Growing up in central Illinois with bituminous coal strip mines all around, I learned about peat in school but just couldn’t figure out what it could be like. I knew it was a less ‘evolved’ form of carbon fuel than lignite (equally mysterious), our local coal or prestigious Appalachian anthracite. But how could you cut sections of a bog and burn it in your fireplace?
Visiting Bunratty Folk Heritage Park
helped to answer those questions. Interpreters there are happy to tell you about how they gathered peat years ago. A family would make a day of going to the bog, cutting and stacking the turf in brick-shaped pieces. After it is completely dry, a “turf” feels almost as light as pumice. It burns nicely but creates a smoke as dense and aromatic (for good or ill) as a wood fire. Many in Ireland still cut and burn peat turf for heat, but the country is facing stiff fines from the rest of the European Union for not protecting their peat bogs. The Irish government will pay homeowners to convert to gas heat, but many resist out of preference or principle (“It’s my bog, why can’t I use it?” etc.) Sometimes it is hard to let go of the old ways.
I was really looking forward to seeing the Cliffs of Moher, and I was not disappointed! They are as dramatic and breathtaking in person as they look in pictures.
There is a visitor center which will tell you a great deal about the geology and the wildlife of the area. The coffee shop there was well supported the day we were there because it was
cool and quite windy outside. The center is well protected from wind, nestled in the lee of
the hill on the land side of the cliffs. From the parking lot you see that the
wind is holding the flags out straight from their flagpoles. You note the cozy
location of the center and think, “That will be good later on.”
Hiking up the gently sloping paths, we leaned into the wind. We were there mid-morning, so the west-facing cliffs were not illuminated directly by afternoon sun. But the morning sun revealed the height and angles very well.
An intrepid harpist was playing and
singing at one of the viewpoints. She was shielded from the wind by a chest-high wall, the top of which was even with the grassy cliff top.
I could not see directly down to know what the drop off would be where I stood. Assuming my cliff looked like the cliff profile I saw to the south, it would be a mistake to walk out to get a better reading of the sign half-hidden by the undergrowth. As the foliage moved in the wind I would read the understatement: Dangerous Cliff Edge.
27 September 2012
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.