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Sensory Trail - Touch

There it is standing proudly in the centre of The Green - a lone Sequoiadendron giganteum or Giant Sequoia ringed by soft leaved Common Lime trees. 

Our giant is however more a baby giant or at most, a teenager. It was probably planted during the 1860s - at around the same time as The Old School or the lovely old cottages framing The Green, making it around 160 years old - or young. Some of its cousins have lived for over 3000 years making them among some of the oldest living organisms on Earth. Imagine - these trees were saplings around the time the Celts arrived in Ireland.

These Sequoia's now only grow naturally in groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, though they are found across North America and Europe and as far afield as Australia. 

 

Now, as you approach our pyramidal shaped  evergreen tree its outer bark or skin becomes more apparent. 

How would you describe the colour of the bark? Reddish brown? Red/orange? A beautiful rich golden brown? It contains a high amount of tannin which helps to explain its colours but also makes it resistant to insect attacks.

Which words would you use to describe its colours?

 

And how does it feel to the touch? Yes, it is softer than you might have expected. You can give it a gentle fist bump and not hurt your hand. It feels fibrous and spongy - perhaps a bit like old tough leather forming ridges and furrows. It’s also thick or deep, from 10cm on younger trees up to 60cm on some of the old giants. This helps to protect the trees from fire though the intensity of forest fires today in California is posing an increasing threat. to their survival. Sequoias are endangered with only about 80,000trees left in the entire world.

 

Scientists describe the bark as having an open cell structure like a foam sponge and are experimenting with ways of making concrete blocks which will have high insulation values while remaining just as strong.

 

So how did the Sequoia Tree get its name? It’s called after Chief Sequoyah, chief of the Cherokee and one of its most influential figures. He created the Cherokee Syllabary, a written form of the Cherokee language. This helped to preserve the language and the cultural traditions of his people.

In 1847 a German botanist named Stephen Endlicher named the coastal redwood trees Sequoia sempervirens - honouring Chief Sequoyah.

 

The cones which can remain on the tree for several years usually fall during Sept/Oct. Cones are about 5cm long but can hold over 200 seeds. Each seed 

Even though its seed rain down by the million each year, the chances of one seed germinating, surviving and growing into a mature tree are less than 1 in 1 billion.

Sensory Trail - Hearing

You are in a quiet corner of the Glebe Walk, a good place to sit down beneath the fine Chestnut tree and take in your surroundings- this time via your ears. 

If it’s early morning  in late Spring or early Summer it’s a good place to hear the unmistakable call of the Cuckoo from Ard Bog. After the Blackbird and Robin kick off the Dawn Chorus the cuckoo -  all the way from Southern Africa is one of the next to join in. 

Did you know that if you came across the very same cuckoo in its wintering grounds  in Zimbabwe or Zambia - it would be silent? It only calls during the breeding season on its travels.

 

In winter listen for the raucous conversations between Rooks and Jackdaws as they gather in their thousands in an ancient roost all  around the village. They come from as far as 30 km away to overwinter in Geashill heading out each morning to feed across the countryside.

If you are snuggled here at some time over the winter months you will hear - right next to you - the gurgling of one of the sources of the Tullamore River which was said to flow from Lady Offaly’s Well before excavation of the peat bogs destroyed its exact location. It used to flow all year round but in recent years it has been drying up completely during the Summer months. 

If you feel the wind on your face you may also hear the creaks and moans as tree branches rub against one another, ye jostling perhaps for space or better light. 

You may hear the patter of a rain shower on leaves and ready yourself to pull up that hood - but not just yet. If it’s not too heavy the leaves will absorb much of a light shower before you need to nestle up to the leeward side of the old Horse Chestnut tree.

 

Cupping your ears with your hands is a good way to help you focus on a particular sound and to exclude unwelcome noises.

