You don't find too many woodland or forest areas in east Cork. In that part of the county the ridge and valley topography of Munster has been eroded down to create a benign landscape with rich soils. Inevitably the original woodland cover has been stripped away over the centuries to create a rich pastoral setting.
One spot where a vestige of the ancient woodland has survived is tucked away behind the village of Killeagh. Here the deep gorge of the Dissour River has sides too steep for agriculture and so no clearance occurred; a happy circumstance helped by being in the ownership of the same family for more than 800 years. It was granted to Phillip de Capell in 1172 and the estate survived through centuries of wars and confiscations.
Access to the wood is easy, with a car park and a trail-head for a looped walk a short distance from the road. I opted to follow a road to the right of the way marked way as I reckoned that it would enable me to penetrate the upper reaches of the gorge. This turned out to be a good choice because at its end it morphed into a narrow woodland path. This was proper woodland walking with the undergrowth brushing against one’s shoulders while the branches of the diverse broad-leaves intermingled to create a multi-hued canopy through which shafts of sunlight variegated the vegetation around me.
My progress up the side of the gorge was impeded when I came to an area of felling. The majority of the site is owned by Coillte, with a part owned by Glenbower Wood and Lake Ltd, a voluntary community organisation.
The lake referred to in the title was constructed in the middle of the 19th century to provide power to the corn mills at Killagh. It was drained in the 1980s due to safety concerns; it is hoped to reinstate it at some stage if funds become available.
The way forward seemed tedious so I followed a path down to the floor of the gorge and the banks of the Dissour River (Deisiuir: Southerly Aspect) – now there’s a name that states the obvious. It is the roaring of this river in flood which is said to have given its name to Glenbower – the deafening glen. The bed rock in the area is a form of easily eroded sandstone which would explain why this relatively small river has cut such a steep ravine.
I decided to take the path to the left of the river as this keeps closest to the bank, allowing for glimpses of the entrancing tapestries created by the interface of woodland and water.
In places there was an exotic feel to the views as tendrils of epiphytes descended from overhead branches to trail their tangled coils in the tumbling waters. It is fitting that such an historic walk should have a celebrated hostelry at its terminus. “The Old Thatch” is one of the oldest licensed premises in the country, with its present proprietors, the Sweeney family, able to trace ownership back to the mid 1700s. It provides a warm welcome for walkers.