Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Visit to the Lee Valley in April 2013

A tour, partly focused on the unusual theme of hydro-electric power, was enjoyed by the Cork Chapter on 25th April, 2013.

Our first stop was Rockrohan House, the impressive home of Richard Wood.  Set in a beautiful parkland, the Italianate House was added to an earlier eighteenth century house.  It has an attractive single storey porch and a canted bay to one side.  We enjoyed cream teas and coffee in the wonderful ambience of Rockrohan's dining room.  Richard provided an informed description of his romantic Irish landscapes that adorn the walls.  Following this, he produced two montage pencil sketches of Cork's landmark building which challenged our knowledge of local heritage structures.  Our Georgian element ended here as the theme changed to a more industrial nature.

Inniscarra hydro-electric power station is one of two dams constructed in the 1950s to harness the water of the River Lee for electrical power, the other being Carrigadrohid.  It involved the creation of two lakes in the picturesque Lee Valley.  Here we were welcomed by our guides Rebecca and Colm.  Having viewed an education film, we entered the control room.  The workings of the generators and the important business of water level control, by sluice-type spillway gates, were explained by the operators and there was no shortage of questions by our learned group!  The dam is of the buttress type and the sheer drop of 42 metres was experienced by viewing it from the bridge.  A stunning view of the lake on the other side was observed.  The fish pass and hatchery operations were explained at this point by our informed guides.  Surprisingly, a family of otters was spotted in the waters below ... not so unusual according to guides Colm and Rebecca.

Toon's Bridge Cafe provided an appetising lunch.  Here, Jenny-Rose put on an array of antipasti starters, tasty chorizo stew, a delicious chocolate raspberry brownie and excellent coffee.  As a result there was a rush to pick up some goodies to bring home from the dairy shop next door.  We then departed for Bealick Mill.

Bealick Mill was constructed by the Harding family in 1797 and benefitted greatly from the Napoleonic wars.  Following a period of decline and disuse, it came into its own as a 'heritage centre',  It has seen many uses in its day and our guide, John carroll, recounted how it had supplied street lighting for Macroom while London was still relying on gas lights.  Furthermore, Charlie Bird's ancestor was the engineer responsible!  Originally a corn grinding mill, it was later used for Macroom oatmeal production.  Having seen many years of dereliction, today the mill house stands respendently restored while its wheel once again turns to the force of the Larney River.

Georgian splendour, the best local food and hydro-electric power on the River Lee were pleasantly exhilarating!

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