The Snow Tree

In the recent snow, myself and M took a walk through Kilruddery on the Southern outskirts of Bray. The estate is a working farm, with sheep, pigs, cattle and more besides. It’s a popular location for film shoots, with Ardmore studios nearby. Hell and Back is located here, an annual obstacle course event for the fitness fanatic, or for fools and mad. 

Kilruddery, from the Gaelic, means the church of the knight. The knight was Walter De Riddelsford. In 1171 he was granted the lands hereabout by Strongbow, in thanks for killing John the Mad. The Brabazon family gained the estate in the reign of Henry VIII, and the title Earl of Meath was granted in 1623. Formal seventeenth century gardens surround the house, a damaged but grand gothic fantasy in its most recent incarnation. Beyond the garden walls, paths wind up to higher ground. Up in the hills, our hold on reality slackens further. A Brigadoon of sorts emerges, with wilderness, woodland and forest picturesquely arranged, fields loosely patchworked, unpaved paths, rugged outcrops of rocks suggesting a hinterland of wilder flora and fauna, perhaps bandits and other colourful originals. 

The spell is seasoned by the intrusions of commercial farming, the glimmer of the city on the horizon, and Bray hugging the nearby coast. Paraphernalia from Hell and Back intrudes, technological towers poke through trees, there’s a war games enclosure. Times, you enter a clearing where Vikings or Merry Men are taking a smoke break. Once, I paused with M on the outskirts of a post-apocalyptic village as the fury of tribal weapons erupted some centuries from now. The assistant director was filling us in on the shenanigans. He was unusually solicitous. Turned out he thought we were Lord and Lady Meath. Oh I should have prolonged the ruse, but it was hard not to laugh. I know the quality dress down when out and about, but not in a Dublin 12 accent. Still I felt raised up somehow. Exalted.

At other times, the ambience is Hardyesque. The modern world folds into the haze and you are lost in time. This acrylic painting is the biggest I’ve ever attempted. A metre tall, its size helps to capture the grandeur of the scene. I hope. Ahead, a magnificent tree spreads its arms to catch the noonday sun. We have stopped between showers of snow, the morning fall barely covering the greenery. The rugged Giltspur, or Little Sugarloaf, rises to our right. Off to the left the ground falls into woodland with the clenched fist of Bray Head off frame. Dublin is behind us on the north horizon. Far ahead, a loan figure gains the southern horizon and gazes over sea and mountain. He is an echo, perhaps, of Caspar David Friedrich’s The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. Or my own silhouette, waiting for me to catch up.

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill

I could see the city light

Wind was blowing, time stood still

Eagle flew out of the night

Solsbury Hill was written by Peter Gabriel when he left Genesis in 1977. Solsbury Hill’s in Somerset, England, but any hill will do. Anywhere. To me, the song conjures up that feeling of ecstasy, peculiar to finding yourself face to face within the most sublime scenery. You move from the humdrum to stand within the perfect moment, and everything becomes possible. And all on a day’s walk.

I was feeling part of the scenery

I walked right out of the machinery

My heart going boom boom boom!