Wednesday, 12 March 2008
The Burren is an intriguing area of limestone pavements, eroded by the beatings and strokings of Irish rain which has permeated and bored it so that swallows and cave-systems lie beneath the surface. Erosion has curved the edges into sensuous, almost molten forms, whilst the frost has created ruler-straight cracks across the surface, as if it has been tapped smartly with a toffee hammer. Jagged limestone walls roam the landscape like rows of crumbling witches' teeth, whilst the pavements are punctuated by thickets of Blackthorn and Bramble and trailings of ivy. The grey limestone pavements contrast with lime-mossed stones, cattle-trampled black earth, blades of straw-and-emerald coloured grass. It is an eroded landscape, where the earths' bones seem to protrude and yet be integral to the whole.
There are 360 degree views, which doubtless drew the builders of Poulnabrone, one of only two Portal Dolmens in this area, though there are more than 60 Wedge tombs and many other burial sites. There is still a sense of place here felt by today's visitors, who build mini-dolmens across the pavements, like little stone echoes.
It is an echo of a past landscape. Once this was wooded. Sheltering in the cracks are relict plants from the Neolithic - Woodsage, Primroses, and even a glacial relict, Alpine Lady's Mantle, a survivor from before the woodland.
So I wrote in the introduction to an essay on the Neolithic following a Field Trip to Ireland over ten years ago now. I can still see it so clearly in my mind's eye, and would love to return, without the constraints of a limited visit and the need to move onto the next item on the agenda, at a time when the wild flowers colour it rainbow. Here is a link you may wish to follow up: