Delightful capture of early morning activities along Shore Rd Portaferry.
The Loughshore Rd in Portaferry, Co Down is very popular with local walkers, and more so during the Covid restrictions. There is less vehicle traffic. A family of Black Guillemots have become quit celebrities to local visitors. They have brought joy to many people during this difficult time when people have had to self isolate. Getting out in nature among God’s creation brings healing to the soul and mind.
The Black Guillemot is a small black sea bird with a white patch on each wing. Each has a pointed beak, smooth feathers and red feet. They feed on sea creatures and can dive very deep underwater to feed. It’s a privilege to get to see such wild life nearby.
Black Guillemots have a nest amid the rocks in the wall along the shoreline of Strangford Lough. They have become quite tame. Passersby stop to watch them as their family play in the water below. My daughter was driving past last evening. Two birds were sitting on the wall. I asked her to reverse the car to see if we could see them up close.
Amazingly the two birds were not disturbed as we stopped. They didn’t fly off. We were able to take photos of them close up. What a delight.
The waves from storms in February breached the shoreline wall in various places. Some were repaired before the lockdown. The road had to be closed to traffic about a mile along the shore from where we live. The wall was broken and part of the road fell into the sea. The Covid lockdown prevented workers getting to fix it.
Then in July when work was due to start to repair the road, it was discovered that another group of Black guillemots had built nests nearby. They were still feeding their young in the nests. The department of the Environment stepped in and advised work to stop. The repair didn’t go ahead. The workers are waiting till the Black Guillemots are finished reading their young.
There was a meager amount of snow in Portaferry this week compared to other areas of N Ireland.
In Ireland we enjoy a temperate climate, not too hot in Summer and not to Cold in winter. We don’t have extremes of temperature. It means we can be outdoors all of the year. We don’t need air conditioning Summer or Winter. A fire in the hearth will get us through any unusual cold spell. We can gather there to keep warm.
N Ireland has been enjoying a cold spell with falls of snow this past week. The Christmas winter wonderland scene has come early. A log fire sounds so romantic. But a store of sticks have to be prepared beforehand. There’s nothing like a stack of logs neatly stacked away slowly drying. Thankfully Brendan and the boys get wood ready every year.
One can’t pass the opportunity to relax when it’s cold outside. It’s time for a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve been working on one these last few days.
The cold weather can suddenly restrict one’s routine. I didn’t want to go shopping. Brendan was going to get some groceries for us. The roads would be slippy. It’s too cold. Then I remembered about my car. It was in the garage getting repaired. I rang the mechanic. Hey presto my car was ready. I forgot to ask how much the repair cost would be. Brendan helped me pick up my car, which meant a journey across on the ferry to Downpatrick and he kindly paid the not so small bill.
To cheer ourselves up we went for coffee. I received a text from a journalist to let me know she had published an article about me in the Belfast Telegraph that day. I bought a few copies. Brendan was distracted from the sting of the mechanic’s bill as we read the paper. I was delighted with the article and my retrieved car.
Brendan and I parted. He went shopping and I drove my car home. There was four inches of snow covering the back, top and front of my car from the snow fall the previous night. I wanted it washed off. I drove to the personalised car wash. It was closed. I went to a garage, it was closed. That snow was not going to budge. I drove back to Strangford to the ferry. I intended to go to the car wash to freshen up my car before I got home.
Strangford and Portaferry are on the edge of Strangford Lough in a micro climate. It’s effect keeps us warmer than inland. Some snow had fallen but it didn’t remain. One of the ferry men asked me where I was coming from. He was surprised to see so much snow on my car. This made me think. Here is my car covered in snow and there’s no snow around. I thought “I’ll drive to see my grandchildren and let them see the snow on top of my car. They’ll be happy to see it.” It was just getting dark.
The children came running out when I called them to see the snow. They coaxed their dad to make a snowman. All the snow was scooped off the car and a snowman built, eyes, nose and all. Their mum told me they had been talking all day about wanting it to snow so they could make a snowman. He still remains in the middle of the green grass of the lawn. God blessed the children with their hearts’ desire. I often say God gives us our heart’s desire. He is a good father.
