Yesterday the beloved ‘B’ and I went for a stroll in one of our favourite wandering sites, the Arboretum at Fota Park. This ex hunting lodge is located within the coastline of Cork harbour (The second largest natural harbour in the world, after Sidney. See below for history of Fota.)
The collection of trees and shrubs from all over the world is spectacular but beautifully compact, the very essence of picturesque. Perfect for a dander just as the leaves are changing, taking on their autumn shades and before they fall.
B calls this place the garden of sighs. She sighs a great deal when we walk here. The soft moist oxygen rich breath of the trees gives you a feeling of wellbeing that is both stimulating and relaxing. We try to go every few months to witness the changing costume of the seasons. I am struggling with a damaged knee and walking is still difficult but this is one walk I can do willingly. We always return feeling renewed and with our imaginations stuffed full of beautiful natural image replays.
One image stands out: the sunlit splendour of a mature Paperbark Cherry. This demanded fondling and wonderment at it’s silk ribbon wrapped red-gold beauty.
I now have a new scene for the novel in progress, Trial. David and Regan must walk here hand in hand. David is wrapped in Regan’s beauty but made melancholy by the falling of the year and their failing relationship.
(Fota’s arboretum and gardens are what they are today thanks to the Smith-Barry family who recognised the significance of Fota’s sheltered location and warm soil – “Fota” is derived from the Irish “Fód te” meaning warm soil – perfect for the growing and cultivation of rare trees and exotic plants.The development of the arboretum coincided with the great plant hunting expeditions around the world bringing back wonderful specimens from places such as the Orient, South America and the Pacific coast of northwest America.In the 1840’s, John Smith-Barry showed considerable foresight in generously spacing the trees, enabling them to thrive as they do today with stunning seasonal displays of colour. The family also recorded the plant collections throughout the 19th century and this important work of cataloguing, conservation and development continues today. Many of these plant collections are arranged in association with the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, and other botanic institutions such as the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Scotland. Fota arboretum and gardens were transferred to state care in 1996 and are now in the care of the Office of Public Works in conjunction with the Irish Heritage Trust.)