Past to Present

This we hold in trust. The living, breathing, green lung which lies beneath the West Link Bridge is an area of outstanding beauty, favoured by Dubliners past and present. The day-trippers of yesteryear arrived in horse drawn carriages and cars, ladies in their best dresses, gentlemen attentive, honeymooners with eyes only for each other. 

Arms laden with rugs, picnic baskets and parasols they bagged a spot by the riverside and languished an afternoon away. The energetic might rouse to sketch the scene or murmur poetry, all the while enchanted by Anna Livia as she flowed silently by. Behind them the northern banks of the river stepped heavenwards in sun dappled terraces laced with strawberry plants and promising tempting sweet desserts.

Cottagers set out their stalls by the dusty roadside, lettuce leaves of strawberries piled high upon each other, jugs of fresh cream standing by. Pipers and fiddlers entertained the crowds and the innkeepers kept the summer thirst at bay. Before them, on the south banks, rose gently sloping stretches of luxuriant meadow and woodland running to the Dublin hills. Oak, ash, sycamore and beech drooped gracefully to the water’s edge. Grandmothers and grandfathers might recall that once a charming wooden bridge spanned the river nearby, erected by Lord Carhampton of Luttrellstown, but swept away by the flood of 1787. They too feasted on strawberries - known to cure gout, disorders of the stomach and even consumption - and toasted Mr. Marmaduke Coghill for bringing the first plants from Chile way back in the 1740s.

At day’s end the sun faded in the west framing the two beautiful hills of Castleknock, one crowned with its ivy coated castle and the other with a round tower. Today’s excursionists arrive on motorised wheels and are equipped with fishing rods, canoes, life jackets and oars. They do not languish by but take to the river, to meander with her before she is tamed by the city. The strawberry fields are gone, the hills of Dublin yet visible across beyond the concrete jungle - man’s imprint surrounds the valley. The West-Link stands astride its towers of concrete - nature crowned by man’s pretensions.

by Annette Black, Wicklow
Published on 22nd August 2013