Part one – Departures and Arrivals
Jane and I haven’t been abroad since we came back from Thailand in January 2020 but we have now crossed an international border. Admittedly, it’s only into Southern Ireland but we are no longer in the (dis)United Kingdom. And best of all we haven’t had to do a Covid test, fill out a passenger locator form or show our passports. We have had to get some funny money out of the hole in the wall machine but that’s OK – at least we haven’t had to go into some shady backstreet to exchange dollars for roubles!
Rather than flying to Eire we took the slower option; driving to Fishguard in Pembroke and boarding a ferry there. Fishguard is quite a pretty looking place with a lovely harbour area in Lower Town. It featured in the 1972 film of Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Under Milk Wood has always been a favourite of mine ever since I heard a recording of Thomas performing his Play for Voices when I was a schoolboy.
The harbour area and a short walk up the river Gwaun yielded sightings of Little Egret, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Little Grebe and several lovely Dipper, a bird we don’t get to see much at home in Gloucestershire.
Although we didn’t fly to Ireland it so happens that the first person ever to do so took off from a field in Goodwick, high in the hills above Fishguard. Irish Aviator, Denys Corbett Wilson, achieved his feat in 1912, battling a fierce storm and flying without a working compass for much of the time. Sadly, he later lost his life in WWI but we were able to stand where the intrepid airman no doubt crossed himself before pushing full throttle on and then easing the stick back to lift off on a journey into the unknown.
Wilson took 100 minutes to complete his journey in a Bleriot monoplane fuelled by petrol and castor oil. A mere hundred years later we were driving a fully electric car onto a roll on-roll off ferry for a journey lasting just 200 minutes by sea. What massive changes there have been in that time.
We had hoped to spend most of the journey on the outside decks searching wildlife and we did manage to see several species of gull, gannets and guillemots but the weather deteriorated forcing us indoors. No doubt, nowhere near as bad as the storm which affected Corbett Wilson but a little disappointing none the less. However, we were soon docking, ahead of schedule, and by some amazing quirk of fate our car was the first to leave the ferry.
We were just congratulating ourselves on a quick getaway when a border guard waved us down. “What’s your nationality sir” he asked. “British.” I replied. “You’ll be wanting to put those wing mirrors out, sir. Ah, there you go, now you’ll be able to see everything.” And he patted the roof of the car – we were on our way. Welcome to Ireland.