Friday, April 24th. I was starting to worry that I had landed in the wrong Ireland and that there was another one, in the Mediterranean, on which I had mistakenly landed, but which had not yet been accounted for in Googlemaps.
Michael deposited us in Bweeng at the spot at which he had collected us yesterday and Stella, delighted to finally be in her natural element of cold wet and wind, pranced around in untrammelled joy at the prospect of a day in the mud and the driving sleet. The route from Bweeng to Mallow is both not particularly far (about 13 kms) and not particularly attractive to walk on, as at least 65% is on metalled roads, probably more like 80%. This was a section that I was busy filing under “get it done” as the views were miserable, the going uncomfortable and Stella permamently on her leash, as the roads were not really quiet enough to give her her freedom. The only sight that caught my attention was a ruined abbey or fortification perched in a field above the Valley to the south of Mallow, which I am assuming is Mourneabbey, a place sadly in the news these days as the home of Karin Buckley, the young student horribly assaulted and murdered in Glasgow some ten days ago. The rain had settled in for what appeared to be a long haul as we approached Mallow, having been averaging well over 5km/h, at around 12:00 noon. A spur of the moment decision and a quick consultation with Stella, decided us for an extension of the days tour, giving Mallow a pass and heading on through the hills ahead of us to Killavullen on the Blackwater River. The only episode of note that morning, which I will mention before we head off to Killavullen, was a co-incidental meeting with a very attractive lady who stopped me just as I was disappearing off the main road onto a small track above Mallow and the Abbey.
I had joined the main road, from which I was disembarking, approximately 60 seconds beforehand from a tributary road, so the window of opportunity for Joan (as I discovered she was called) to see me and react was under a minute. But react she did, honking furiously as she passed and pulled over. I assumed she was going to ask me for directions, but no, she asked if I was Steven and if my dog was Stella, as she had heard all about me from Michael, whom she had just bumped into in a coffe shop in Mallow. I was a little confused, as I had assumed Michael had gone back to Millstreet, but there it was and no, she didn’t know Michael either, but her husband and Michael had played GAA football with each years before and, she had two 7-year old Red Setter bitches who she would love to breed from, but they were difficult to mate and was I thinking of having Stella covered and wasn’t it a wonderful thing to be out in this beautiful countryside on such a day. All of this took about 2 minutes as I leant into the car window trying not to drip all over her shopping. Wishing me well, she sped off into the rain and that was that.
Later Pam commented wryly that Ireland, indeed the world, was a very small place, if you talk a lot.
I was mighty glad to have taken the decision to crack on to Killavullen, inspite of the rain as the route became much more varied with delightful passages over hills and through woods with far more glimpses of the valley below and the rolling hills of northern Cork in the distance. The sun rewarded us at around 1430 by winning the battle against the rain clouds at least for a few hours. I had guessed that we would need to make an extra 13kms to Killavullen giving us a respectable days walk of 23 kms (we had saved a few kms by missing Mallow), but the road was twistier and with more loops than I had calculated and we ended up covering almost twenty extra kms before we finally arrived, feet pounding, in the picturesque village of Killavullen, on the Blackwater. Michael had again offered to pick me up and we spent a delightful time on the magnificent bridge over the river, where he told me that the Celts had considered the Avondhu a goddess and worshipped her. Standing on the ancient bridge looking in to the fleetly flowing treacle black broad snake of water, held in by green banks with oaks and willows on the north side and a dramatic cliff-like rock formation overhanging the river underneath the town on the south side with a cave formed where the water had eaten the limestone away, it was not difficult to imagine the awe in which ancient civilisations held the river and to be persuaded of its power and mystery.