tireless servants and benefactors.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robert. In Lanzarote there is a museum in which they beautifully show the development of windmills over time. As a very windy Island they were a perfect form of technological assistance.


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