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May 17, 2016 / hbrowne4

Biking Louth by Mimi Goodman

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I venture into the sea in July and August.  I take the bike to Salterstown, it’s about two miles south of the village of Annagassan.  I cycle over the five-arched bridge across the river Glyde. The estuary is a feeding ground for Brent Geese, Mallard, Herons and Little egret.  Pedalling by the coast is easy. Sliabh Gullion is across the Bay.   It is the highest mountain in Armagh. The ancient passage tomb on the summit is the highest in Ireland; it was built about three thousand years ago.  The entrance is aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice. It is twenty or thirty miles from the Coolies.  I scaled it two years ago.  This is the land of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Setanta.  Nearby is the Gap of the North is where Cú Chulainn single-handedly fended-off the army of Queen Meabh.

Most of the time the sea is grey, if it’s windy with churning waves it can be beige.  There are woolly white clouds in a blue sky.  The Cooley and Mourne Mountains are often navy on the far side of Dundalk Bay. I swim while watching oystercatchers scream as they skim the waves. Ean Naomh Brid (St Bridgid’s bird), there are endless flocks of them along the coast of Louth.  They are black and white with a long red beak for cracking mussel and cockleshells.

Sometimes I’ll pedal to Castlebellingham. From there I take the narrow road to the wild fowl reserve in Seabank, which overlooks Dundalk Bay. This area is one the most important places in the country for migratory birds and waders. They wing it to our little corner from northern Europe and Canada to winter here. I can identify Shelduck, Curlews; whose plaintive cry warns that rain is on the way, Redshank and Lapwing.  I met a pair of Dutch guys one day; they were staying in the wild travelling by campervan.  One of them was researching his PhD on the Bartailed Godwit, ‘Good to eat’ in old English.  We used to call them Screachers.
It was in Louth where I practiced for my cycling trip to France.  I downloaded the training schedule for the Cooperation North, Dublin to Belfast Mara cycle. Most of my preparation was done on flat roads, no, keep me from puffing and panting on mountains, I’d prefer to leave that to the Sean Kellys and Stephen Roaches of the world.

The hedges on the old Dublin Belfast trunk road between Castlebellingham and Dundalk are mostly trimmed haw bushes. I was returning home on a grey mid morning in late August. There was a field of gold stubble. In the distance I spied a large grey flock.  I stood watching them, taking careful mental pictures.  Home and into the kitchen in excitement, my brothers were there with friends. “They sound like Greylags.” I’d never heard of them.

At the White House Cross, make a left turn to Dromiskin, “The Ridge of the Marsh.”  Gaze up at St Ronan’s round tower.  Then complete the block up to Castlebellingham taking quiet roads bordered by hedgerows and wild flowers.  Occasionally you’ll glimpse or even watch sparrow hawks or buzzards.  You can wind your way to Mellifont and continue your expedition to Monasterboice, the monastery of St Bute.

 

Mimi Goodman

 

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