Unlocking Landscapes podcast: Walking with ravens in the Ox Mountains ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช

It’s January 2023 and my podcast, Unlocking Landscapes, is 2 years old! Thanks to everyone who has contributed and supported so far.

I do this podcast at my own cost so if you want to support it (it costs a basic ยฃ100 annually to host my Podbean account) you can ‘buy me a coffee/camomile’ here: https://ko-fi.com/djgwild

I haven’t posted for a while, mainly for professional and technical reasons. The biggest issue is that I needed to upgrade my ailing desktop PC, which I have now done. It’s in much better shape now, so no more IT excuses but hopefully more podcasts.

You can listen via YouTube here:

Or via the Podbean stream here:

In September I spent a week in Mayo in Ireland and recorded two podcasts. One is an early evening walk in the Ox Mountains, encountering rickety gates and performing ravens. The second one (still to come) is a walk with Seรกn Lysaght, which I can’t wait to share with you. I’ve been a big fan of Seรกn’s writing for over a decade, so it was a massive honour to spend an afternoon walking with him. More on that one soon!

In the Ox Mountains I go for a walk, describing the surrounding landscape, capturing two ravens (acoustically) as they fly close by from where the breed in the hills. I also talk a bit about issues with cottages which aren’t connected to mains water, amongst many other things.

Here are the reference points:

Thanks for listening!

Unlocking Landscapes podcast:

The homefires burn in the mountains of Mayo ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช

Here are some landscape images from a March visit to Mayo which I’ve been posting a bit of recently. This landscape fascinates me in many ways: the cultural history (of which my family has links), the ecology and geology.

My family’s cottage is located near a mountain range that would probably be classified as hills in the UK, but their Irish name translates as Wintry Mountain (Slieve Gamph). The English version is the Ox Mountains. It was said that people once lived in these hills – granite, heather and peat bog – in simple stone cottages until the famine. I haven’t managed to locate anything resembling a disused cottage there as yet, but the wider landscape is littered with megalithic tombs, stone circles and other significant archaeology.

We arrived in Mayo to find the mountain burnt across a mile or more. This beautiful landscape with its rare plants, bog habitats, feral goats and moorland nesting birds, was decimated. We asked local people – who started it? One man said it could have been a farmer who just wanted a bit more grass, another woman said it was someone just “lighting a match”. Whoever it was, the authorities are not happy and it made plenty of news out this way. It was also an issue in Wicklow and Kerry.

The mountains had not been completely charred by the fire, with plenty of plants having survived, though it had spread to areas I had never seen affected before. Our local neighbour said she had never seen so many fires as in recent years. Climate change is no doubt making these moorlands and their mountains of bracken more vulnerable to wildfires (or otherwise) but the issue still remains one of misguided land management, as well as pure arson.

Having worked in the management of publicly accessible green spaces I can tell you there is a minority everywhere who want to just burn stuff for the fun of it.

In 2013 I wrote a piece about visiting Mayo while my grandfather was in a nursing home. He passed away 2 years later from dementia. Back then we arrived to fires burning close to the cottage, like something from a movie. I remember a radio report saying there were gorse fires simply caused by direct sunlight and dry weather. You can read that here.

Thanks for reading.

More from Ireland

A trip to Wild Nephin National Park ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช

In March I visited Wild Nephin National Park at the Atlantic edge of Ireland, in Co. Mayo. I thought it was called Ballycroy National Park, but the name seems to have been updated.

The mountains here are the Nephin Beg range. There’s a great visitor centre here and a brilliant cafe run by a very friendly couple. I’d seen these mountains from afar for years but this was my first time in the National Park.

The National Park itself is said to be home to golden eagles, which I hadn’t realised were present in Ireland. It’s also where one of Europe’s largest blanket bogs resides, a special type in this region known as Atlantic blanket bog. Great name!

If you want to read more about this landscape I would recommend Sean Lysaght’s book Wild Nephin. Copies are available in the cafe also. I really recommend it, also Sean’s poems.

I’ve tried to work out the names of the mountains but may have some of them wrong. I’d welcome corrections in the comments and will amend.

Here are some images I took during our visit to Ballycroy:

Nephin mountain
Scree and stream bed on Nephin
Mountain I don’t know the name of with cottage for scale
Croagh Patrick, possibly the most famous mountain in Ireland
Mulranny view towards mountains
Sheep with lambs
View of Croagh Patrick from Mulranny, across Clew Bay
Cleggan Mountain Trail (boardwalk just visible on the left) and view towards Achill
Cnoc Leitreach (Owenduff Hill) I think!
The Ballycroy visitor centre boardwalk loop
Sunny day in Ballycroy
Gorse in flower
Inishbiggle mountain (I think)
Views towards Nephin Beg mountain range
Local farming in Ballycroy
Abandoned farmstead near Ballycroy. Note the succession of rushes, grasses and gorse onto the green of the ‘improved’ grassland.

Thanks for reading.