You are walking through swamp woodland following the mining trail from the back of the boat dock at Ross Castle. Last Sunday was the first time I was able to walk on to Ross Island for over two months.
It was still and dry. Round about there was all of the evidence of flood waters and repeated storms. Trees in swamp woodland are generally short lived. They grow tall and thin and then fall over.
There is an eeriness about walking through a swamp. Since I suggested to a grandson some years ago that there are crocodiles here I can’t get the image out of my mind. Folk belief is that evil lurked in the alder, the dominant tree here. It was feared because when it is cut the wood takes on a blood-orange tinge, as if it was bleeding. Clearly I am not the first person to have that eerie sensation.
As the route rises out of the swamp there is a scattering of young beech trees with a full covering of brown withered leaves that shine out.
At the end of the mining trail at the copper mines on the lake shore, the water being driven by the wind is aggressively lapping along the shore, creating a sound more associated with the sea. The road here, and at a number of other points on Ross Island, is showing the wear and tear of flood and storm.
The water levels are still too high to see if the winter ravages have exposed any of the stone axe-heads from 4,500 year old mining activity that are sometimes seen here.
Carpets of rich green mosses, at their best at the moment, occur throughout the woodland. The hundreds of varieties of mosses are the most extensive and most unique flora in Killarney. They were much sought after in the Victorian era.
While it is possible to walk on Ross Island now, access to the Governor’s Rock and the Library Point is still blocked by flood waters.
There is no road on the south eastern section of the island but it is well worth wandering on old tracks. Be prepared to backtrack and find another way, until lake levels drop further.
In the canal at Ross Castle submerged boats will be bailed out now that the fishing season has started and in the weeks and months ahead more clement weather will encourage trips on the lake – St Brigid promises that Spring starts on her feast day on February 1.
Walking on Ross Island last Sunday two hours of exhileration, through constantly varying views of lake and mountain through woodland.
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