Why is it that a cheese sandwich tastes better than a Gastro pub special when eaten outdoors, with cartoon white clouds scudding across a blue sky? I think this as we picnic on a fallen telegraph pole among the fields on Wexford’s Hook Peninsula.
The hedges are studded with primroses and celandines. Although we don’t discover a marked walking trail to Slade from Baginbun Head, the roads are so quiet that it doesn’t matter.
The Church of All Saints at Templetown dominates the hillside, opposite a dairy farm, the Dairy Master machine going at full throttle on our return in the evening. The sea is on either side of us: Bannow Bay to the left, Waterford Harbour to the right. Just down the road a ruined Norman tower sits casually in the middle of a field. The Hook Peninsula’s ancient stone walls line the road.
Just a little further on we plod towards the Classical mansion, Loftus Hall, as it looks over Waterford Harbour. Loftus Hall owned all the land on the peninsula and the Tottenham family lived there for centuries. The Tottenham family also has a role to play in my family history, as Lord Tottenham owned the ground that my father’s family home stood on in New Ross.
Loftus Hall reigns large in my imagination because my late Auntie Elsie loved its ghost story so much. Who can resist a ghost story? This one concerns the lonely Lady Anne and a handsome stranger. When Lady Anne discovers he’s got a cloven hoof, he disappears up through the ceiling in a ball of flame. She’s so distraught her father confines her to the Tapestry Room until she pines away. She haunts the Hall to this day…
If you would like to read my piece of flash fiction inspired by Loftus Hall, called Into the Void, click on this link: https://www.campervanbard.com
The fishing village of Slade is pure romance and, again, was a feature of my childhood. Us cousins would be driven down here to walk across the fields to The Hook Lighthouse, the waves smashing into the jagged cliffs to the collected shouts of our mothers about keeping away from the edge or a freak wave would wash us out to sea.
The coastline here is infinitely varied, carved by the sea into multi-layered weird and wonderful platforms.
The Norman castle, walls and harbour dominate Slade village. The Norman settlers restricted the eating of meat as they followed a much more rigid version of Christianity. Of course, some may say this was canny business sense because the settlers and priories then provided the fish and the salt to cure it for holy days.
The stone harbour is still in use, the colourful fishing boats impossibly small to do battle with these lively seas.
Lobster pots are piled up against the village walls, speaking of the rich seafood to be had.
Tired, but replete with sights, sounds and scents of the peninsula, we rest our feet and enjoy the hubbub of Molloy’s Bar in Fethard, dark as a cave and convivial, children playing, Leinster winning against Ulster at Rugby on the multi-screens – a great end to a fine day.
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