I remembered Roy Woods’ Christmas song, ” I wish it could be Christmas every day.”
Here’s the first few lines.
When the snowman brings the snow
Well he just might like to know
He’s put a great big smile on somebody’s face
Oh well I wish it could be Christmas everyday
When the kids start singing and the band begins to play
Oh I wish it could be Christmas everyday
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
Granny brought the snow and put a great big smile on the children’s faces even though there was a meager amount of snow in Portaferry.
Since May the first it has been sunny most days in Co Down Northern Ireland. The winter passed and we moved into summer early, and the sun is still shining as we end June. The sun shine reminds me of God’s promise in Malachi, “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.”
This must be a record. It is delightful to awake to bright skies. We have had breakfast outside most mornings and no I’m not is Geece. There are clear skies recently up until eleven in the evening. This must be what it is like in Norway or Iceland where the sun doesn’t set in Summer.
I love living in Ireland. I have travelled to New Zealand, India, Mediterranean countries, the United Kingdom, America and Canada. I have enjoyed my visits there but I am so happy to return home to Ireland. It is comforting to hear the accent of the air hostesses on the flight back to Belfast or listen in to Hugo Duncan’s cheery radio show. I don’t mind the not so sunny days, the mist over Strangford Lough, the gentle rain, or the odd storm that brings winds that shake the trees in the nearby forest and rain that leaves a salty spray on the windows.
If it does get cold a warm jacket keeps the chill away. Woolen blankets are always at the ready on the settee for added warmth. I am sure of a good night’s sleep with a comforting hot water bottle on a chilly night, no matter if the wind blows a gail outside.
As the sun was setting last evening there was much activity around the harbour in Poratferry. There was slow tide. A large boat with a crane was near the harbour. It looked like an oil rig! It was hired from Liverpool to salvage a 1930’s sailing vessel that had sunk. We stopped to enjoy the lit up show.
Work continued into the night. The job was completed at four am. The sailing vessel was raised out of her sandy, muddy resting place and was manoeuvred by the larger rescue vessel into shallower water. Workmen were working today to break the wooden frame.
I enjoyed the spectacle of the lit up platform towering over the sailing vessel it had come to rescue. Excitement came to our quiet village. Many people lingered on to see the sunken vessel raised. Sadly the sailing boat was beyond repair. I thought of God when I looked at the oil rig-like platform. It was towering and strong. Often in one’s life God our father comes to the rescue. Perhaps we get stuck in the mirey clay, or get into troubled waters. He reaches down with his tender arms and gathers us to a safe place.
Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.”
He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.
Isaiah 40:9 to 11 NLT
I praise and thank God for the many times he has rescued me and my loved ones from danger. He will continue to do so. We have two more months of summer left. I expect we will have more sunny days and days of healing.
Tonight the Strangford/ Portaferry Ferry is lit up and the deck is a stage for choirs singing Carols. Praise songs ring out over the Lough in the chilly, evening air. School children and adults take part. Drivers are entertained as they make their way home.
At the ferry exit on each side of the Lough there is a mini Christmas Market. I am at the Craft Fair with my Seaglass Mosaics. John, my son is exhibiting his Bog Oak and Bronze. We are hopeful for a successful evening. It is a good opportunity to meet families from our community.
My mosaic collection began in May this year, after I picked up some green pieces of glass from the local beach. I was inspired to make a picture of Ireland with a piece of Seaglass for each of the thirty two counties. More inspiration has followed. I enjoy the peace and results as I work. I never dreamed I would be making mosaics, never mind selling some at a Craft Fair. I believe The Holy Spirit gives me the inspiration. He is the Creator.
I have visited the Christmas market in Bratislava. It is full of Craft Stalls selling Christmas Fare. It is a event where friends and families meet to have time together, sharing mulled wine and kebabs. Eight of my family are there in Slovakia tonight! From one Christmas Market to another, Ahoi!
I was excited to learn that the idea of Carol singing on the Ferry came from Vancouver, Canada. I have been to the ferry terminal at Nanaimo and have travelled on the ferries to Seashelt and Vancouver Island. My son Isaac is in Vancouver at the moment.
