Merlin Photowalk report

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Distractions have become such a problem that I’m writing this in Vim. I’ll fix formatting later when I import this into WordPress.

Okay so, last Saturday’s Merlin Park photowalk was a really fantastic (albeit small!) success and very much enjoyed by everyone who attended, so far as I can tell. There was a small contingent from Boards.ie, a slightly-larger group from 091 Labs and of course Caira and I. A rouchly circular route of the grounds was chosen by me, with the start and end points set at the Supermacs opposite the hospital’s entrance. We explored Merlin/Doughiska castle, followed the very gorgeous trails through the forest, with a quick cut across the grounds and into the forest/fields on the Dublin Road side of the area. Like as not we were trespassing, but no good photowalk is a photowalk without at least one instance of trespass.

From 091 Labs we had Aaron, Domhall, Jodi and Oisin. From Boards.ie Galway had several travellers who came down all the way from Dublin: Aafke, Nico, Sharon, Gary, Petra. Independently, there were two Eastern European gentlemen. I have to apologize because I completely forget your names, even though you both clearly introduced yourselves to me; I have a very poor capacity for recalling names, and if you both wish to be named here can you please contact me (cheers!)?

I of course was the last to arrive. I intended to be at Supermacs by 9:30am, but I had to dress, feed, water, discipline, comfort and goad Caira onto the Parkmore bus in the bare seconds before it took off. And then the next fucking bus stop on the route is after GMIT is clear up at Galway Crystal, a full half kilometre from hospital’s entrance. Pain. Life is pain.

For those who aren’t local, a brief history: A rich man, one Charles Blake, built a manor house on the current hospital grounds in the very early 1800’s. The manor house and grounds changed hands several times in the next century, until the current owner, the Irish Republic, took ownership of it in 1945 and converted it into a sanitorium for Tuberculosis (TB) patients. The hospital’s role was expanded until by the turn of the twentieth century it was mostly a long-term care facility. The present day finds proposals by the Health Services Executive (HSE) West being aired that concern shutting down parts of the facility as a cost-cutting measure. In the long-term I wouldn’t be surprised to see everything sold off to developers. Developers who would probably love to clear-cut everything and prop up box homes. I digress. That’s the Abridged History of Merlin Park.

Merlin Castle (AKA Doughiska Castle) has a paralleled history to the more modern house and grounds: It was built by a rich man, changed hands several times and eventually was left to fall into ruin. The castle is perched on a rise overlooking Galway Bay, and boasts a commanding view of the eastern approaches to the city from the direction of Oranmore. You must understand that Merlin forest is a recent growth, having mostly matured and spread since the time of the famine (bonus: The ruins of several farms and houses are actually inside the woods; you can follow the lines of the walls and investigate the homes if you explore) and in its day the view would have been unparalleled.

We went from Supermacs-> Merliniska Castle by going up the hill and through the woods. In a pleasingly pleasant turn of events I only scattered the group once and lost them twice. It was Caira who kept the photowalk running smoothly; she was the iron fist inside my velvet glove that beat the photographers into line. There’s not much to report about this stage of the photowalk: We walked around outside the castle. We took photographs. We mercilessly tortured Caira about monsters lurking in the forest. The absence of proof should be taken as a sign that the monster is waiting in the brush to pounce. The 091 Labs crowd aired and debated several ways in which the castle’s interior could be accessed…it is legal to send a five-year old inside to open the door, right? Guys? We’ll give her a torch.

We took a break midway to pick up a straggler (Jodi).

We sat…sat in the grass. Sat there and watched the sun wheel across the sky. Sat there and listened to the birds singing. Listened to the wind in the grass. The insects chirping. Caira shrieking as she lapped the lawn.

Soothing. So soothing.

Soothing.

After an impromptu wiffleball tournament adjudged by Jodi that Caira won we continued on into the forest and fields adjoining the Dublin Road. It was my first time in that part of the grounds and it was very much a pleasant experience for me: The tall grass was a real joy for meto walk through; A Game of Thrones had come up several times on Saturday and I will swear blind that somebody made a crack about the Dothraki and Khal Drogo. Names, please? We found several beautiful spiders in the grass and passed a wasp’s nest in the final patch of forest.

Caira proved to be a marvel at this point by purposefully jumping in a muddy puddle after meticulously keeping herself clean through the rest of the walk.

Thank you Caira.

We all scattered after that and made our way into town. Coffee and great conversation ensued.

by Mark -
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