Aughty Walk: Rural Futures Diary. Monday---> Woodford to Knockbeha

We pulled into Woodford around half ten in the morning, stopping first at the Heritage Centre before dropping the car in town. It was a blustery day and forecasts for the week were spotty. The itinerary was clear if changeable: a five-day, roughly-50 mile trek through the Aughty region. We took out our rucksacks and the Rural Future flag from the car. We quickly met Eamon Harte, an elderly man with a hurling pin over his heart.

“Is there any future for the rural?” he said, as he watched the flag flutter.

We spoke and discussed the project. Emma gave him her Aughty map. Eamon hurried home and retrieved a photo of him hanging horizontally from a goalpost. “Ireland’s oldest swinger”, the page read.

“Exchange is no robbery” he said.

Our exit was unceremonial. We reached the town limits and realised we’d both left our phones in the car.

Eamon advised having a cup of tea at the picnic benches down by the “bay” and heading for Lough Atorick. Our plan was to head to deeper towards the Aughty Mountains, but we took his advice. There’s a funny exuberance in being out on the road on the beginning of a long walk. As I went to the bathroom for the first time in a field, I ripped my skinny leg jeans crossing over some barbed wire and fell on my back on a rock. My rucksack took most of the impact. We passed no one on the road that day and gradually worked our way into Aughty country. We’d hoped ambitiously for a swim and realistically for a glass of water from Lough Atorick, but the water was reddish-black. Water lapped into the few boats and the lake still seemed haunted by the memory of the two sisters who drowned there. As the road cut deeper into the Coilte wood, we found uprooted trees lying on their sides, pushing against the forest. Streams ran down from the mountain, but all their water was polluted. It was a long, lonely road.

It wasn’t until we met the East Clare way that we found a clean water source. It was on that small road, actually, that we discovered a small bit of unlikely agricultural industry, first a large polytunnel with plants blooming from all sides, and then a few fields away, two muddied sows. We ascended KnockBeha and happy with out day’s distance encamped near a cliff-face. We had a clear view of The Burren, plus the Derrybrien windfarm in the north and to the west, after nightfall, the lights of Galway. All the major coordinates were laid out before us. The moon rose and the night was wild.

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