It all began fifty years ago with one boat decorated with Christmas lights. Now fifty boats take part in the Carol Ships Parade of Lights. It is a great attraction for visitors during the Christmas season in Vancouver.
The Ferry Crossing between Strangford and Portaferry is the oldest continuous ferry crossing in the world! I can imagine Patrick and the early Christian settlers making the crossing back centuries ago in a wooden craft. Our Ferry ship today is humble in comparison to the big ferries that dock in Nanaimo.
It is a wonderful experience to have a Christmas market and Choir Ferry so close to my home. May this festival grow as the years pass and become a successful tourist event and attraction for Portaferry and Strangford.
Some information taken from an article in the Down Recorder, published on 2nd December.
Sara Joye said “Grandma, I want to buy a Princess cup for my teacher.”
“What is a Princess cup?”
“You know, like your cups, Grandma.”
She pointed to some china cups with flowered patterns in my cupboard. ”
“Do you not have these in Slovakia.”
“No grandma, only in your house.”
“Would you like to get a special patterned cup and saucer for your teacher? I understand now.”
“Yes, I just love Princess cups”.
She held a china cup in her hands close to her heart as if it was the most beautiful, tender thing in the world.
I enjoy collecting jugs and china plates with flowers and gold trim on them. I display them on my dressers in the kitchen. Forty years ago a China Tea Set was a “must have” item for a bride. It would be kept in a safe place and only brought out for tea with special visitors or at Christmas or Easter. My husband bought me a china tea set. Its design was called “Angela.” Sadly I didn’t keep it safe. I liked to use it often.
I was reminded of words from the poem The Old Woman of the Roads by Patraic Colum.
O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods against the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house – a house of my own
Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.
I had often dreamed of having a dresser to display pottery, fine china, glasses or gifts, high up out of little children’s reach. In my new home I have two dressers. Items I collected over the years are now on display. Chinese patterned plates, I received as a twenty fifth anniversary present, wine glasses, china plates, gifts from my children and family photos. My dream has come true. My collection is being added as I pick up a bargain from a car boot sale or craft market. Now my grandchildren admire my collection. To their eyes it is treasure. I must be a Princess, instead of a poor wanderer as the poem depicts.
On Saturday Aaron, Marta and their children went to shop locally. Portaferry is a small village. I wondered would Sara Joye find any Princess cups. Her Mum prayed. “Dear Lord please let someone bring Princess cups to the Charity shop today.”
They set off. Some time later they called me to give them a lift home. It was cold and raining. But the children’s spirits were not dampened. Instead there was great excitement. Princess cups were purchased at a bargain price. It happened just as Marta had prayed. In an Antique store or Fine China shop these goods would be costly. The prized purchases were carefully wrapped to keep them safe on the journey back to Slovakia.
Sara Joye’s teacher in Slovakia will receive a Princess cup from Ireland.
I am inspired to write this blog after reading “Sweet Killough, let down your Anchor”, written by Maurice Hayes. His mother was born in Listowel Co Kerry. Living in Killough at the other end of Ireland seemed a million miles in the 1930s. Her mother sent her a copy of the Kerryman every week. News from home kept his mum in touch. She seldom got to visit Kerry.
Hopefully my experience will give you a flavour of life along Strangford Lough near my home in Portaferry, N Ireland. For my family abroad, my friends and followers dotted around the world, please take a walk with me on this pleasant November morning.
Brendan and I decided to take a walk, soon after sunrise. Each time we take a walk we get a glimpse of the wildlife along the seashore, in the water, in the air or on the nearby grasslands. This morning was no exception.
In the bay in front of us many colourful buoys, all shapes and sizes bob about in the water. They provided anchors for yachts during the summer. The swallows have left and so have the boats. They will winter out in the safety of some yard. Each buoy has a bird perched on it. The biggest buoy has the biggest seabird, ranging from a heron, cormorant to some seagulls. They squabble for supremacy.
They rest there enjoying the rising sun and still air.
