Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Spooks Come Out To Play

The Big House behind the trees has a haunted room - or so my father used to say as he told ghost stories at Halloween.  He told  how, according to local lore, a stranger knocked on the door of the Big House one stormy night and was given shelter inside,  joining a card game which was being played by the gentry.  One of the players dropped a card, and reaching down to  pick it up, noticed that the new-comer to the game had a cloven foot and that they had, in fact, invited the devil to join them.  According to tradition, the room was boarded up and no one ever dared to enter.

Eddie, the charming owner of Bellurgan Park, knows the story well. And he knows the answer to the 'blocked up' room. An extra door leading to no where gives symmetry to the entrance hall.
So, it's totally appropriate that there's all sorts of spooky goings on taking place at the Big House this week.

I was fortunate to be able to get a behind the scenes look as the ghouls, witches,  vampires,  zombies and other spooks began their transformation in  preparation for going a-haunting throughout the house and in the woods.

The wonderful make-up artist  Aine Lawrence and assistants were hard at work creating a host of scary characters for the Kreepy Kids and Ghost Walk events.

Would  you dare walk in the forest? In the dark? Without any torch?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Autumn is for Hoarding

Autumn is all about hoarding. Hoarding food, hoarding images of bright colours and still warm days to keep the cold of winter at bay, hoarding memories of the year gone by as it slowly approaches its end.
Leaves on the bandstand in St Helena Park

Yesterday I decided to hoard some images.  It was bright and sunny. The autumn colours are approaching their best but a night's frost or strong wind could denude the trees.

View from Ice House Hill
 So I decided I'd devote Saturday to photography. But I'd forgotten that with himself away at a family celebration, I'd have to do all the chores, give the dog his first walk of the day, catch up with laundry and tidying the house.
I adjusted my plans and decided that rather than driving around the countryside, I'd take my camera  with me while doing the grocery shopping and get some shots how autumn also brings beauty to town.
Ice House Hill
 Dundalk is lucky to have two fine parks close to the centre of town - St Helena's Park with its lovely old bandstand and mature trees, and Ice House Hill, with its pond, public art and, of course, the ice house to which it owes its name.
Feeding the ducks in Ice House Hill

Wildfowl on the pond at Ice House Hill

The bandstand in St Helena Park

Friday, 26 October 2012

An Irish Country Church

Celebrations are being held this week to mark the 250th anniversary of the whitewashed  Church of St James, Grange on the Cooley peninsula, Co Louth. The people of the parish are proud
of their church and rightly so as it's very beautiful.

An American friend, who is fortunate to travel around eastern Europe a lot, asked me recently  about Irish churches as she likes to photograph the churches she comes upon on her travels.
As I began to tell her that, for the main, Irish churches are simple buildings, I realised that I also had to
give her a brief history lesson about how Irish Catholics were forbidden to practice their faith when the penal laws  were introduced in the 1690s.

Most Irish churches date from the 19th century, but St James, Grange is one of oldest pre-Emanciation chapels in the country and is a fine example of what's called a barn-style church.

 Built in 1762, it originally had a thatched roof and the bell tower and extension were added at a later date as the penal  laws relaxed.  Despite the simple style, the church has beautiful crafted details.

It  features wonderful stained glass windows by Irish artist Harry Clarke from the early 20th century.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Chasing the Colours of Autumn

This weekend I wanted to follow the autumn colour, to capture the golds and yellows and coppers in the woodlands, to walk on crisp fallen leaves along the ancient forest park, to fill up my memory card with beautiful images and feast my eyes on the countryside in her patchwork of autumn colours.
A slight case of the sniffles put paid to my plans so instead I found some colour at the Flower Market and the quiet country roads close to home.
With our mountain walk to Slieve Gullion cancelled, we drove around Ravensdale instead and visited
the old 'waterworks' which once provided water for the town at Annaskeagh instead. A colleague had said it would be a nice spot to get some photographs and he was right.
Tippings Wood

Looking towards Dulargy
Ravensdale view
Annaskeagh Resevoir

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Autumn's Paintbrush

I love this time of year, always have done.  I love the changing colours which mark the transition of the seasons more spectacularly now than at any other time.
Autumn has got her paintbrush out.  Splashes of colours are transforming  the country lanes and the streets of town. The leaves are changing from calm and lush greens to a vibrant palette of gold and crimson hues. Late blooming flowers pick up the warm tones in an exciting symphony of orange, pink and purple.
 Mother nature is giving us the gift of colour to enjoy before the greys and browns of the winter  landscape arrive. Colours to soak in, to remember, to keep us warm during the cold months ahead.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Putting Dundalk on the Worldwide Photo Walk Map

I had the pleasure of leading Dundalk's first ever  Photo Walk for Scott Kelby's 5th Worldwide Photo Walk last Saturday.  I've never organised anything before unless  you count kids' birthday parties and our own wedding many moons ago.  But, when I saw that there wasn't a walk taking place in Dundalk and that, erm, worse still, a member of a  local photo society was leading one in Dublin, I took the bull by the horns and signed up as leader.
Thanks to Facebook and a few phonecalls, it was easy to get the word out to local  photographers and I was mighty pleased and relieved when two dozen photographers turned up at St Helena's Park  on Saturday morning.  I was also grateful that it wasn't raining and if anything, the sun was too bright, having burnt off the early morning mist. 
 We  explored the pretty park, looking for autumn colour, walked along the banks of the mirror-like Castletown River, while some lucky folks got a trip in a fishing boat.

 For me, the highlight was visiting St Nicholas Parish Church, known locally as The Green Church, which was open for the Harvest Festival celebrations. Light filled this beautiful  900  year old church and Rev Sandra Pragnall, who is soon departing Dundalk to take  up a new appointment as Rector of Limerick Cathedral,  welcomed the visiting photographers.

After that it was time for lunch to chat, compare photos and rejoice in new friendships. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Measuring Out My Life With Coffee Spoons

We're all got our favourite coffee shops. Places where we feel at ease, where we meet friends to catch up with what's happening in their lives, where we can sit quietly in a corner,  reading or  watching the world go by.

During the week,  I  have my coffee breaks with friends or colleagues in coffee shops  in town, but at the weekend  I like to drop down to the coffee shop at Strandfield Flower Market  for some quality 'me time', to read the newspapers and take some photos.

It's a charming mix of shabby chic vintage and Irish country farmhouse.  Coffee  is served in mismatched china and the homemade cakes are the sort which farmers' wives used to bake.

In summer, tables are set  outside to give a view of the mountains while in winter logs burn in old stove.

The flower shop is filled with the most beautiful flowers which look as though they've been picked from a cottage garden and there's always a treasure trove of bric-a-brac to browse through