Winter Storage

approaching the cradle

As you all know, boys can’t resist toys, especially radio-controlled ones. Sorry if this sounds sexist – I’m quite sure that there are many girls out there who like them as well. But, when it comes to Boys’ Toys nothing can quite compare to the piece of equipment which we have just down the boreen in Rossbrin Cove…

boatyard ltd

Up here in Nead an Iolair we are well placed to keep an eye on all the nautical coming and going in and out of the Cove through the spring and summer, and extending into the autumn. There is considerable activity because, at the end of the Cove, is Jimmy Murphy’s boatyard – and that’s where many of the boats that ply the waters of Roaringwater Bay during the sailing season are ‘laid up’ during the winter months. Just occasionally we have seen a single boat riding out – and surviving – the January gales afloat, but that’s not to be recommended. Far better to be safe and sound out of the water – and out of harm’s way – in the security of the yard.

from the terrace

Rossbrin Cove – the viewpoint from the terrace of Nead an Iolair: the main October activity is bringing the boats into the yard for winter storage

So, what’s the boys toy? Well, if you are technically minded, the full description is a Wise 16T immersible slipway boat hoist. This may or may not fill you full of excitement with the heart beating a little faster than usual but, let me assure you, it’s a fine sight to behold when it’s doing its stuff. I had the opportunity to behold it yesterday when I looked down from our terrace and noticed a sailing boat (with sails furled) making its way through to the far end of the Cove, where the boatyard is situated. That’s a sure sign that the Wise 16T is coming out and is on its way down to the slipway. Not wanting to miss a good photo opportunity (it was a beautiful October day), down I went as well!

Header picture – the Shaughraun approaching its winter quarters. Above left – expert navigation: the Shaughraun entering the boat hoist; above right – the slings are tightened to secure the boat ready for its journey up the slipway

I suppose what makes the Wise 16T such a compelling draw for this boy is the sheer size of it, and the fact that the whole contraption is controlled from a little box hanging around Jim Murphy’s neck: he doesn’t even have to be on board to operate it! For me it somehow brings back memories of travelling by steam train in the days of my distant youth when I always made sure I got to see the driver and the fireman on the footplate handling the huge monster that was the hissing, thundering locomotive (I did achieve my dream of travelling on the footplate once, but that’s a completely different story). Rather, though, the Wise 16T is probably more akin to my youthful aspiration to be in charge of a radio controlled model plane and to be able to make it loop, dive and spin spectacularly, thereby thrilling the admiring crowds. Sadly, this aspiration was never fulfilled. All the more reason, therefore, to hurry down to the water and catch a glimpse of the Wise 16T in action.

through the branches

The boat hoist looks a bit like a giant insect, albeit having only four legs. At the end of each leg is a wheel, and each wheel is turned – and steered – by hydraulics powered by a diesel engine mounted high up in the frame of the hoist: this is to keep the engine above water while the main body of the lift is immersed as it negotiates the slipway. Hydraulics also operate the slings which secure the boat once it has been expertly navigated into the lift. All this can be done by the remote radio controller, although there is also a driving position on the structure itself – again, mounted high enough to be out of the water.

out the water

Top left – the driving wheels (it’s all done by hydraulics); top right – the diesel engine casing can be seen mounted high up in the frame to avoid immersion. Above – Jim steers the machine up the slipway using a radio controller

I was able to closely observe the whole operation: the boat (the Shaughraun) approaching the immersed lift, being secured by the slings, then raised clear of the water as the Wise 16T climbed up the slipway; the crew were still on board. The boatyard is a little way from the slip and along one of Rossbrin’s narrow lanes, so I was able to see how Jim – walking in front – expertly drives the whole ensemble using his little remote box. There was quite a lot of activity on the water on the day, with small boats being pulled out and mounted on trailers, and soon there was a bit of a traffic snarl-up on the lane with the small boats following along behind the big ‘insect’ going – understandably – at a slow pace as it made its way round bends and past overhanging trees and bushes.

traffic jam

in the boatyard

Top – West Cork traffic jam! Below – safely entering the gates of Rossbrin Boatyard, and ready to settle in for the winter

However much of a hold-up it might have been to the traffic following behind (and it was barely a couple of minutes) the delay must have been more than outweighed by the sheer spectacle of the machine in action. I was delighted to have seen the Wise 16T from a close vantage point. Many thanks to Jimmy Murphy, Rossbrin Boatyard Ltd and the crew of the Shaughraun for allowing me to share the experience.

remote controller

Rossbrin Boatyard ‘Skipper’ Jimmy Murphy in full control!

