April 30th 2017. I had pencilled in my diary to walk Arderin, the highest point of counties Laois and Offaly in the Slieve Bloom mountains. Waking up, the weather was pretty grim; dark grey skies, a mist that at times expanded to full on showers and a wind that couldn’t make its mind up which direction it was coming from – and was such a strength that it drove the mist horizontal! After checking my phone multiple times in the vain hope of a call to postpone the walk, I set off wondering, how in the name of safety can we do this walk?? The answer is to go with guides who know this hood like the back of their hand! They soon had us cutting up through coniferous forests that sheltered us and our feet sank into the dry carpet of needles and cones. Emerging from the forest, we had a final steep climb up a rocky old laneway before setting off like a line of ducks one after the other across the heather to the top of Arderin! It was hard to believe when we were standing there, gripping our feet to the soft boggy earth beneath us that the next day was due to be the first day of summer! Welcome to Ireland!!
Doing this walk with a group really deepened by knowledge of the area I was walking through, and added to the experience knowing I was learning far more than I could pick out myself by reading maps and happening to meet other walkers along the way. As we trekked up along the steep rocky road, Susan reminded us that in times previous, many families lived along this roadway – tranquil but challenging terrain to call home I would imagine!
We also learned about Spagnum moss and how in World War 1, tonnes of this was harvested off the Slieve Blooms and sent out to field hospitals for first aid use. The moss retains valuable minerals and aids healing and in dried form, is used to stop bleeding.
Further along, Susan pointed out Fraocháns (mountain blueberries) beginning to appear and later on, as we walked through the oldest plantation in the Slieve Blooms, we discovered a carpet of wood sorrel – a definite highlight of the walk for me!
Just because its grey & drizzly outside, don’t let it stop you from getting out walking. You’ll find lots of shelter under the trees at Glenbarrow & may even find some mushrooms if you go at the right time of year, read on here: