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On June 15 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland.

They crash landed, having mistaken a piece of greenery for a flat field when it was in fact it was bog.

The plane was damaged but neither men were hurt.

Last summer, ninety four years after the landing, I decided to cycle to view the memorial but not by the sign posted route.

No that would have been far too easy and sensible. I wanted to get there by crossing the bog and pretend that I was back in the time before a lot of these roads had been built.

I set off leaving my small green tent to cater for itself for the day.summer 2013 067

The cows watched my departure with interest probably planning an inveritable feast as soon as I had disappeared from view.summer 2013 126summer 2013 086.

I left the beach behind and headed for Clifden. The sky was blue and the birds were singing.

On the main Clifden road Cars shot passed at a verocious speed but I wasn’t alarmed . I knew this road so well , every bump and bend .

I had cycled it so often over the years..

The wonderful thing about being on a bike as opposed to a car is, you can stop whenever the humour takes you or when you spot something of interest in a field or along the sea.summer 2013 048

Poor motorists! They have to look for somewhere safe to pull in and by then its too late, the donkeys have moved off summer 2013 136, the fisherman has pushed the boat out to sea,summer 2013 204 a cloud has crossed the sun or they are just going so fast they miss things of interest.

After stopping numerous times to take photo’s, smell the meadowsweet, breath in the sea air, talk to the donkeys, have a paddle I now reach the bridge at Ballinaboy and head inlandsummer 2013 212…The twelve pins come into view and I admire their majestic splendour.

Almost navy against the blue sky the shite clouds throw shadows across them.summer 2013 015 I imagine at any moment I will see the dark shapes of dragons flying between the twelve valleys .

I note the neat banks of turf of such gorgeous designs.summer 2013 160 and the footed turf ready to be taken off the bog.summer 2013 162

And turning right down a sandy road I head towards lough Fada (The long lake)

Here the road ends and the fun begins.summer 2013 223

Oh how still the lake is and despite talk of a ‘ness ‘ type monster, I just have to take a dip.summer 2013 229 Swimming across to a small island covered in wind bent Hawthorn the goldfinches go crazy and a wren kicks up such a racket. I smile and turning ,swim back again leaving them to their wonderful paradise where they are safe from cats and rats.

I could have just lingered  there , peacefully in the sun. but I had a bog to tackle.

I pulled my bike across a bank of turf and followed a small sheep trail through the heather..it was tough going ,I lost the path many times and it became very boggy in places.summer 2013 179

Once I stepped into a bog hole but clinging to my wonderful yellow bike(how many times she has saved my life that yellow bike) I pull myself out.

A few times I nearly gave up and headed back the way I had come but the sun and the skylarks urged me on.

I had no map , or watch, but I could make a fair guess by the height and direction of the sun as to where I should be going.summer 2013 235

Eventually, probably two hours later, after pushing the bike up a turfy hill I stood among the stones of an ancient ‘rath’ and looking south westwards spotted my target.

I wondered if the locals at the time had stood on this very spot to watch a small plane splutter from the sky

Did they put there hands over their eyes or watch in horror as the plane landed nose down into the bog?.

Did they run a cross the bog in relief to greet the two pilots climbing out of the plane ?

Was the sky as blue ?

The above is the scene I like to imagine, women picking up their skirts and racing across the bog in the morning sun, laughing at the excitement of it all, as the skylarks singing and scolding overhead.

In reality The Marconi station was already here and in action  but as I leaped from tussock to tussock using the yellow bike to support me I didn’t want to think there was any technology involved.summer 2013 244
Needless to say, I took the easy way home…by the road.
summer 2013 250

 

 

 

 

 

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