Sensory Trail - Smell

On this part of our Sensory Trail we’d like you to follow your nose. Our sense of smell is very closely linked to memory. We remember smells and scents more accurately and for longer than anything we’ve seen, heard, touched or tasted. Can you recall a smell that takes you all the back to childhood.

 

Many devout tea drinkers who dislike the taste of coffee love its smell wafting from a café or shop.

 

If you are walking along the path toward the GAA take a little of our tall bushy Fennel plants, gently squeeze the fibres in your palm - and give your nose a lovely treat. What does it remind you of - perhaps one of those licorice sticks you loved as a child? 

 

Little detours off the paths in the Glebe Walk in Springtime to get a closer look at our beautiful bluebells will also set off the smells of Wild Garlic or Ramsons. Its leaves make lovely pesto and its delicate white flowers are a perfect garnish for a salad. One tip - Don’t collect leaves from under rooks nests!

 

If you hear the ride-on mower mulching The Green you will surely catch the waft of freshly mown grass - again perhaps conjuring up old memories. 

 

Take a seat near our odour free Pig sculpture - Lady Muc. The Sensory Beds nearby will surely reward you with some lovely smells. 

 

If you are one of those wise people who enjoy a long sit over a short walk then the semi circular seating by our RainGarden and Wetlands is just the place for you. Lean back - quietly taking in the ponds and sculptures before closing your eyes while wrapped in the smoky embrace of rich, soothing lavender.

Sensory Trail - Taste

Many people think we taste with our tongues alone. We have thousands of taste buds however - on the tongue - yes, but also in the throat, along the roof of the mouth and on the insides of the cheeks. 

 

Ireland has rediscovered the almost lost art of foraging in recent times. With a little bit of enthusiasm and guidance, anyone can go out and find healthy, nutritious natural food in the wild and not so wild. We will point you toward some easy to find edibles but you must ensure that all are safe to eat. We would advise that you avoid berries or plants from busy road verges as they may have been tainted by traffic fumes. 

 

Our sense of taste is also closely linked to our sense of smell and we have also recommended Wild Garlic or Ramsons in our section on Smells. The Glebe Walk abounds with this delicious plant. Every part of it is edible and mixed with olive oil, some nuts and a little cheese it makes a delicious pesto. You can if you prefer, simply chop the leaves and add it to a salad with the flowers as a garnish. 

 

Geashill Tidy Towns has been a champion of the Dandelion as an essential source of food for early emerging bumblebees for years. But early or even late emerging humans can also enjoy every part of a dandelion. The leaves and stalks make a lovely salad. Some folk add the flowers also but they are not to everyone’s taste - but then what is?

 

The small fresh leaves of the humble Nettle in Springtime are delicious in soups and as a tea. Gloves are essential, and boiling takes care of the sting. My own favourite nettle recipe from childhood was as a spinach like green veg with a little salt and a knob of butter. Unforgettable!

We’ve planted a bed of nettles at the end of the Picnic Area as it is the host plant for 5 of our butterfly species. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind sharing a little with you. That is something to bear in mind. Thoughtful, respectful foragers just take a little, always leaving fresh sprouts for new growth- and for nature.

 

 From July onward, depending on the weather , you enter the Berry Season. On Bramble you find the Wild Blackberries ripening in hedgerows along the Glebe Walk and at the back of the Picnic Area. You may also stumble upon luscious red Raspberries. Elderberries come in clusters - but don’t be tempted to eat them raw. They have a very tart taste but they make lovely jams, chutneys and even wine. In Spring you will see clumps of Elderflower which can be made into a cordial and used to flavour Prosecco and Champagne.

 

For the lazy forager who likes their  edibles virtually handed to them, keep an eye out for window boxes around the village offering herbs such as Parsley and Thyme for grazing on.

 

You may have noticed that the trees in our recently planted Alderborough Woodland on the Tullamore Rd. are beginning to thrive. Among them are Crab Apple and Hawthorn trees offering still more edible treasure for the forager. 

You won’t go hungry in Geashill!

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