The secret Irish gate

20151220_105845 (2)Only Woodpidgeons flying overhead can see the last vestiges of an ancient path through an Irish green field in County Limerick. But pass through a gate now sealed in stone, and you’re in a bog, clearly on a path concealed by a hedge. Traversing in the  footsteps trodden for millennium by medieval souls long forgotten.

The path appears to commence at Greenmount House, a now derelict country manor once owned by the 11th Earl of Harrington. A previous house was built there in 1770 as the seat of the Green family. Before that is uncertain.

The bog has been worked by the same family for at least 300 years. They say that the path has always been there, as long as the fairy forts that it passes. No one knows its purpose, or why its progress was blocked. The route is a mystery sealed within the stone outline of the gate, and in the footprints in the course itself.

The truth receives a wink from atop a nearby hill, from the ruins of the 15th century Crecora church that was destroyed in the war of 1641. One imagines the site being a place of worship for a 1,000 years before that. It’s said that 300 yards to the north east was once a whitethorn bush, from which the village derives its name. Crecora in Gaelic, Craobh Chomhartha, means sweet-scented branch. Pilgrims tied tokens to the sacred shrub which most likely grew near a holy well. In this country of scholars and saints, that means Saint Patrick himself, the 5th century Christian missionary and patron saint of Ireland, may have performed a blessed deed there. The path points directly to this hallowed place.

So the path has been leading a religious pilgrimage for perhaps 1,500 years. But why was the wall eventually sealed to block its way. Probably only Saint Patrick can say.

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