Along the road I see a small upturned crab, partly eaten. How did a crab get stranded along the road. I believe it is the remains of a meal a crow had left behind. There is a forest along part of the shore. Crows settle there in the evening. In the morning most of them head off to feed on fields inland. Not so our resident crows. There are a dozen of these birds that have adapted to living off food from the shore. As I was driving one day a crow dropped a sea shell onto the road. The shell cracked open and the crow enjoyed a tasty morsel. Clever creature. They have adapted to foraging along the shore: food at their doorstep.
Brendan drew my attention to two aeroplanes flying west overhead, one in front of the other, to a far off shore. We are enjoying having our feet on the ground after our recent travels. We are beside still waters instead, having our souls restored.
The Lord is my shepherd; he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Psalms 23:1-2 KJV)
We heard a honking sound from the other side of the lough. There were large birds, I think swans, flying in formation to our right. Brendan counted fourteen, the number of our children. They have flown the nest. Gone but not forgotten. This day forty four years ago I gave birth to our first child. So started many years of child rearing. A new season for us now.
A group of oyster catchers were hardly noticeable along the water’s edge. They sprang into flight as we approached. Herons and oystercatchers live happily together along the shore. Gulls will try to chase herons, much to their annoyance and screech their disapproval.
A lone curlew catches Brendan’s attention. He takes a closer look with the binoculars. It has a distinctive long curved bill. My Little book of Birdwatching comes in handy. A few blackbirds dart into the hedgerows, taking shelter for the winter. I was delighted to see a group of the Brent Geese sheltering behind Ballyhenry Island. They had ventured down the coastline from Newtownards. They looked fat and their white under bellies were high lighted in the low sunshine. I can expect them soon to be feeding near the bottom of our garden.
A large bird dropped speedily into a field nearby. It later perched on the top branch of a tree in the hedge row in the distance. We could see markings on the back feathers. We knew it was a bird of prey, but which one? I looked up my Little Book. It was a female kestrel.
The ultimate visitor was a seal diving into the seaweed offshore. This area must be his territory. We have met him before.
All of us were enjoying the unexpected warm morning. Brendan and I returned home uplifted, thankful for the beauty of creation around us. I had braced myself for a cold wind with hat, scarf and gloves. But no, it was a pleasant, warm, bright morning down by the sea. Unlike John Masefield’s description of his going down to the sea in his poem ” Sea Fever”.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
Thank you for sharing my walk down by the sea.
“All creation rightly gives you praise.”
Portaferry was a busy port many years ago when fuel and goods were transported by ships. It has a natural, sheltered harbour and had easy access to England across the Irish Sea. There were not the road networks we enjoy today, when many goods are transported in lorries. Many ships would have been docked at the port waiting to unload and then restock with local wheat or potatoes.
But the big ships do not visit any more. There are some yachts parked in the Marina. The Portaferry Strangford ferry is the biggest vehicle in these parts.
I was pleasantly surprised one evening back in July. Brendan and I had just returned from visiting our daughter and her husband in Scotland. I had the pleasure of seeing a luxury liner enter the waters of Strangford Lough and put down anchor in the bay in front of our home. No it was not the Queen Mary or the Queen Elizabeth. It was the Hebridean Princess, a small ship but never the less a luxury one. It caters for fifty people in sheer luxury, according to its website. Out there on the lough the customers will be settling down to fine dining. The ship was visiting Irish waters to let their customers see our green land.
It was Gala Week on the lough. Many yachts with their colourful sails were messing about on the water. I looked out and saw many yachts with their sails catching the evening wind. Red, blue, white, small and tall sails. In the middle of the flotilla the Hebridean Princess appears.
I wanted to find some information about this ship. Where did it come from? Was it from Scotland, maybe the Hebrides off Scotland. To my delight I discovered the vessel was originally a ferry that traveled between the Scotland mainland and a Scottish Island. It had been bought in 1989 and was restructured to become a cruise ship.
MV Hebridean Princess is a cruise ship operated by Hebridean Island Cruises. She started life as the MacBrayne car ferry and Royal Mail Ship, initially RMS then MV Columba, based in Oban for the first 25 years of her life, carrying up to 600 passengers, and 50 cars, between the Scottish islands.
