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A truly magical haven by the coast

Sunday, 24th August, 2014 3:04pm
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A truly magical haven by the coast

An aerial image, above, by Bob Bateman of Camden Fort Meagher, Crosshaven and surrounding the area shows it at its best. Right: Madaleine, Ruth and Ruby Hill enjoying

An aerial image, above, by Bob Bateman of Camden Fort Meagher, Crosshaven and surrounding the area shows it at its best. Right:  Madaleine, Ruth and Ruby Hill enjoying

It’s easy to see why James Joyce mentioned Crosshaven twice in his masterpiece Ulysses. If you’re looking for lazy lunches on the waterfront, world class sailing, fishing, beautiful walks, farmers markets or a scenic pub-crawl through a vibrant village, you could not imagine better than Crosshaven.

Business is brisk this summer, there’s a new children’s playground and Cork Week, the internationally renowned sailing event hosted in the world’s oldest yacht club the Royal Cork (or RCYC to its deck-shoed patrons), despite being dramatically scaled down from previous years, was a real success – the smaller numbers making the event more relaxed and intimate.

And despite the spectacular location, bustling village and active clubs, Crosshaven’s most striking resource is the dynamic and ever-expanding local community who recognise Crosshaven’s potential and are working to make sure that the village meets it.

One such community member is Joleen Cronin, who organises the innovative Redhead Convention which takes place this weekend. The festival started as a joke between redhead siblings Joleen and Denis Cronin.

‘Denis’ birthday is the day before the festival and we joked that we should have a birthday party and only invite redheads. It grew from there. It’s great fun and raises money for the Cancer Society,’ says Cronin.

‘Next year we’re looking for sponsors, this festival has major scope for growth. The Gathering last year encouraged us to reach an international audience, many Germans are registering, a girl from Dunedin in New Zealand is coming, and an American based in Afghanistan who contacts us most days he’s so excited. Some very funny college kids are coming from the States, they’re making a documentary called ‘Gingers On Tour’ and they’re featuring the festival in it, but it’s very much a local festival too. Local support has been vital as have our volunteer force, we couldn’t do it without them.’

Some of the events this year include a fairy walk, a film screening, carrot tossing competitions, street performances and a talk by Kevin O’Regan who’s researched how redheads are perceived in popular media and how those portrayals affect people’s health and self-esteem. ‘The festival has fun and serious sides, it’s ultimately about empowerment and celebrating our uniqueness and heritage,’ says Cronin.

Paul Brierley is another local whose efforts are strengthening community bonds and realising a vision for an improved and thriving village.

He’s leading the renovation of Camden Fort Meagher – a spectacularly located fort with panoramic views of Cork Harbour – which played a key defensive role for almost 400 years and is internationally recognised as one of the finest remaining examples worldwide of a classical Coastal Artillery Fort. ‘We have a potent mix of stakeholders, community and volunteers, I think it’s a national template for how community and Council can work together. When we started the project, we could barely get in the gate the place was so overgrown. All the windows were broken and people had been looting metal, but once the community had the keys we policed it, and improved the place. Ownership and inclusivity are so important. When people feel ownership, they’ll give one hundred thousand percent. The Community Employment Scheme, the Redundant Apprentice Scheme and a dedicated volunteer force have been vital. We want people to leave here better skilled than when they arrived.’

The Fort gets about 1,200 people through its gates at weekends and 2,000 visited during the August Bank Holiday weekend. Cork County Council have invested €1.6m to date, which has allowed Brierley and his team update the infrastructure. A further €2m is needed to restore the two piers and that work is scheduled to begin next year.

‘We have civil marriages, a café, gigs, tours, incredible views, fascinating history and the only sandy beach in Crosshaven! We’re expanding the Fort’s scope all the time and we’re chasing the cruise liner business too. Ireland’s only cruiseliner terminal is nearby, which brings 13,000 people to the area annually, and Crosshaven can offer them something fresh,’ says Brierley.

Crosshaven Coast Guard is one of Ireland’s busiest stations, and will feature in an upcoming television programme about the rescue services. It is run by local volunteers and led by Vincent Farr. ‘It’s been over averagely busy for this time of year. Good weather means more people are at the coast,’ he says.

