Day 36b: The Black Ditch and Beyond (BBW11 Ballyhoura Way: Ballyhea-Glenosheen)

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“Mike,” I asked, “What is the Black Ditch?”

We were picking our way along near the TV towers, a chill wind running past.

“You know Hadrian’s Wall?” he returned.

“Yes?”

“It’s like that, but for Ireland.”

A little research later on turns up that it may actually be older than that, even – possibly several hundred years BC. No one is entirely sure what it was for – territorial boundaries? Stopping cattle raids? Legends of its origin include a great black boar rooting in the earth with its tusks and a giant worm digging belowground.

In either case, the Black Ditch was incredibly obvious, once pointed out – it ran across the landscape with the sort of distinct straightness that bespoke some form of intentional creation. Any wild boar or tunneling worm would have had to be preternaturally focused – but to be fair, if one is going to allow for a creature of that size, one may as well handwave a degree of intelligence and/or purpose into the deal as well.

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There it goes

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Fluffy puffs along the ditch

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Stretching into the distance

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Vegetation closeups

Mike walked ahead as I lingered, soaking in the stark beauty of this somewhat particular landscape. It demanded a high degree of focus; the decaying remnants of the wall were uneven, and brief distractions were rewarded with near ankle-turns. At one point as I picked carefully along, I heard the eerie songs of two cuckoos, calling back and forth in the wood off to my right. The clouds hung heavy overhead, feeling well matched to the place.

Eventually the trail turned away from the long straight stretch of the Ditch, and swept gradually upward to where Mike awaited me, perched on the rocks of Philip’s Castle.

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When I asked Mike why they called it that, he shrugged. “But when I first saw it, I thought to myself that I had found a bit of heaven on earth,” he said.

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One more for you sis

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Back where I came from

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Rocks and plants

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Plants and rocks

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Philips’s Castle from the side, a much clearer view of the whole

Finally I left that too behind and began the gradual process of descent.

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Another similar rocky structure on a distant hill

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Descending down into the incredible verdant scenery that has been encircling us this whole time – another case where the picture does not do justice to the sheer immensity of the green expanse that appeared to be swallowing us as if we were a stone dropped into a pool

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Some green with your green

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Assorted fitness structures began appearing alongside the path, which apparently had turned into a “Trim Walk” at some point

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These seem like good fitness structures to me personally

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Rhododendrons will never not make me think of my mom. Hi mom!

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Bridge below

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Upstream

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Even in these obviously manmade forests this sort of light never fails to move me

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There were a great many cycling paths around, but they did a good job of keeping those and the hiking trails separate, which seems like a good recipe for less annoyed cyclists and less squished hikers

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Also, amusingly, cyclists apparently warrant actual infrastructure. When on the walking trail so far have we gotten proper toilets and a nice shelter? (hint the answer is “not at any time before now” when a whole mountain-biking center came into the picture)

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What a preview for tomorrow, as this is where I will pick up the trail in the morning. Though really I have to wonder that they put this here and somehow NOT right before the crazy major roadway we crossed this morning

At this point I called it a day and Mike kindly took me back to my lodgings. We clocked in a little over 22km – apparently an entirely feasible distance even with mountains in the absence of The Pack. Good information…

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