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Contrasts of a Blue Planet hat we have here is a set of stories and photos from varied localities around the globe. My travels have taken me to all continents in the past two years. From safaris in Kenya, sailing in Zanzibar, trekking in Nepal, helping out with a new school in the

Cool Mountain

IRELAND | Saturday, 14 January 2006 | Views [12941]

Cool Mountain - West Cork…Copyright by Geof Prigge

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www.geofprigge.com

COOL MOUNTAIN – WEST CORK

Hidden in the inner folds of West Cork are a number of forgotten corners…fertile little hamlets surrounded by rough mountainous wind blown terrain, farms that have been here for centuries encircled by oak and silver birch. Mountain streams of pure water that carve their way down through the meadows, at times opening out into silent pools and reed-locked lakes, their waters dark and mysterious.

We see therefore in a localised area such as this, all sorts of environments, from mountain and moor through hedge-rowed meadow and woodland to river and lake, a characteristic variety unique to the more remote regions of West Cork. The diverse species that exist here survive in their own niche, and these nature banks help many of the species that live here, escape the threat of extinction. Nearby, the agricultural techniques are more intensive - the onslaught of farming techniques that threaten these unprofitable regions. With this 21st century approach to farming we see an end to the hedgerows and woods, and instead we witness the draining of bogs and marshes…a new landscape where nothing is allowed to exist other than chemicalised cows and imported strains of grass.

West Cork is such a contrast to other parts of nearby farming areas like the monotonous lowlands of central Ireland and the sterile factory plains of other parts of this great country. In these nether regions, the pressure of modern progress has wiped the last vestiges of wilderness from the land, unfortunately leaving it void of its natural wildlife. It becomes increasingly important as time goes on to protect these last areas of natural wilderness and to keep them intact for future generations to enjoy and admire.

One community is striving to do just this – to keep so-called progress at bay, and to encourage an holistic, organic existence to thrive. Back in the 1970’s a group of English people decided to escape the world of Thatcherism due to the dangers they saw in the introduction of the poll tax.

They came here to West Cork, to Cool Mountain and set up a home. They bought a large tract of land from local farmers and began to live their own way, designing and building unusual homes without planning permission. The authorities turned a blind eye to these activities and still do so to this day. The original residents were referred to as hippies and the like, when in actual fact many of them were not. They simply wanted an alternative to the ways of typical British life, and in the hills and meadows of the south west of Ireland they found that alternative and for years lived a rather separate life to the way that even the locals lived.

However none of the original group lives here anymore. Taking their place though is a new group of folk. Not all of them grow herbs and vegetables and try to live off the land. Some have ‘real’ jobs in nearby towns, and simply endeavour to keep the land in as pristine a condition as they are able, without the use of chemicals and so on. The majority are from England or continental Europe but their number is only a few dozen nowadays. One reason the number dwindled years ago was the fact that the original group was unhappy with the type of people who were moving here. These new interlopers had different ideas, perhaps too grand. It just wasn’t what the founders of Cool Mountain set out to achieve.

Today it’s just as sleepy as it ever was. The community hall had a new thatched roof a few years back, and on rare occasions there’ll be a musical festival or a gig. The original buildings are mostly still standing. A few caravans have found their way in amongst them. Some of the buildings are deteriorating now, but the new breed of people who have taken up residence in recent years have plans to revitalise the community, to lift it from its somewhat ghetto-like appearance and inject some new life into the place.

A maze of narrow country roads winds throughout the several hundred hectare site, but these too are in need of repair. Knee-deep pot-holes are everywhere. It’ll take a major effort to repair these.

It remains to be seen if they’ll succeed with their plans and lift Cool Mountain to something like Nimbin in Australia, or if the fresh dreams of these new alternative residents will go nowhere

Tags: Adventures

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