Full disclosure: the following column will be a total lovefest of West Cork. If you’re feeling contrary and want to complain about West Cork, stop reading now. It’s been warm and sunny for most of the past six weeks, and I am so bewitched by summer that I don’t remember what a miserable, dark Tuesday in late November feels like. It’s as if I’ve never owned boots, a jumper, scarf, hat or gloves. I have been living in shorts and a tank top all month. My skin is returning to its ethnic roots, no longer pale grey-green but rather a healthy golden brown. I’m sure that there’s a lot to complain about. I’m sure there’s loads we could do better. I know that outside the little snow globe that I call home there are fires and floods, war and famine, the cost of living and the housing crisis, but I am so enamoured by West Cork right now that I can’t see past the breathtakingly beautiful view. It’s like falling in love all over again.
I don’t know if it’s a fluke (like 1995) or a general trend, but the heatwave has turned West Cork into a summer paradise. The wind is soft and breezy, the sun is hot and bright, and even the water in the Atlantic has warmed up. If it’s a fluke, may it last until Halloween (as it did in 1995). If it’s a trend caused by climate change, then we must take note once it gets cold again. Either way I intend to enjoy it for now.
For starters there’s the landscape. This week I sat out on a terrace in Courtmacsherry having lunch. What a sky. What a view. Just incredible. Same thing when lolling on the beach at Red Strand. Driving round the coast roads, or those bits of boreen that plunge you into the dappled light of a temperate rain forest is a delight. Everything is so lush and green. The flowers and ferns are really putting on a show this year though the star of summer 2023 was the hawthorn. The tilled fields are starting to fill up with barley, and corn. The untilled land is exploding with life, including native animals.
The birds, from tiny wrens to the big buzzards circling high above the house, seem really abundant this year. Or perhaps it’s just that the good weather means that I’m outside more. We’ve had a hedgehog walking up the drive one night. I’m happy to say that the number of insects (and bees!) also seems higher this year. Not a day has gone by for weeks that I haven’t spotted a buzzard. I’ve even witnessed a crow pulling at a buzzard’s tail feathers as it chased it away. Best of all are the fox cubs. There has been a den in a scrubby bend in the road for over twenty years, but not every year gives us the spectacle of fox cubs tumbling around. Is there anything cuter than fox cubs?
Beyond the landscape and the wildlife, what makes West Cork in general (and Clonakilty in particular) so very special are the people. This was loud and clear last weekend at the Clonakilty Street Carnival. The sun beat down on us all afternoon as we ate lovely food, danced to great bands, and filled the streets of town with children and joy. What was an operation of military proportions was organised without any apparent hitch, just happy people enjoying each other’s company in the summer sunshine. It really was a very special day. Thinking about it later I hit on what made it so extraordinary. It occurred to me that the entire operation was local. From the food to the bands, and from the people enjoying a day out to the many volunteers and stewards keeping the whole thing rolling it was a very local affair. This wasn’t an attempt to ‘brand’ West Cork, or to entice tourists to visit. This was purely local. It was for us, by us. After the years of lockdowns, being together-apart, it was wonderful to be together-together again.
Midsummer is a magical time whatever the weather, but the last month has been a healing balm. There’s a whole other half of summer before us with lots of great days to look forward to. Bring it on – we’re ready!