Deep In the Woods: Mr. Slaphead reports from the Blather trip to Massys Woods, Dublin

One of the few survivors of the Ghost Hunt 2003 speaks out!


By Mr. Slaphead
It wasn’t the desolate car park of Rathfarnham Shopping Centre that worried me, it wasn’t even Mr. Blather’s news that more than half of the expected participants had cried off.It was only when Blather led us down several muddy cul-de-sacs that I began to wonder about what I’d let myself in for. It was quite a few years since I did a tour of Massys Estate and the woods around the Hell Fire Club and I always had the good sense to park in civilised car park. This time, as if to emphasise how much we were roughing it (my phrase), we were to park on a steep gradient with one half of the car in a ditch.
We set off though antediluvian roadways towards the Walled Garden of the old Massy Estate. This was far too cultivated for Mr. Blather who leapt flea-like onto an unstable mound of rubble and mud expecting us to follow. Like fools we did. We walked at a brisk pace breathing the crisp air of the Dublin Mountains, in itself well worth the effort, while pondering the origins of various lumps of stone and wood. We came across holes in the ground that we assumed were badger sets, but Mr. Birdbath’s refusal to stick his head down one means we will never know for sure. Pity that.
Blair Witch Country
The grounds of the Walled Garden seemed level and friendly but I should have known that wouldn’t last. We went from the chocolate box scenery of the old garden to Blair Witch country in little more than ten paces. Dense undergrowth (it may have been overgrowth- myself and nature have never been what you’d call close) concealed traps for those not wearing boots designed to grip glass. My “RockGround” boots may be the dog’s danglies for an urban trek and although the name would imply an ability to get their wearer through any terrain, I suspect this may be a ploy by marketing types. My solicitor will be in touch with them.
Tarzan
As I crossed small rivers like an aging Tarzan, trusting wet overhanging branches to be strong enough to hold me I suddenly realised, as my arse hit the mud, that wet overhanging branches are as trustworthy as Fianna Fail backbenchers. Scampering onward I crossed the swells of the river (well, a small stream) undampened, only to find the black woolly hand of Blather reaching out to help me up that final muddy metre. I did hesitate at first but on realising that he was wearing gloves, I accepted. My eternal thanks to Mr. Blather for that one although I suspect it was guilt that made him reach out.
At last we came to a roadway I recognised, mainly because it used to have a restaurant on it. We crossed over and leaving behind the balmy warmth of Massys Estate we hit the snowy slopes of the Hell Fire Wood. Given a choice between a slightly rough trail and a circuitous but easier one we of course opted for the easier one. Easier is a relative term. A relative we never speak of.
We set off on this well-worn path, no doubt worn by Coillte vehicles, and I began to realise that a slow climb up a moderate slope can be far more tiring than a quick climb up a steep gradient. Nonetheless the clean air was a welcome detox after the Christmas contaminants. My abnormally heavy breathing just added to the volume I was taking in. Several times I could see that Ms. Elimare was concerned about my failing health, though she hid it well from the others, lest it might upset them and ruin their day.
The Hellfire Club
We eventually reached The Hell Fire Club itself. A wounded shell of a building whose purpose now is to give day trippers a point at which they can turn back and night visitors a place to drink and smoke knowing they have an infinite number of escape routes should parents or police come calling.
Following a quick exploration and a tour of the outside we walked towards the rougher path to find a way down between the icy stones, the snowy grass and the slippery leaves. I decided to take my time and rather than try and get to the bottom first I opted to pace myself and get there intact. In fairness many people were slipping about so even the most neurotic person could blend on the bloodied (so Mr. Blather tells me!) slopes leading down from the Hell Fire Club.
Friendly Eeriness
A short and civilised trek across the road and back through Massys estate led us the welcome sight of our cars but, before we could taste the warmth of a real fire in the Blue Light, we were to visit one more spot before dusk settled. The Wedge Tomb at Kilmashogue is just a short drive from Killakee and on the way to the Blue Light. Just a short climb from the car park is the tomb itself. Resting towards the edge of a forest it releases a quiet calm over the area. Imagine if you can a friendly eeriness.
Our cultural and educational obligations fulfilled we drove with renewed vigour to the famed Blue Light pub. A shining example of exactly what a pub should be, the Blue Light is an oasis of warmth and alcohol in an Irish desert (i.e. Mountains, valleys and bits of rivers with no pub nearby). The Guinness looked as if it could do without any advertising budget and atmosphere was as warm as its open fires.
Forgive the curmudgeonly tone dear reader, I?m just a bit sore today, but that’s because although I live just a few minutes drive from all of these wonderful natural resources, I have failed to avail of them in recent years. But now, with renewed enthusiasm, Ill be back there again by the weekend. My thanks to Blather for organising this mini version of the Fellowship of the Ring. It was a great day out with superb company. Lets hope this is just the first of many excursions deep into the woods.
See the Photos »
Elimare’s report »

daev
Chief Bottle Washer at Blather

Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and “known troublemaker” Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as “possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River”, and “the nicest website circulating in Ireland”. Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.