It was great to revisit Avondale with the Active Retirement Group in May. It brought back fond memories of our family trips across the Wicklow Gap, down through Laragh and Rathdrum, passing Avondale and on to Aughrim. On these trips we heard the stories of Charles Stuart Parnell, the nineteenth century Irish nationalist politician, Protestant landowner and leader of the Irish Land League was born at Avondale House in 1846. We also sang the song Avondale, written by the late Dominic Behan in praise of Parnell
Oh have you been to Avondale,
And lingered in its lovely vale,
Where tall trees whisper and know the tale,
Of Avondale’s proud eagle.
Where pride and ancient glory fade,
So was the land where he was laid,
Like Christ was thirty pieces paid,
For Avondale’s proud eagle,
Long years that green and lovely vale,
Has nursed Parnell, her proudest Gael,
And cursed the land that has betrayed,
Fair Avondale’s proud eagle.
On this recent trip our group toured Parnell’s family home looking at all its beautiful artefacts and discovering how Avondale became the birthplace of Irish Forestry.
After lunch, we showed just how active we were as we took the 1.4 km treetop walk through the tree canopy culminating at the spectacular viewing tower. The panoramic view of the Wicklow Mountains, the Vale of Avoca and the Avonmore River was amazing.
To complete this innovative experience, many of the group whizzed down to the base of the tower on a 90m spiral slide. My new knees are still too precious for me to risk them so I returned to base on foot.