We have visited this nature reserve on an ad hoc basis many times over the years. Usually it has been because it lies to the south and west of the huge and beautiful beach at Curracloe in south Wexford. But the reserve, where I have seen red squirrels, has its own car park and is a beautiful walk. We had never completed the southbound walk through the woods before, so at the weekend we set off to explore and see if it would be a good place to take visitors. As it turns out, it was a beautiful day and we should have taken some water. The round trip, though the woods and back along the beach, takes about three hours but when you emerge from the woods and discover dunes and marshes where the River Slaney reaches the sea, you are spoiled for options of direction and the beauty was overwhelming. We could not help but keep exploring.
Apart from the view across the water to Wexford Town the dunes and marshes were beautiful.
One thing I did not expect was the vast swathes of sea lavender (Limonium humile). This is found in marshy ground around the Irish coast. I was astounded to see it growing in such wet soil as the genus usually needs perfect drainage. The last sea lavender I saw was on the cliffs at the Hook and was L. binervosum, and this grows in poor, dry soil. I do not know why the Wexford ‘colours’ are purple and gold but yesterday I was convinced it was because of the drifts of sea lavender and glorious golden sand.
It was not the only fascinating wild flower and I was pleased to see Euphorbia paralias and sea rocket (Cakile maritima) covered in six spot burnet moths.
But, best of all, were great drifts of samphire (Salicornia europea), one of my favourite vegetables! I used to eat this when I lived in Norfolk, UK, where it grew in salt mashes. The succulent stems are delicious raw or lightly cooked so I picked a few tops for tea.
You can see how specific these plants are in their requirements by the bands of each plant. There was some samphire among the sea lavender but it largely grew on its own.
If collecting food in the wild (I do not want to fuel the cheffy ‘foraging’ nonsense) only do so if the plant is abundant and only take a few shoots off each plant. Cut off samphire shoots and do not pull the plant so you do not damage it. Only the top 10cm of so of samphire stems are edible because older stems have a woody core so you can collect some for yourself without harming the plant. It tastes very salty but is wonderful – perhaps because we eat so little salt – giving the same salty kick as a packet of crisps, but healthy.
It seems that we have been adventurous since our last visitors left and last weekend we popped along to the Enniscorthy Rock and Food festival. We didn’t stay long, in fairness, but it was obviously well attended. We timed our visit to see the steam train which took better organised people to Rosslare Strand and back (I hope).
It was a treat, even for someone who has no interest in trains, to see it build up a head of steam and set off over the River Slaney and into the tunnel under the town.
The Raven is a fabulous place for wildflowers and there is an excellent selection of native orchids growing there along with several other very uncommon plants. Hopefully, I’ll make a trip next week.
There was masses of Rosa spinosissima, though only with its black hips. I think I was too late for orchids – I did not spot any in bloom though there was a lot more to explore. I will definitely make more trips now I know where to go.
There should be plenty of helleborines around at the moment.
I did not think to look for those. Next time!