As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
I’M walking into the sea alone. It’s not one of those brilliantly sunny days, it’s a very ordinary, grey summer morning. At the horizon there is a strip of mauve light and it is reflected in the surface of the sea, like glass today with barely a ripple.
The test is always how cold it will be on the feet. Today it is perfect. Not warm, obviously! But not so cold that it gives the whole body a queasy shiver, a deep ache in the ankles or a cold ring of steel around the legs. No, this morning it’s quite a comfortable wade through the shallows.
Out to sea, the curve of the dark cliffs of Garrarus are silhouetted against the grey sky. Today there isn’t a soul out there. I wonder about the olden days when fishermen kept boats here and lobster pots were set from this shore. I think of the old man in a great coat and boots who used to walk down from his farm and chat to visitors. That time we sat around his fire in the smoke and chatted to him about life.
‘There wouldn’t be a town or village in France where campervans are not catered for’
I am soon at the point of no return. The water creeps up slowly and although I tell myself not to dilly dally, I stand there acclimatising and admiring the cool silver, grey, purple and shades of indigo blue ahead of me. And then, while I am distracted by the beauty of it all I glide into the calm water, up to my neck in it.
Only then, I turn back towards the beach and shout to Himself, ‘It’s beautiful! Not cold!’ Don’t know if he hears me, but I am sure that he takes it with a grain of salt. ‘It’s like a bath,’ was the joke we had between us, ‘O yea sure thing it is!’
It’s a rare enough opportunity to swim alone, without a care, without chat, without crowds. It’s a special occasion. The peace of listening to your own arms curve into the water, the splashing of your heels, seeing submerged hands in front of your face, and most important of all, when it’s not too cold!
There are great swims to be had these days out along the Copper Coast. Take your pick of any number of coves and strands, trundle along the spectacular coast road or even go further out as far as Helvick Head. When it rains I fancy the deep harbour at Boatstrand, when it’s too busy closer to Tramore I like Ballydowane with its pink rocky cliffs and mesmerising mottled stones.
Sometimes it’s good to have sand underfoot, other times it’s great to jump into deep water from a rock and avoid sand altogether. The further you go the more you will be rewarded with twists and turns, the accessible boardwalk along the sandhills at Bunmahon, the golden beach at Clonea, the beautiful village of Stradbally and the warm deliciousness of some grub at the end of the day.
Let me just praise the tradition of fish and chips for a moment! I must admit that all along my early morning meanderings from swim to swim along the magnificent Waterford coastline, I am visualising the day ending with a treat of scampi at Iasc or a mixed fish box at And Chips!
Dungarvan is a wonder. The outdoor dining spaces with less cars and more people have added such a cool vibe to the streets. Somehow the pandemic has allowed this flourishing of outdoor eating and drinking in Ireland, but the setting in Dungarvan and the wonderful food options makes it a bit of a magnet for a starving swimmer. On a pet day you can take your fish and chips down to a bench along the Lookout and gaze across at the Abbey or wander through the extraordinary St. Mary’s Graveyard.
A word about campervans. We just have to get used to the fact that they are a big part of the future of tourism in Ireland. We need to take a leaf from the French manual of how to manage them. There wouldn’t be a town or village in France where campervans are not catered for. There is always a place to park and there are plenty of well organised campsites and camper parks created to help facilitate them.
On a day out in west Waterford we always say how lucky we are, how blessed. No matter who you will meet along the way, these are the conversations that go on. And then, after we have patted ourselves on the back and reiterated how much we love our own place, we finish off with hoping we can keep it all to ourselves for as long as possible.
Sure we have it made.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com