My son in law’s father was the manager of the Caledonian Mac Brayne fleet. He was instrumental in putting into service ferries that would connect the Scottish Islands to the mainland. He did a great job. I appreciate the service our local ferry provides, connecting Portaferry to Strangford.
The Caledonian MacBrayne fleet is the largest fleet of car and passenger ferries in the United Kingdom. With 30 units in operation, the company provides lifeline services to 22 islands off the west coast of Scotland, as well as operating routes across the River Clyde.
I was touched that I am connected to the history of the cruise ship that came to visit Strangford Lough that day.
This post is dedicated to Stuart. Happy Birthday!
I live in a beautiful place. I live on the Narrows at the entrance to Strangford Lough, the largest sea lough in Ireland.
Today the weather is different than many of the days recently. Winds blew and the surface of the water was ruffled. In the distance the sea swell made breaking waves at the mouth of the lough. Yesterday sea and sky were grey. The sea reflected the storm clouds.
But today all is well. I look out my window and see still, blue waters that stretch to the mouth of the lough where it joins the Irish Sea. It is unusually quiet. There is no bird song. There are no birds flitting about. They have no need to attract a mate. The young have flown the nest.
The Strangford Ferry is out in the middle of the bay. The sound of the Diesel engine is a welcome sound. It breaks the silence. It is faithful to travel back and forth between Portaferry and Stangford. It provides an important service. I do not feel cut off from the rest of the world. One mile down the road I can catch this ferry and It brings me into the world again.
For the moment I am enjoying the view out my window. The sea meets the sky in the middle of my panorama. Both are blue today. The morning sun rises. There is a contrast of greens before me. My lawn, which was cut recently, is light green. The mature trees’ leaves are dark green. Their green outline stands out against the blue sky. Red poppies and hosta at the side of my garden welcome the warm sunshine.
Our cat sits on the window sill, waiting patiently for her meal. She washs her face with her paw. I don’t feel guilty as I eat my breakfast.
The lough seawater slowly rises with the tide and approaches the sea wall at the bottom of my garden.
Today there are no crashing waves making the waters approach menacing. A lone yacht is anchored in the bay. There is no sound of the metal tinkling against the mast.
I thank God this morning for the view out my window. My eyes are brightened. I am alive to see the goodness of God in the land of the Living.
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, (Psalm 13:3 NIV)
I have been known to be controversial in my life. Who wouldn’t be, being the mother of fourteen children and being healed of cancer.
I tend to unsettle the settled, but comfort the uncomfortable. I have confronted ministers, doctors and teachers in defence of my children or values I have.
I challenge people’s mindsets just by being alive.
I had an experience last night which demonstrated the reality of what I can do in situations, unwittingly.
As I look out my window I see the ferry pass to and fro across the channel between Portaferry and Strangford. It keeps going in fair or stormy weather. I appreciate the work the men do who keep it operating.
I was returning from visiting relatives last evening. I was the first in the queue to catch the eight pm ferry from Strangford to Portaferry. I arrived just as the ferry was docking. My children and I looked out and noticed the the ferry boat was moving from side to side and not docking. I wondered what was happening. There was no strong wind blowing and the sea was calm.
I switched off my lights which were in full beam! The boat docked. The few cars and passengers disembarked. I turned on my engine and moved forward onto the rampart and was about to park my car. Normally the drivers are waved to move forward to the front of the deck. I was waved to a stop by an irrate attendant.
He waved his finger as he berrated me for stopping the ferry docking. I didn’t understand. He added your lights were in full beam and the driver could not see to dock the ferry. “Did you not read the notice that drivers are to turn off their lights!”
I apologised profusely not knowing that I had just “rocked the boat.” I must have caused some annoyance to the ferry workers.
I was laughing about my experience when I was reflecting this morning.
That was the second time recently someone waved his finger at me.
I am adjusting to the new environment in which we now live. The narrow roads are popular with cyclists. I had a limited time to get to Belfast the other morning. I was trying to overtake a bunch of cyclists that were strung out in front of me. I took the opportunity to overtake but couldn’t make it. I probably frightened not only my passengers but all the cyclists. I had the last cyclist wave his finger at me!
Thankfully I didn’t hear what the cyclists or ferry workers said about me.