Really Old Church Day (Part 1)

Day 11 / Friday, 21 September 2012

The innkeeper at the Fanad House has a little dog; sometimes she got out of his quarters and came into the dining room, trying to be friendly with everyone. He’d come and get her, shoo her back into the kitchen. This sort of casual attitude might shock some Americans (not me; I grew up sharing the house with cats and dogs); but the Irish love their dogs, and we encountered them everywhere we went. It turns out the pup was only a year old; she was a rescue dog. So good on ya, Pat Wallace, friend to man and beast.

After a full Irish breakfast, we loaded up the car and set out on the road. There are several artists and craftsfolk with studios in the Kilkenny area, and two I like to visit are Nicholas Mosse Pottery and Jerpoint Glass. There was only time for one on this trip, so we dropped by Jerpoint Glass in Stoneyford, where we watched glass being blown and did a little shopping. I say a little shopping because the trunk was very full with luggage already; there wouldn’t be a lot of room for too many purchases.

It took about 10 minutes for this young man to put this pitcher together.

Here he’s starting a new one!

Here he’s starting a new one!

On our way out of town, we indulged in what would become a welcome habit on our trip: we stopped for a midmorning coffee break because Alli has a little coffee jones. I loved this “tradition” we developed of stopping for “Alli’s coffee.”

Coffee break! Knockdrinna Farm Shop & Artisan Café in Stoneyford, Co. Kilkenny. (Margaret’s photo.) Don’t forget you can click on the photo, then click again to zoom in.

The Knockdrinna Farm Shop & Artisan Café in Stoneyford was the perfect place for coffee. Too bad we’d recently had breakfast—everything looked luscious. These small “farm shops” are my favorite place to purchase produce, cheeses, preserves, and so forth. (I still swoon just thinking of the cheeses and honey Gerry and I bought at the farm shop just outside the Aillwee Cave in Co. Clare in 2003.) I am always tempted by honey, though, and indulged in a jar of Sarah’s Joyful Honey (with orange). I love a little honey on toast.

We’d barely left town before we were stopping again, this time at a little church in Rivergrove we’d passed on the way in. My passengers had been fairly quiet but I finally convinced them to just say stop if there was something they wanted to photograph; I’m very good at pulling over quickly. And they did learn to shout it with glee. 🙂

This is the angle at which we’d seen it on the way in, just off the R713. Note the little brook. I think this church is about all that’s left of Rivergrove.

Here it is coming back. Isn’t it just lovely?

I’ve googled like crazy, but can find no information about this small church in this small town. Your guess is as good as mine. (Although you can get an excellent look at it using street view on Google Maps.) We pulled up in the driveway; the gate was closed. So all four of us, cameras in hand, walked up and down the rock wall, taking photos. Some of us took photos of the rock wall.

I am utterly fascinated by these tiny ferns, which I’ve just learned are called maidenhair spleenwort (asplenium trichomanes). They’re so perky and resilient.

Seriously—can’t resist ’em. And they’re growing on every stone edifice in Ireland.

Margaret noticed the iron rings spaced along the wall, no doubt for tying up horses back in the day. (Margaret’s photo, of course.)

Everyone was making do outside the stone wall (Jill climbed over); the gate was closed. That is, until I walked up and tried it. Yes, it swung right open. 🙂 This yielded a few more interesting photos, at least for me, since it was unlikely I’d be climbing any fences.

Isn’t that ivy, with its autumn colors, just gorgeous?

Of course, you know how I feel about those watermelon-red doors—perfect!

The graveyard was pretty too.

I’m fascinated by headstone art, and the little organisms that grow on it.

What a lovely day it was! (Margaret’s photo.)

Another look at the brook before we go. If only I’d been a little taller.

Finally we got back in the car and headed toward Cashel, our next planned stop. Stoneyford’s a bit off the beaten path, so the first leg of our trip, cross-country to the N76, was, I should say, exciting. If we’d been using the paper map we might have gone a little out of our way to use main roads, but Emily (yes, we called the GPS Emily) took us on the straightest route—which was also on the tiniest little country lanes, sometimes just wide enough for one car. It was quite an adventure. And occasionally scary.

It was a beautiful day for a drive, though. (Margaret’s photo.)

We were only on the N76 for a couple kilometers, however, before we exited to the R692, which took us all the way to Cashel. But first we passed through Fethard (pronounce this FED-erd).

Fethard was pretty quiet for a Friday around lunch time. (Margaret took this one.)

There is a fine old church in Fethard, on the site of what was once an Augustinian Abbey that was founded in 1305. Part of the original wall still exists.

This is the fourteenth-century wall. Note the very old gravestones leaning against it.

Those gravestones are really old. And beautiful.

A wider view of the property in the medieval town of Fethard.

The link above tells a year-by-year history of the church. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, the abbey began to fall into ruins. It was reopened in 1823; the façade you see here dates from about 1835. This site offers some interesting photos of the inside.

This little gate allows access to the tiny graveyard. It was open too. 🙂

This post has gotten long, both in words and photos, so I’ll stop here for now. But stick around—there’s one more old church to visit on this day, and another very exciting drive!

This Morning’s Impression

Even in the smallest places—Stoneyford has a population of 487; Rivergrove is only a spot on the map with no census figures to be had; Fethard’s population is just 1,541—there is a beautiful old church, treasured and preserved by the local populace. History is important.

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3 thoughts on “Really Old Church Day (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: The Second Breeze | Wanderlustful

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