The Glory of Curraghmore

“The variety of scenery is unsurpassed by any demesne in the Kingdom, and indeed may one exclaim on beholding such grandeur and such repose – ‘But who can paint Like Nature. Can imagination boast Amid its gay creation, hills like hers?”
- Beauty Spots in the South East of Ireland and how to see them by Car or Cycle (1901)

Tuesday night last. Another splendidly sunny day is surrender ring to the dusk, as Jupiter and Saturn glisten in a moonless sky, while the ground beneath me crackles and crinkles as if I’m strolling atop an oversized canvas of baking parchment. And as I gaze around my surrounds, doing my utmost to appreciate the view as if it were the first time I’d ever laid eyes on it, I am struck by my being alone amidst rolling hills, centuries-old trees and increasingly parched pasture. Utterly and completely alone, without even a modicum of maudlin sentiment. Beyond the farmyard in Curraghmore Estate, beneath the Tower (built by the first Marquis of Waterford) and nearby Clonegam Church (where generations of De La Poers and Beresfords permanently rest), lies a narrow, relatively shallow pond.curraghmore

And as I strolled toward the rushes by the pond’s edge, the crunch of my footsteps sent ducks and ducklings who’d been enjoying its cool waters skyward and, one suspects away from there only temporarily. They flew in the direction of the Comeragh Mountains, draped in a Paul Henry-like mauve, its uppermost edges blending against softly pinkened skies which grew orange the further one looked west towards Slievenamon. A handful of farmyard lights twinkled on the hills beyond Curraghmore as I looked towards Clonea-Power and Rathgormack; the breeze fleeting through the trees providing the only silence breaker just a few hundred yards from where my Father was born 70 summers ago.

He loved Curraghmore and he adored the particular spot I occupied for a contemplative quarter-hour last Tuesday night, so much so that we as a family planted a tree there back on May 6th, on what would have been a landmark birthday for Dad. The hot weather has made nourishing the soil around the base of this young tree additionally significant these past few weeks, and those of us watering it are relieved to see it surrounded by a lush square of green grass, a rare commodity of late.
Visiting this special sod will never be a chore to me: this pleasant chore, combined with the ‘opening up’ of Curraghmore Estate to outdoor theatre productions and the Waterford Country Fair in recent years has re-awakened my love of the 3,000-acre estate, surrounded by 12 miles of wall.

To see a host of predominantly Dublin-based journalists rendered slack jawed by the gardens which will host the inaugural ‘All Together Now’ Festival from August 3rd to 5th, reminded me of my own good fortune to have spent so much of my childhood inside the Estate walls. A Country Life profile published in February 1963 (Valentine’s Day to be precise) described Curraghmore as “very much a little world on its own”, whereas now the world is now being invited into Curraghmore in a manner never previously experienced or countenanced. As many as 15,000 people are expected to attend the music, arts, comedy and food festival over the August Bank Holiday, and it will be fascinating to see how Curraghmore copes with such a transit of people and vehicles. And to see these grounds ignite with a festival buzz will be truly special.
“There’s so much magic here that it just really called for a festival to be put on these grounds, and thankfully Lord and Lady Waterford agreed,” said Jenny Hayden, who is part of All Together Now’s Public Relations team.

“I know the guys (organising the festival) have been coming down here for a long while but I first came down here about two months ago to see the site,” she added, “and my first impression of Curraghmore was wow – one big wow. I’d seen all the footage and photos which had been taken but seeing it in its full glory, it’s absolutely breath-taking.” And here’s the thing. That feeling never goes away. There’s a peace to be found in Curraghmore which for me is unsurpassable.
Be it on the flat ground of the avenue (running parallel to the River Clodiagh) which connects the courtyard to the First Gates at Portlaw, among the array of high natives and conifers that stand near King John’s Bridge or from the lofty vantage points at Clonegam, there’s little visible imposition of modernity.
The built landscape within the estate has scarcely changed for over a century, so the creation of 16 stages for the August festival represents a radical departure in historical terms. But three days of beautiful noise, to go all Neil Diamond on it, is something Curraghmore can certainly cope with.
After the media’s festival briefing concluded on Thursday week last, I climbed back into my car and had one stop to make before heading for the office: the pond just above the Farmyard.

In conditions altogether more Mediterranean than Irish, I filled a watering can five times and doused the sward around my Father’s tree. And then I paused, savoured the view once more and happily exhaled. What a gift it is to have known this place since childhood. And I for one am glad that more and more people are taking in the beauty and serenity of Curraghmore, a natural gift that keeps on giving.

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