‘We’ve helped with the recent spate of diving accidents, people are going down deeper and for longer. We rescued and resuscitated a diver recently, but unfortunately he died in hospital. However, a local coastguard member – Rob Jenkins – saved a man’s life since then, when he had a heart attack on the tennis court. And the hoax calls we receive have decreased, which hopefully means that our school and public awareness campaigns are working.’

Thanks to public funding the RNLI operate here, too, and Jon Mathers is the PRO. ‘Part of our job is educating people about seamanship and water safety, and we’ve had less call-outs this year than last. I hope this means that our messages are reaching people before preventable accidents happen,’ says Mathers.

Fountainstown has something for everyone – even the Bishop is a fan

Fountainstown’s blue flag beach, beautiful walks, a new slipway and great spots for fishing, all coupled with easy accessibility from Cork City, and its southern suburbs, can make it one of the busier beaches in the area and the warm weather this summer has further encouraged visitors to its shore.Sarah Ellis and Sarah Hall, both from Rochestown, enjoy the beach with their children Charlotte and Richard Ellis and David Hall on a regular basis.

‘It’s close to home and we can park the car right by the beach. When we left the house today it was raining but the sun was shining when we got here, it’s very safe and the fresh air is great for the children.

My husband comes here kayaking too.’Angela Cantwell runs her eponymous shop by the beach and this summer marks her 25th year at its till.

‘This year has been very good, it’s like the old days again, all generations are back enjoying the beach.’Angela sponsors an annual road bowling contest – the three day event celebrates the merits of this old Cork tradition.

‘Bishop Buckley always gives the prizes for us and throws a bowl himself on the Wednesday and there’s a big party afterwards here at the shop and at Fountainstown Beach Mobile Home Park.

It’s great fun,’ she says.Peter West, who runs Fountainstown Beach Mobile Home Park, echoes Angela’s words about increased business this year.

‘It’s been a good year, there’s been a general pick-up. The slipway’s been a big success, people launch their boats from it and it gives people easier access to the beach,’ he says.Increased footfall has also resulted in lazy visitors irresponsibly dumping rubbish on the beach. However, a group based in the caravan park, led by Rita O’Leary, collect litter every evening.

Lydia Walsh and Natasha O’Leary have collected 300 bags of rubbish so far this summer – and counting.Paddy Quinlan of Funkytown watersports centre is reopening after repairing the damage caused by February’s storm.

‘We received Secad funding for an additional fleet of kayaks and stand-up paddle boarding is really taking off. The Irish coastline has a phenomenal amount of hidden gems.’

Myrtleville: gaining a reputation for open water swimming

MYRTLEVILLE village nestles around a popular sandy beach, beautiful coastal walks branching off along its cliffs, and Pine Lodge – the legendary pub with a well-earned reputation for great live music – is opposite O’Connell’s shop and post office.Bunnyconnellan – the long established bar and restaurant – sits on the spectacular cliffs overlooking a stunning seascape.

‘April to August has been good this year,’ says Paul O’Brien of Bunnyconnellan (or ‘Bunny’s’ to its regulars). Paul has also just helped form the Myrtleville Action Group: ‘We’re being pro-active in getting Myrtleville tidied up, six of us are involved now, we’ll organise better signs for Myrtleville, plant flower beds, make sure the beach is kept clean and build a swimming hut where people can get changed in a shelter by the beach.

In May, Myrtleville was inundated with people, and some of them made a real mess in the area, but after May, the craziness calms down. There are a few locals here who voluntarily pick up litter to keep the beach clean.’ Myrtleville Swimmers is a group who meet at the beach regularly and they’re growing steadily in numbers. Bernard Lynch of Crosshaven’s Centra shop (which won the National Supermarket Store of the Year in its size category for the last six years), sees the health benefits of sea swimming, the spectacular location and the social aspect, as qualities that make the group so popular.

‘About 250 people swim with the group on a regular basis, there are cross channel swimmers, national Irish champions, and people who like to stay in the shallows. They’re a fantastic group of people. It’s now the top open water swim location in Cork. People find it improves their health and general well-being. I swim at 6.15 most mornings, it gets your endorphins going, and you’re on top of things for the day.

It’s great for your mind, some people have told me that they find it far better than pills for boosting mental health.’Fellow swimmer Damian O’Neill agrees: ‘Myrtleville is a fantastic, friendly location for anyone who wants to enjoy the sea and new swimmers are always welcome. There isn't a club with rules or a committee, just a wide group who share a love of the buzz that sea swimming provides.’