Fastnet Trails: Rossbrin Loop, Part 2

Start this walk at the Rossbrin boat slip

Start this walk at the Rossbrin boat slip

A joint post by Finola and Robert

In Part 1 of this trail post, we took you around the first leg of the Rossbrin Loop trail, which we have broken into two shorter rambles.

This one is steeper and climbs higher, but it’s full of interest and you can take it as easy as you like. For this walk, you park at the Rossbrin boat slip, at the eastern end of Rossbrin Cove.

Rossbrin trails route revised Export

You won’t need off-road boots and you can take the dog. Give yourself two to three hours, depending on whether you decide to do the detour to see the wedge tomb. This is a nice, rambling pace, with lots of time to stop and chat to anybody you meet, admire the wonderful views, take lots of photographs, and maybe indulge in a picnic along the way. 

The first hill affords lovely views back to Rossbrin Castle

The first hill affords lovely views back to Rossbrin Castle

Set off north and turn right after the boat yard and then left up the hill. As you ascend you will see the remains of old mine workings to your left. The earliest records of mining at Ballycummisk refer to 16 tons of ore raised in 1814 and 42 tons in 1815. In 1838 a shaft was sunk 20 fathoms, mainly through barytes and shale. In 1857, 174 tons of ore were sold, mainly copper. By 1861 the mine was recorded as being ‘one of the best developed and very satisfactorily worked.’ The ‘Lady’s Vein shafts’ are marked on the OS 6” map. The Ballycummisk Mining Company worked the mine from 1872. In 1878 a section down to 228 fathoms was noted, but in the same year the mine was recorded as ‘abandoned’. Nowadays some concrete pillars and the slag heap are the most visible remains of the once thriving mine-site.

Old Mine site

There are extensive views over the countryside beyond the old mines

At the top of the hill, where you will find a sign to the riding stables, turn left and head through the townland of Ballycummisk with pleasant country views to the west. Once you get to the crossroads you may see a little wayside stall selling vegetables on the honour system. If you’ve brought a backpack, this would be a good place to stock up on carrots, potatoes, or yellow tomatoes.

Beware of the bull

Wayside StallAt this point, we recommend a detour to see the Kilbronogue wedge tomb. Turn left and walk until you reach the next crossroads. Go straight through the crossroads and a short distance on you will see a lay-by on the right side of the road. Step over the wire and find your way up the path that has been generously maintained by the landowner. In early summer this path is awash with ox-eye daisies. It meanders up through a birch plantation until you emerge in a small clearing to find the wedge tomb.

Path to wedge tomb, Kilbronogue

Like most wedge tombs, this one is orientated to the west – take a look at our post Wedge Tombs: Last of the Megaliths for lots of information on this class of Bronze Age monuments. This is a lovely example, and we are grateful to Stephen Lynch for ensuring its wellbeing and providing access to it.

Kilbronogue Wedge tomb

Retrace your steps to the second cross roads and turn left up the hill, turning right when your reach a T junction, and then take the left fork at the Y. This is a pleasant country road – farmland stretches on either side, with ruined or abandoned houses dotted here and there among the neat modern farmhouses with their colourful paint and bowery entrances.

In spring and summer the hedgerows are heady with wild flowers of every variety.

Turn right again at the next junction and you will come shortly to the beautiful and atmospheric Stouke burial ground. Although we have read that there are the ruins of an old church in this graveyard, we have never found it. But there are other items of great interest here, the traditional burial place of many island dwellers. In the centre you will find the grave of two priests, Fathers James and John Barry, who were parish priests here during the time of the famine. According to the Historic Graves listing for Stouke  “Sarah Roberts who is buried here in this tomb, died at an early age… worked as a housekeeper for the parish priest… When his sister died and was also buried here, Sarah’s coffin was in perfect condition. She was reburied with the parish priest even though she was not a Catholic. People of the parish come to pray at this tomb on the 24th June at John’s Feast Day.”

A little way to the right of this grave is a rock, partially covered by heather, that contains a bullaun stone, known locally as the Bishop’s Head. Once again, according to the Historic Graves entry, “The bishop was confirming children in a nearby church. Red coats came in and beheaded the bishop.”

Amanda photographs the bullaun stone

Amanda photographs the bullaun stone

There are offerings of coins in jars at the bullaun stones, and at the priests’ grave. Leave one too, along with a prayer or wish for a loved one.

