All around Lecale

The little corner of County Down known as Lecale is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and during the last six days I’ve been able to see why. And I’ve been taking the maximum advantage of this spell of good weather while I’m at it.

On Thursday, as I reported in a previous entry, I walked from Downpatrick to Tyrella Beach and back.

On Friday I took the bus to Ardglass and walked to Ballyhornan and back. I took the path known as the Lecale Way, a path along the coast that is totally free of cars. I also took a lengthy walk along the beach in the surf,

On Saturday I walked to Inch Abbey and I had a nice lunch al fresco at Bon Appetit, a café and restaurant on the Belfast Road.

On Sunday I walked up to Raholp and climbed up Slieve Patrick.

On Monday I took a long walk down the Old Course Road, down Ballyclander Road, back round onto Milltown Road, Bright Road, Carrowbane Road, then back up the Ballynoe Road to Downpatrick.

And today I took a bus to Ballykinler and revisited Tyrella Beach and took another long walk in the surf. I really wanted to visit it again before this present hot spell of weather ends.

Oh, and I don’t know if it’s the salt water or the effect of walking on sand in salt water, but the rough skin I had on my feet is mostly gone.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sunshine, I love you!

To the beach and back

Downpatrick, Thursday, 24 May 2012, 3:15pm

I’m not here to offer any explanation or apology about why I haven’t posted for so long. I’m here to tell you what a magnificent day I’ve had so far.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about today is that I got up just before 6:00 this morning. Unless it’s Sunday I’m seldom up before 10:00am. And then, don’t you know, since I had nothing planned for the day and the weather showed no sign of clouding over, I decided to take a walk. And what a walk it turned out to be, all the way from Downpatrick to Tyrella Beach. The countryside is beautiful enough at any time of the day, come rain or shine, but early in a sunny morning in late spring, early summer is when it’s at its best!

After about twelve kilometres of walking I reached the A2, Minerstown Road, I came at last to Tyrella beach. And it was here that I did something I haven’t done since a visit to Portsmouth in September 1995. I took my shoes off and walked about barefoot in the surf.

I’ve been up for more than nine hours and walked twenty-four kilometres (my estimate – Google Maps is being updated, apparently) and I should be worn out by now, but I’m not. We still have six hours of daylight left and I’m not going to waste any of it sitting in a library in front of a computer. I’m going to slap on some more sun block and get back out into the sun.

Sunshine, I love you!

Downpatrick Races

On Bank Holiday Monday, as a little extra birthday treat, Mum took me to the races at Downpatrick Race Course. Now, how should I describe my day? On the whole I enjoyed it.

I liked the general atmosphere of the place. And since it was Ladies’ Day, there was no paucity of ladies dressed up to the nines. There was no barrier or exclusive box to separate the nobs from the hoi-polloi and the ladies were free to circulate among the riff-raff.

Two things made it a less than ideal day for them. First was the weather, an overcast and blustery day with temperatures struggling to get above 15°C. Not what one would expect at Epsom or Royal Ascot. The other was their footwear. Some arbitrary and downright stupid rule dictates that ladies must wear high-heel pumps at all times, whether on solid concrete, on a deep gravel surface or on soft turf. It’s especially hard on ladies who don’t normally wear high heels. They don’t feel good, and, as I say, if you don’t feel good, you’re not going to look good.

I liked watching the races, but I’ve been reminded why I don’t gamble. If the horse you back doesn’t come anywhere in the race then your money is gone. And then there’s all the terminology and all the rules that come with it, odds, totes, placepots… I’ve never been interested and I’m not interested now. I’m well aware that gambling is endemic to racing. One can’t exist without the other, but there are so many better things to fritter away your precious money on, such as food.

And up the hill and down the dale…

Now Downpatrick isn’t exactly at the centre of the universe. Well, what of it? I don’t want to be at the centre of the universe, and I don’t think I ever did.

When I lived in London and I had a bike I thought I was lucky to live there. I could explore the city at my leisure without ever having to worry about the rising cost of public transport.

But as much as I loved whizzing around the city I found exploring the countryside around London even better. And before long I got to know all the little country roads like the back of my hand. I explored the remote parts of Essex, the side of the county that is almost never seen on TV. I cycled right across Hertfordshire, taking in Ware, Hertford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead and dozens of villages along the way. And, of course, Buckinghamshire, especially the Chiltern Hills, was by far my favourite part of England. And the Chilterns on a warm, sunny summer’s day was, to me, the best England had to offer!

The problem was, getting out of the city. It took more than an hour by bike from Walthamstow to get out of the suburbs. I would have loved to have a place in the country, ideally in or around Chesham, along with a steady job, but I just couldn’t afford it and I had no real connections out there.

But now I’m in Downpatrick in Ireland where the countryside is within a fifteen minute walk, where I have a whole house to myself (compared to a cramped bedsit in Walthamstow) and where I can go anywhere I please by day or night. This is the centre of my universe.