Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Burren

Spring Gentian
Megalithic wedge tomb
At a first glance, the Burren, a hundred square miles of grey, rocky karst, appears to be no more than a desert of limestone pavement.   Once on the pavement this initial impression is soon belied.  The Burren is populous with an amazing variety of wild flowers.  On closer inspection the apparently uniform, grey landscape is seen to be liberally splattered with patches of soil supporting thick blankets of grasses, mosses, lichens and wildflowers which in turn provide fodder for herds of grazing sheep and cattle.  Over half of Ireland’s native flora grow in the Burren, none of them exclusively but often in greater abundance than elsewhere.  What is fascinating is that here, at sea level, exist extensive colonies of the alpine Spring Gentian and Mountain Avens growing happily among orchids more generally found in the Mediterranean; where thick patches of peat cover the underlying limestone, lime-hating heathers thrive.  This landscape has known the tread of mankind for a long, long time.  Hereabouts are the remains innumerable pre-historic sites bearing evidence of human occupation together with the ruins of many early christian communities and places of worship.  More recent ruins, those of peasant cottages some of which have only comparatively abandoned, also contribute to the history of the Burren written in the remains of mans attempts to provide himself with food and shelter.    Time 
Abandoned peasant farm
spent here also further belies an initial impression of the uniformity of the landscape.  In Ireland the weather, and with it the light, changes with considerable fluidity.  As it does so the appearance of the landscape, the contrasts of land to sky, the apparent colour of the rock, are all in a wonderfully constant state of flux.
Early Purple Orchid

1 comment:

The Flying Tortoise said...

Thanks John, it is better but yes, if you would go up another notch it would be wonderful...
So good that you're posting...