But first, there was a yew tree to be found. Together with the National Botanic Gardens,the ISBA are running a project over this year on the Irish Botanical Alphabet. Eighteen letters, native plants, some very gifted artists and a few tryers like me (they're a very inclusive bunch). So, each person has been assigned a letter and a plant. Mine is I, for Iúr, the native Irish Yew. This is not the fastigiate (upright) yew that you see growing in so many graveyards and which is commonly called the Irish Yew since the first of its kind appeared in a Fermanagh garden over 200 years ago. No, mine is the native yew, Taxus baccata, which was once widespread over the whole island, but now is confined to pockets of native woodland here and there. Yew shows up in many placenames (Terenure, Newry, Achadh an Iúir (Virginia), Ture, Nure) testifying to its distribution before agriculture and later developments removed it from the landscape.
It's quite hard now to find native yew growing undisturbed: there's a remnant of native yew woodland in Killarney National Park apparently, but I haven't been there for a long time. Instead though, since we were travelling up to Donegal this week, I thought it would a good plan to check out the two old yews on Crom Estate on the shores of Upper Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh.
What a great idea! It was a hot sunny day, we had a picnic near the old boathouses, near the lakeshore, and then walked through meadows and scrub that were still in the mid-afternoon heat but animated by lots of butterflies and dragonflies.
|Butterfly in Crom Estate, photo by B (catchlight)|
|Old castle in Crom Estate, photo by B ((catchlight)|
While many of the artists taking part in the ISBA project have spent quite some time looking for tiny plants in bogs and other places, wondering how to fill a 30-cm square with the subtle delights of small flowers, delicate leaves and tendrils, I have a problem of a different kind:
|Underneath the Crom Estate yew trees|
|How shall I capture a sense of this?|
|After a lovely not-quite-two hours, a sketch ... Clearly I'll be back|
In Donegal, the early mornings are as lovely as ever, the beaches stretch for miles, the water this year is more inviting than ever since we're having such a warm summer and Izzy has discovered sheep up on the heath...
|Schnauzer and sheep|
Have a good week all (especially my Montréal sons).