On a regular basis the newly launched Loop Walks in The Glen of Aherlow will be featured by different personalities. This week, Jimmy Barry, PRO of SEMRA (South East Mountain Rescue Association), gives his take on the Millenniun Loop Walk.
For more years than I care to remember I have driven through Tipperary town out over Slievenamuck and down past the statue of Christ the King on my way to yet another walk on the Galtee mountains. Nothing wrong with that you might say but now that has all changed because of two words 'Loop Walk'. Ireland and in particular the Glen of Aherlow is just full of these looped walks and armed with my free maps from the Aherlow Tourist Office, I decided to do one of these loop walks that starts from just behind the statue of Christ the King. At this time of the year the colours in the glen are breathtaking and reminded me of few lines by W.B. Yeats, "The trees are in their autumn beauty, the woodland paths are dry, under the October twilight water mirrors a still sky".
Following the blue arrows, I made my way along the track through Coillte forestry on what is called The Millennium loop walk. Here and there the red berries of the ash were bending the branches over. "It's going to be a hard winter," someone had told me last week. After four kilometres I came out on a tarred road and turned left and there at the side of the road is the Millennium Stone. Erected to celebrate the start of the new millennium, this magnificent piece of conglomerate, or as we hill walkers call it pudding stone, stands at 13.5 tons depicting the life and death of Christ. Taking a short brake here gave me time to look at my free map and read the information on the back (that's how I know its 13.5 tons). As I sat on the stone wall I could here nothing, absolutely nothing. I thought to myself silence is very loud when it gets inside your head; trust me on this one or go for a walk on your own some day.
Heading off down the road the direction arrows took me back into the forestry on the Tipperary side of Slievenamuck, 'The Mountain of the pig'. (A chap called Cu Cullin killed a huge pig a long time ago and that's how it got its name.) As I started back on the Loop I got tantalizing glimpses of Tipperary town and the green country side that stretched out around it. My information card told me to look out for the 'Rock an Thorabh', the rock of the bull; it's not hard to miss. When I reached it, I carefully climbed to the top and could see for miles and miles. Tipp town with Keeper hill and the Devils bit in north Tipperary in the distance and back along the horizon to Limerick and the hills of east Clare. I got to a point over the top car park where I could see the sun bouncing off the Galtees, forty shades of green and then some. From here I could see both sides of the ridge; it dawned on me that the golden vale was a perfect name for what lay before my eyes.
The track took me down to the top car park on Slievenamuck and then turned left down the road and into the Aherlow nature park. My walk had changed and I was in amongst large pine trees, Douglas fir, fantastic old Scots pine, holly, larch and the mighty oak. The sun bursting through the trees in all its autumnal glory made every thing shine like a new penny. I found a seat to park my rump on and took some time to listen to nature's soundtrack in all its glory. Something caught the corner of my eye and as I moved to see it better there on the side of an oak was a red squirrel. For a split second we shared a glance and then in a flash of red it was off into branches and gone. He knew as well as I that winter was on its way and like the squirrel I made my way to the end of the loop walk along well-marked paths. I looked at my watch; it had taken me just over two and a half hours but the walk had given me some fantastic memories and views that would stay with me for the rest of my life. Well done Aherlow, I'll be back to do some more of your Loop Walks.