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Pirates of the Owel

Sometimes A legend is just a random adventure…

Sailing across a relatively large lake, in October, to an uninhabited island is one-way pass the Halloween bank holiday. Known as “Church island” there isn’t anything legendary here but offers an adventurous opportunity to explore an untouched location.

To squeeze in some legend the lake boasts one interesting story and that’s the drowning of the Viking chieftain Turgesius in 834 by the King of Tara.

Since 1996 the island and lake are protected under the wetlands protection of the Ramsar convention.

October 2018

On arrival, we are greeting by a crisp October breeze. The sun is warm but the air is cold. We stagger towards the shore, arms full of all our necessaries; recording equipment, food and most importantly my inflatable dingy which will ferry us across the calm looking waters.

15 minutes later and we are ready to set sail. Full of excitement, we aboard the plastic craft while a few spectators gather taking interest in our crusade. Probably thinking we are mad to venture across the waters on such a sharp morning.

The journey was incredibly smooth. We made it in about 45 minutes of tiredness rowing thanks to a light drift, in our favour. On approach to the shore, we were pleased to see how simple it would be to dock, thanks to lower waters exposing a flat rocky bed. Assuming the island wasn't explored; to some degree, we were a little disheartened to notice a floating buoy in the shallow waters and a glove hanging in the hedge. So yes it was obvious people come here frequently.

As our feet touch the ground, we stop briefly to wolf down some food, eager to wander deeper into the island. At first walking along the shore, we spot something rather bizarre. Dispute the lingering sunshine the bitter wind reminds us summer is well and truly over.

On the rocky surface in the middle of nowhere a road sign is erected. The sign looks quite new; 2017 according to an inscription in the concrete. Why someone would put it here is beyond me. But clearly a sense of humour to entertain the passing fishing dingies in the summer.

Snapping a few shots we move deeper into the wilderness. The area above water level all year round. It is as you would expect, overgrown vegetation; mainly nettles (which I learnt the hard way in my water-friendly sports shorts. Thankfully they were dying out for the year because their sting was surprisingly weak.) As we wandered we found the typical remanences of camping equipment; old thin kettles, an eroding bbq set, and broken bottles. along with what remains of small campfires. But the most interesting discovery was a tree with plastic clothes hangers dangling from the branches. Why? was it to dry close or some attempt at art? They looked fresh, definitely inexperienced of a winter. I took photos but none can convey the sheer obscurity.

As we emerge from the wilderness the sky had taken a dramatic shift and the day was changing the season. The sunny blue sky was replaced by eerie dark grey clouds. Raindrops started; drip... drop then drip, drip, drop, drop POUR!

We take shelter back in the wilderness as the heavy downpour is accompanied by a strong gale. Sure on an island in a lake, it's bound to be more exposed than the mainland but it was quite a strange and unexpected storm. We were left stranded because paddling a boat would be futile If not reckless.

Ten minutes pass and I begin to feel a slight bit anxious at the fact that the wind was picking up, the rain was not reseeding and the clouds showed no break in sight.

Would we have to make that choice? Conceded to been stranded on the island and begin a survival camp or risk it cross the stormy waters? I really didn’t want to have to call rescue services.

To our delight half an hour later and a break finally came. wasting no time, we jump to our dingy and head strange back onto the water. However, that drift that aided us over, hindered us on return. we managed to cross to the mainland, but differed significantly off course and rowing against it was proving futile. after spending ten minutes rowing and moving nowhere, we concede that the best course of action was to allow it to take us. At least on we'd be on the mainland. We finally make landfall but against a pile of large sharp rocks next to a train track. And as much as I would have loved to walk on that track, we took to jumping boulders.

30 minute later, exhausted we made it back to the shore where we took off, hours previous. It's getting dark now, and with what little enthusiasm we had, packed up and department Mullingar.

But hi, what an adventure!


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