Bishops Head bullaun stone, Stouke Graveyard

Bishop’s Head bullaun stone, Stouke Graveyard

From Stouke the road drops down to a cross roads. Go straight through and start to climb again up to Cappaghglass. Ignore the left turn and carry on until you reach a Y junction. Take the right fork, pass all the ripe blackberries (if you’re able) and as you crest the hill the whole of Roaringwater Bay is laid out before you. Few views in the country can equal this one for sheer scope: all the islands in Carbery’s Hundred Isles come into view, The Baltimore Beacon gleams on its rocky outcrop to the east, while the Fastnet Rock sits sturdily on the horizon, and the Mizen Peninsula stretches away to the west.

Roaringwater Bay from Cappaghglass

Descend the steep hill, turning right at the T junction, and meander down to Rossbrin Cove.

Shaft of Sun

Now a peaceful boat harbour, Rossbrin in the 15th Century was the domain of Finghín O’Mahony, the Scholar Prince of Rossbrin, a man who used the riches extracted from taxes paid by Spanish and French fishermen to fund a centre of learning here in Rossbrin where scribes and learned men wrote and translated books which still exist today. The ruined section of the castle still standing gives little evidence of the erudite court that was once respected throughout Europe. A fish ‘palace’ for processing pilchards once provided employment to the people of Rossbrin, but little trace remains of it, or the holy well at the shore that once attracted those seeking cures for their ailments.

Kayaks at Rossbrin Cove

If the weather’s warm and the tide’s in, this is a good spot for a dip. No? Well, a photograph, then. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed the two Rossbrin Loop walks – do let us know how you got on.

Ballycummisk Mine

Ballycummisk Mine

A Moment in Time

Beautiful Rossbrin Cove

Beautiful Rossbrin Cove

It happens so suddenly. One day you will go down to the Cove and the sounds of summer will be in the air: childrens’ voices and laughter from gardens and beach, excited dogs, perhaps a clop of ponies from the riding stable, the flap of sails getting under way and the whirr of outboards on ribs. Then, the end of August comes, and it’s as if a shutter drops mechanically. Gates are shut and blinds are drawn at the many holiday houses along the water; there’s a chill in the morning air and a haze hangs over everything. An ever so slight feeling of melancholy accompanies the Oystercatchers pieu-ing as they glide in.

fuschia

But there’s abundance all around: fat, luscious berries and hips dominate the hedgerows and wild fuschias are as rampant as ever. Bees are constantly in evidence. The sun still comes uninterrupted every day in this record-breaking year while, in the evening, the biggest moon of the season rises magnificently in the east, bringing with it a huge tidal variation: low water empties the Cove almost completely, providing a feasting ground for the little waders, while the Swans are compelled to sit on their single legs forlorn on a mud-bank, or to sail off out to the open water beyond the castle.

haze

On a day last week we perambulated the full rim of the Cove, pausing by Julian’s house at the very end, just before reaching the landmark of Finghin O’Mahony’s ruined tower. Like us, Julian is a year-round resident: there are just a few others. There is activity in the boatyard at the end: they are preparing to receive, over the coming month, all the sailing craft that are currently moored to buoys in the mouth of the inlet: upwards of thirty. Yacht insurance generally runs out at the end of October. Last winter – the stormiest in living memory – saw a single boat ride it all out undamaged on the water, while high and dry in the boatyard several fine yachts were toppled and broken by westerly gales. For some reason (perhaps its because of the now sleeping houses) the birds’ chattering and serenading seems to be louder and more insistent.

When I first came through Rossbrin Cove – many years ago – it didn’t make a positive impression on me. It seemed a bit of a scrappy place, with its huge, muddy slipway at the far end and rusting trailers and discarded dinghies growing in to the encroaching sedges. The shoreline itself, edged with home-hewn jetties and concrete landing places, seemed a little urban: I passed on, looking for a bit more in the way of West Cork scenery and character. Now, the Cove is our daily garden path: with familiarity it has elbowed its way into our hearts and we appreciate every detail. At low tides the rocks are a hunting ground for Mussels (although we have to wait for Good Friday), and sunlit pools are inhabited by scurrying crabs and bewildering varieties of seaweed.

misty

Before the haze burns off, sky and water merge and the islands drift in and out of view. The sea itself is a frontier of the untameable Atlantic but, here in this land of inlets, coastal hills and castles it mirrors the sunlight from its barely rippled surface, and our summer will never end.

Enjoying Rossbrin

Enjoying Rossbrin

Nead an Iolair  - the view to RoaringwaterNead an Iolair – the view to Roaringwater