Cabragh Wetlands - Not a nature consumer
For the past week, I have been living the life of a layabout! I definitely was not what Padraig Fogarty in his seminal book, Whittled Away, would call a nature consumer. I was imbibing nature from a distance or second hand without getting my feet wet. But it was still an interesting and in many ways an exciting experience.
In the space of a few days, I visited the Young Scientist Exhibition, a very well attended eco-spirituality talk in Cabragh Wetlands, a stunning nature photography display by the best photographers in the south of Ireland and topped it all off by reading an insightful article by Michael Viney pointing the way forward for the conservation of the badger which we discussed recently.
Indeed, the whole weekend was one of dawning realization that the Cabragh Wetlands Centre is very much a Tipperary Environmental Centre by virtue of its ease of access, standard of facility and of course its natural surrounding of which the Cosmic walk is a particular boon.
Entry into the maelstrom of noise and the solid energy of hundreds of Irish teenagers was an eye opener. I was hardly in the door when a young Polish student from Roscommon had me entranced as to why fidget spinners were more than a toy while another student on a stand nearby explained why teenagers’ wellbeing is much better in spring.
However, I went hunting the Tipperary projects and any associated with the natural environment.
St. Joseph’s, Borrisileigh had designed a solution for the problem of children near lawnmowers while another group from the same school presented a modular car system to ensure that nothing untoward would happen in a car in the blink of an eye.
The Presentation girls from Thurles had designed a wireless connection for lighting trailers and all the Tipperary schools made really interesting contributions. There weren’t very many projects related to the natural world although St. Mary’s in Tipperary dealt with bee health.
The one that caught my eye was the Ursuline Secondary Thurles with a project on Japanese Knotweed and its removal. It really was a counsel of despair but extremely well researched and I was chuffed to hear that their curiosity was inspired by their teacher, Miss Maloney and by their set of transition year visits to Cabragh Wetlands.
It was the icing on the cake when I learned that the overall project winner was a student from Ballincollig discovering the antibiotic potential of the bramble, once again displaying that the depths of everyday Irish nature have yet to be plumbed.
Cabragh Wetlands carpark was overflowing on Saturday morning with the SACC, the society of camera clubs holding their annual nature photography competition throughout the day featuring prints and screen images. Logos on jackets showed that members had come from far and wide.
The prints were stunning - a toadstool in soft light had an ethereal, heavenly quality, a bee orchid with stunning colour against a soft focus background but for me it was maybe a once in a lifetime moment when a red squirrel drops a hazelnut from its human like paws.
It may or may not have won the competition but I was so impressed not only by the clarity of the image but the skilled acceptance of a unique moment of opportunity and timing.
I am sure that the judges from Dublin and Dundalk were mightily impressed with everything on offer.
The second part of the crowd in Cabragh was the attendance at the talk by Eoin Campbell from the Cloughjordan Eco-Village on the invitation of the Thurles Eco-Spirituality group. Basing his presentation on “An inconvenient truth - the sequel,” Eoin entranced but also alarmed the large attendance as the world as we know it seemed to dissolve before our eyes as the little blue spot in the galaxy is overwhelmed by millions of tons of carbon per day or the daily release of 400,000 Hiroshimas of energy into the atmosphere.
Young and old were present along with political representatives across the county and following a lively question and answer session I oscillated between increasing hope and debilitating despair.
I left Cabragh, as we say in Irish,” idir dhá chomhairle”, enchanted by the beauty of nature in print but overwhelmingly alarmed by the toxic vision of the world of future generations. That future could well be decided by these types of displays and discussions for which Cabragh Wetlands is so well suited.
Back to nature, close up and personal, next week with a gallivant through a birch wood.
Slán go fóill.