By Róisín Byrne, Landscape Architect & Seoidín O’Sullivan, Artist
First exploration, Belmayne.
We meet at Base Camp, by the wall. The children receive and wear high-viz vests, and get a safety briefing. We are Belmayne youth group, we stick together. When Seoidín, Noah and I get there, we hand out the flags that the children have made. The flags give strong visible presence to our exploration theme. Each child has named the place that they have chosen to take us to and represent this place with a flag that they have designed.
We also share our Explorer Kits we have brought with the children. These contain a very small notepad, magnifying glass, binoculars and a pencil. Also in the pack, a small map which shows Belmayne and the places the children have chosen to explore. We have made a route, which leads North from our Base Camp, and takes us in an anti-clockwise direction around Belmayne.
Firstly, Adam brings us to The Courtyard, there are cars parked and beautiful trees in the Autumn colours. We must speak quietly, so as not to wake up the neighbours. Some open the windows to see what’s going on. Adam tells us he plays there and sets his flag down by a Birch tree.
We head out of the courtyard and head East and then South, as Jasmine leads us down to BowTree. Here we take out our binoculars and our magnifying glasses to see the lichen and to see up into the tree with its autumn leaves. Any insects and birds? No, but it is so nice to look into the colours on this bright autumn day. The tree is a small-leaved Lime tree and we tell the children that lichen is a sign that the air is clean. Bows or ribbons and rags used to be tied on to trees in Ireland to make wishes and prayers at special trees. Jasmine has picked a random spot on the map she was not sure what she would find but she was willing to lead us here, to an unexplored place.
Megan and Archie bring us South into The Field. They have named this site The War Field Dun Dun Dun (Megan) and The Useless Field (Archie). The field is a privately owned space and is fenced off and gated. Lately it has been opened temporarily. Megan says one of her friend’s Mom cut the lock. Nobody is in it when we arrive. We must be careful not to step on dog poo. Alison tells us there were cornfields here 20 years ago. The blank space is easy for children to imagine new things in. Simply, Goal Posts. Or a playground, a Youth Centre, maybe. But it will be built on, they say. We don’t know when.
Noah takes us South and then East, to a place called The Flat Green Place. Another unexplored place. When we get there there’s much evidence remaining of the bonfires from Halloween, two weeks before. Charred black shopping trolleys, beds, and even a phone and other debris. There are mixed feelings about this place, ‘fascinating’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘it’s sad that they have cleared everywhere else but not here’, ‘we will have to organise clearing it ourselves or it just won’t be done’.
Emilia’s secret garden remains a secret for now.
Freddy and Beth take us East, to The Pizza Place and the Glorious Chipper. The children come here with family and friends. Clearly liked, Pizza, Pizza Pizza Chips Chips Chips…perhaps getting hungry now, but at 12 O’Clock on a Sunday, both places are closed.
Sorcha takes us North again, to Yams Spice Bag. Not many of the children have been here. She comes for the spice bags, she tells us they are very nice.
We cross the road carefully. The road is very busy here, and people do not go at the speed the sign says which is 15 km/h. We cross to the other side as it is the site of the new proposed schools. In the background, Priory Hall. We talk about pyrite and Priory Hall. We ask the children what they know. ‘Problems with fire safety, pyrite, people had to leave their homes’. ‘They are getting rebuilt’.
And around here? Yes, some of the children in Belmayne have had to move temporarily, while work was being done to remove the pyrite from the floors of the houses here.
Edward and Matthew bring us further North, to a place James has marked on the map as The Pointless Place. A yet undiscovered place, Edward and Matthew pick a spot for us to stop where they can set down their flag.
Now we go further along, North, crossing a road, which many, many children cross each morning on their way to school. A zebra-crossing would be nice here, but at least there are speed bumps which slow people down a little, on approach where the children cross.
Into the Park, it’s certainly time for a break, and children have their snack and play in the playground. Then Leyla takes us down the path into the Park, to a place she has not been before. Many children have not been here before, they have not seen the river. This place is named by Leyla as The Useless Piece of Land. The children maybe don’t feel a connection to it. Questions arise as to why this might be…
We go down to the bridge and the children look at the river ‘it’s tiny’ they say. The inevitable trolley, a tyre… ‘Where does it go?’ It goes to Baldoyle Estuary. ‘Where does it come from?’ We think somewhere near Dublin Airport. We walk along the desire line which runs parallel with the River, we see more the messy ecology of the riparian edge. There doesn’t seem to be any birds about today. But the children could hear birds, airplanes flying overhead, and the river. We reach the end of our exploration.
The children say they think pyrite is a mould, disgusting stuff, stuff that causes cracks. Seoidín shows samples of the mineral pyrite. Fools’ Gold. The children were fascinated. They looked at its cuboid form with magnifying glasses and the binoculars. It was time to return to Base Camp. The children run on the slopes on the way back. Still carrying their flags. We part at Base Camp, some playing and others heading home.1