Home Mayo Walks Nature Trail

The joys of spring

We miss so much that past generations loved – the walk along a quiet country road or boreen. Following the green line as I like to call it – that mossy band of worn grass flecked with cheerful daisies unfolding down the centre of the quiet byway inviting the walker to stroll further into the countryside.

Our daily lives are a constant rush from school-run to work, and car park to shop, with little opportunity to smell the roses. One of the great joys of living in the West of Ireland is that there is hardly any boundary between the town and the countryside; a few minutes walk from our doorstep where we can enjoy all its natural wonders.

In Ballina, we are blessed with lovely countryside walks on the outskirts of the town. Among my favourites are Knockatinnole, at the northerly edge of Belleek Wood on the Ballina to Killala Greenway; and by the banks of the Brusna River (more commonly known as the Bunree River) along the Downhill Road to Ballyholan where I took my most recent out-of-town walk on a sunny mid-April day.

In the fields, through the hedgerows, and along the roadside, vibrant yellows, greens, blues and whites were the dominant colours of the early flowering wildflowers and shrubs, nature painting a glorious scene that would do justice to a Paul Cézanne landscape.

A horse chestnut tree branch overhanging the Bunree River, Ballina. Photo: Anthony Hickey
A horse chestnut tree branch overhanging the Bunree River, Ballina. Photo: Anthony Hickey

The newly-opened leaves looked like tiny pyramids drooping from the giant horse chestnut trees, nature’s decorations dangling from the branches overhanging the Brusna River’s cascading waterfalls welcoming the arrival of Spring.

It’s the beginning of this year’s life cycle and the horse chestnut trees will soon be festooned in white candle flowers that in Autumn will produce abundant chestnuts.

Blackthorn flowers sing of spring. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Blackthorn flowers sing of spring. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Over the years, I have planted chestnuts from this riverside place in pots in my garden and enjoyed watching the replanted seedlings grow over the decades into magnificent trees.

Among the tangled hedgerow briars, the thorny blackthorn branches’ creamy bloom sings of spring in a show of delicate petals crowned with orange-tipped stamens.

In the scrubland by the riverbank, a tall blackthorn bush, untouched by human hand, in full bloom looked as if it had been sprayed with icing sugar.

A blackthorn bush in full bloom at Ballyholan, Ballina. Photo: Anthony Hickey

So much to see on a short walk. Clumps of cobalt bluebells and the whiteness of the Onion Weed brighten the shady roadside’s grassy banks under the dappled shade of hawthorn.

Not to be outdone, the star-shaped Lesser Celandine was in flower, too, along the roadside; its golden starry flowers putting on their best display on sunny days such as this beautiful April Friday.

The star-shaped Lesser Celandine is in flower. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Further along the road, the sun brilliantly lit the blazing yellow of the rampant gorse that seemed to almost touch the clouds in perfect colour harmony with the blueness of the sky; the towering castles of cumulous slowly rolling by behind the hill adding drama to the striking scene.

Onion Weed also known as the three-cornered leek is an invasive plant but a pretty one, too. Photo: Anthony Hickey

As I made my way home, I was treated to the antics of a pair of busy blue tits bouncing overhead and the next minute darting from tree to tree full of joys of springtime.

Spring is in the air and every day it brings something new to enjoy.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.