Yesterday late afternoon, while walking on Cloghnagun, ( a small, 557 metre, heathery granite hill in the Dublin Mountains), I came across a small clump of white Bell heather nestled in the soon to be flowering ling, and a little later the skittering flicker of a viviparous lizard. These chance encounters are the little jewels that punctuate a trip to the mountains, unexpected and delightful.

The unusual white flowered Bell heather

Some people, I have observed, hike head down, grim faced and determined, and see little of the environment around them whilst others chat away to friends as they walk, smiling and laughing as they go.
Some relish the physical challenge, improving their fitness and stamina, perhaps having a challenging goal which pushes them; the Irish four peaks, Kilimanjaro or Croagh Patrick. Others seek the open skies and fresh air.

The reasons we have for taking to the hills are many and varied, but for me the chance encounter with a wild resident, a fox, grouse, deer, frog, dragonfly or finding a flower or plant I cannot identify, certainly rank high among them.
The beauty of the natural environment, it’s sheer detail, the tranquility of a chuckling mountain stream, the wide sweeping views, even those brooding misty days when the hill fog is down, all these give me a great sense of well being and peace of mind, they re-charge my batteries and help me deal with the daily challenges.

John Muir, the Scottish born American conservationist and founder of the National Parks movement, once wrote;

‘Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flow’s into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves.’

I really couldn’t put it any better.