Aughty Walk: Rural Futures Diary. Tuesday---> Knockbeha To Flagmount to Caher and Around Lough Graney

The day started slowly, with porridge and water for me, cheese and crackers for Emma. The route for the day was wide-open, other than a scheduled meeting with Aine Phillips in Flagmount to pick up supplies and Jane Talbot, the photographer who would be documenting the next leg of the trip. The temptation of the day was to climb Maghera, one of the highest peaks in Aughty. It’s tall TV post was once responsible for maintaining the television service for the entire region and had served as a beacon during the first day’s walk.

We followed the East Clare Way around and down Knockbeha, and then followed a beautifully-preserved grassy road that descended right into the village of Flagmount. We met a farmer along the road, heading upwards, who told us we were on the old Mass road. He was a bit reluctant to chat, but eventually revealed he was the owner of Green Island, the small island in the middle of Lough Graney, which under direct sunlight seems to glow. The island had been in his family’s name for over a hundred years. He said he would head to the island every other day to tend to his sheep

“How can we get out there?” Emma asked.

“You can swim,” he said. The farmer provided some of the history of the former landlords around Lough Graney, including the trained ducks who’d settled around the lake.

Sometimes it’s easier to meet people by standing still than by moving. We set up shop in the picnic benches in front of the shop to wait for Aine. We met a blow-in from Dundalk who’d slipped a disc in his back and was selling off his uncomfortable Land Rover, as well as a man who operated weeklong horseriding tours between Flagmount and Doolin.

“Are you wild camping?” he asked when he saw us.

The sun broke through as we set off around Lough Graney on the Caher side, passing the bizarre golf-ball of a bell tower outside the church, and then those ducks, crossing the street single-file. We stopped at the stones honouring Brian Merriman, who’d taught in hedgeschools around the area and Jane helped translate a few lines of the Midnight Court about Lough Graney.

We still had designs on Maghera. We met two men doing some fencing who recommended talking to Raymond, a walking enthusiast in his 30’s who ran Tony Mac’s pub, for some local walking routes. We had to veer onto the main road, instead of exploring the train behind the lake, to reach Tony Mac’s. Raymond wasn’t the exuberant character we were expecting, but we had half pints and crisps in his pub and watched a bit of the Rose of Tralee on rerun. When we finished, it was somehow nearly 5pm and Maghera was a formidable challenge. We decided to keep along our route. Luckily, an English guy came into the pub and advised heading a bit further up the main road to reach the road that cut back down to the lake.

The road cut down closer and closer to the lake, surrounding it at first and then lowering down to a trail that reached the oaky banks around Graney. We faced a sort of conundrum. The oak wood was gorgeous and inviting but closeness to the lakefront would inevitably attract midges and there were only a few dry, flat places to sleep. In the end, we stayed put beside the lake. I had a short swim, the closest thing to bathing I would have over the week. The midges did attack, but we were ready for them. Emma had read on the internet that Elizabeth Arden cream and cotton wool pads can be a great fire starter, and her small fire of foraged dry wood kept them away.

We had a big meal and watched the full moon’s arc over the Aughties, which was doubled on the placid lake. It might have been ideal to be camped on highground to watch the sky explode on that perfectly still night, but there was great peace among those old, old oaks. Falling asleep was like lying in the arms of some great-great grandmother.

We’d noticed white psychedelic mushrooms with small bites in them when we arrived. Roving around with her flashlight in the middle of the night, Emma noticed some slugs enjoying a fungal midnight snack. One can only imagine their visions.

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