As mentioned yesterday, today I continue on the theme of taking things slow. It was an ultrashort day – just around 5 or 6km, getting me from Churchtown over to Ballyhea. Of course, this was also a setup move for tackling the Ballyhoura Mountains tomorrow, so I’ll be working harder again soon enough.
Since I knew the walking wouldn’t need long, I went ahead and took it easy. I explored around Churchtown a bit…
Eventually though, I got myself in gear and hit the road…
Only to be sidetracked very shortly outside of town by Burton Park.
One of the side gates happened to be open, so I used my curiosity to bolster up my courage and stuck my nose in. “Is it all right if I have a look around?” I asked the first person I encountered, a tall young man with dark hair.
“I’ll take you to the kitchen and we can see,” he responded, and without another word turned to lead me on. I blinked and followed.
Inside I encountered a group settled around a large dining table and a bubbly woman who introduced herself as Teresa. “Come on in, have a seat! Would you like some tea? Or some juice? And how about some stew?”
I found myself seated in front of a plate heaped in potatoes, peas, and a fragrant broth with chunks of beef, with a glass of fresh-tasting juice at my side. “Uhm, thank you,” I said, aware that at some point I had consented to this but still slightly overwhelmed by the immediate and profuse hospitality. You’d think I might get used to how people seem to be here… but it surprises me every single time.
“Not at all, they’re leftovers anyway,” she assured me, then proceeded to share more about the institution I had stumbled into. The farm mentioned on the sign out front, Sli Eile, was not just a farm – it was also something of a mental health recovery facility, where individuals struggling to recover from various issues could come, live in a structured and supportive environment, work together as part of a group, and build a community. Sli Eile translates to “Another Way”, which is what they want to provide – an alternative to a mental health care system rife with issues. I listened, fascinated, as I enjoyed the unlooked-for lunch.
Apparently the rather foreboding building we sat in actually was in use by Sli Eile, serving as housing for their participants. I admit I really liked that someone was actually doing something with an elegant old manor like this, rather than letting it sit empty and moulder away.
After I had eaten, she handed me off to John, another of the program folks who coordinated the farming activities. He showed me around their grounds a bit, pointing out the different plantings and rotations.
They were doing a great number of things in a small area – many different crops, as well as an assortment of livestock including chickens (I was right earlier!) cows, and pigs. They sold their produce, seedlings, milk, etc. to help fund their organization and to give those staying with them the opportunity to work in different roles – not just helping with the growing but also interfacing with the larger community.
I thanked John profusely for the tour, and finally got myself back on the road. If you are curious about Sli Eile and want to learn more, you can check them out online: http://www.slieile.com I was impressed by the warmth with which they treated the random, unannounced hiker who popped up in their midst – but then again, this does seem to be a trend in my travels.
Proceeding onward, I let myself walk lazily and enjoy the sights.
I arrived at the now defunct Bridge Bar right at the intersection of the Ballyhoura Way and N20 – still a good landmark with nice outdoor tables to sit at – and my B&B host obligingly came to fetch me.
And thus ends a pleasantly mellow day. Tomorrow will be rather more ambitious…
Also a landmark moment – this is the first time I have caught up on my blog since I started the Beara Breifne Way! HURRAY! Thanks to a combination of better internet access my last few days as well as an earnest effort to get posts written, I am posting a post without knowing what has happened after it! No more spoilers for me! And thank you to all who have been reading along and sharing your enjoyment – I am glad you like it! 🙂