It was a day when the peace, colour and the hum of a community working together seemed to transfer from the silent pathways of the reedbed to the manmade architecture of the centre.
Having written now for exactly half a year, twenty six weeks, on the joy and the wonder that is the natural world of Cabragh Wetlands, I approach Christmas with a sense of a place whose time has arrived, a feeling that was very definitely strengthened by our Cabragh Community Day incorporating the visit of Santa.
It was a day when the peace, colour and the hum of a community working together seemed to transfer from the silent pathways of the reedbed to the manmade architecture of the centre. There were dozens of people, many young mothers with families, willing to give of their time on the second last Sunday before Christmas to mark the annual feast of giving, particularly to the younger children. Santa was enthroned in the bird-hide, having arrived in some style in the pony and trap, the craft stalls were full of the handiwork of skilled hands and Cabragh’s shop was full of unique cards and calendars, raffle tickets aplenty and a well manned kitchen doing a roaring trade in the best quality home baking.
For me the highlight was the laughter and singing of a small group of teenage girls who, while making and designing Christmas cards for the younger children, covered the floor in glitter, danced to the very best of modern Christmas carols (I heard no rendition of the lacrimose “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”) and sang their laughing way through the day. Here was a midwinter glimpse of what lies ahead for the “movement”, as Trump would say, that is Cabragh Wetlands.
Speaking of gifts, you might have yourself an eco little Christmas, to plagiarise a recent newspaper article. You can buy “clued in gifts”. Giving a gift of an experience is one way to do so, a literature and poetry walk through Cabragh, a bird watching session, a simple cup of tea on a stunning balcony as you watch Spring unfold or Autumn fade away. The gift of time is particularly special. A good scavenging hunt around the wetlands takes about one hour for children, more for teenagers, and even a short walk with an elderly person with tracing and reminiscing can take all day and we can finish with a cupán tae. There are other appropriate gifts-we have a stock of bird boxes at present and indeed we can also make to measure to suit any situation. No built-in obsolescence with any of these gifts.
A great and much appreciated gift at Christmas is membership of an environmental organization. In Cabragh Wetiands, that comes quite cheaply at €25 annually per person or €30 per family. To have a permanent stake in this project you might consider “Adopt a Plot” as a gift that will last forever. Ring Cabragh Wetlands 0504 43879 for details.
For many, the ideal Christmas gift is a bird feeder that can enhance your garden all year. The continual joy of a blue tit enjoying peanuts, a great tit feeding on suet balls, a coal tit feeding from a bag of sunflower seeds, a greenfinch cracking barley seeds, even goldfinches are visiting nut feeders.
Nature loves the slightest increase in temperature afforded by hedges and gardens in winter. Even the wagtails that roost in their hundreds on the trees opposite Supermacs on the Square in Thurles are glad of the shelter. However, once you start, you must continue as the birds become dependent-it’s like the puppy for Christmas scenario. By the way, studies have shown that what you thought were those five or six blue tits flitting about your feeder may be as many as one hundred blue tits in your garden every day.
Finally, in this centenary year of 1916, it turns out that one of Ireland’s finest nature writers about everyday plants, Zoe Devlin, author and recorder of the year at the National Biodiversity Centre, is a descendant of the woman whom many regard as the outstanding hero of Easter week, Kathleen Lynn. In the changed Ireland of the post-revolutionary period, she was not allowed to realise her dreams for children of Ireland but the gift of The Observer’s Book of British Wildflowers to eight year old Zoe and many visits to the Wicklow valleys of Avoca, Glenmalure and Glendalough where Kathleen Lynn lived and treated many of her child patients to fresh air, fresh water and fresh vegetables of the Garden county led to a life long passion for nature.
Perhaps you might consider a gift of “A Field Guide(2014) by Zoe Devlin to some young member of your family. We have in Cabragh the treasure chest of plants, animals, insects and birds. What a gift that would be if it aroused even the tiniest interest in the natural world.
In wishing all our readers a very happy Christmas, all at Cabragh thank you for your unstinting support throughout the year.
Looking forward to sharing this slot, for which we are very grateful to the Tipperary Star, with you as the year turns and spring begins again the amazing story of life.
Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi mhaise daoibh go léir.