This is a picture of The Sandy Hole, showing the river in full flow and the fish ladder installed by Clondalkin Anglers Association to assist fish to get upriver from the ponds downstream.
The image on the left is of a Grey Heron, a native species which breeds in the heronry at the Rose Garden in nearby Corkagh Park.
The next image is of a pair of Mallards, quite commonly seen on the lakes and in in the river. The female is brown and not eye catching, a help to be inconspicuous while sitting on a nest. The male Mallard has much more vivid plumage, a common trait in ducks.
The image on the right is of a Little Egret, a species relatively new to Ireland, having only arrived about 30 years ago from the continent. It originally bred in the south east and is now spreading west and north along the coasts. (Note it's bright yellow feet, which is uses to stir up the river bed and startle small fishes and invertebrates which it then feeds on).
Thanks to Brendan Kneafsey, Clondalkin Camera Club member, for the use of these photographs of the wildlife you can expect to see along the river.
Top Row = Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, Little Egret, Egretta garzetta, (note it's bright yellow feet!), Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Nymphalis urticate,
Bottom Row = Blue Tit, Parus caeruleus, Dipper, Cinclus cinclus, Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis.
Thanks to Kevin Keogh, Clondalkin Camera Club member, for the use of these photographs of the birds you can expect to see along the river.
Left to right, Little Egret Egretta garzetta fishing, Little Egret (note his yellow feet) with Grey Heron Ardea cinera in the background for size comparison 60 cms v 95 cms, Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinema.
Bottom picture shows a Dipper Cinclus cinclus
The Camac River, the ‘Drinker’
I was born in 1957 and grew up on the Commons Road in Clondalkin village. The Camac River - also known as the Drinker, or the Sandy-hole, depending on which era you were born into. In my childhood we nicknamed it - the Drinker. The River was synonymous with all aspects of our childhood. She meandered snakelike through fields and farmlands through Corkagh demesne, a vast area of woodlands, corn fields, bamboo-lands, ponds and lakes, dotted with old buildings along the way.
There were several Mills situated along the Drinker River, and in its heyday She gave life to the Mills, powered by water-wheels in situated ponds beside each Mill. As children the old ruins were great places to climb and cross over the river. In the village of Clondalkin the Drinker ran its course by the Paper Mills – which brought it back to its original name – the Camac River. Down through the decades many people were employed by the Paper Mills. Heading South the Drinker cut right through Corkagh demesne, where there were further old buildings, such as the gunpowder Mills and adjoining grave sites. We were told stories of an explosion that killed and wounded many of the menfolk that worked there from the village (1700s). Also, that it was haunted by the ‘Devil’, himself! And he was said to appear on many an occasion surrounding the old Mill and gravesite. As children you would be terrified to walk past on your own, but the pull of trying to find the lads would be too great, as you searched for them near the Mill, quickening your pace into a sprint as you went by.
The Drinker was our very own pathway into a vast playground that ran through to Corkagh Demesne, where we hunted rabbits, collected mushrooms at dawn and dusk (which both went into a stew for our dinners), and of course - fished. Over the generations the River held many a story, including my own. Geographically we measured the distance between the Commons road and the Drinker at approximately two and a half fields away – Billy Dowling’s and Mr Murphy’s fields divided by Corkagh lane. My childhood years were the 60s and the 70’s, which were spent roaming River and the fields to Corkagh Demesne. And our gateway from the Commons Road was across Jack Byrnes field to the entrance at the start of Corkagh lane, where the gypsies set their canvas tents on blackberry ditches that aligned Corkagh. Initially I was afraid walking by them as they sat with open stick fire, with blackened cooking utensil hanging over it, on boughs of broken branches. But after a while we got to know them and greeted each other with a nod or a wave.
Growing up on the Commons Road, we were told that in wintertime that a dam burst-open as far away as Newcastle in Co Dublin (but it was actually much further away) which flooded the fields adjoined to the Drinker. This was the most magical time for all us children, for when the cold weather arrived, and Jack Frost set his tentacles, icicles formed on the banks of the Drinker. The deeper we went into winter - hardened ice formed on the overflowed fields, which now turned into a joint ice-ring. The Drinker had a sheet of ice covering it, and you could look through, as if a window, and see her fast flowing waters beneath. The auld-fella’s old leather shoes were turned into an ideal ski for me. And time stood still - for hours on end we played and skied, and wished, oh so wished, this could last for forevermore.
And depending on your age, you were drawn to different parts of the river. As very young children you would play at the southern end, known as the Sandy-hole, for it was only about a foot in depth, and had a sandy-like feel to the bottom of it. The waters was crystal clear, without any weeds. The cattle also drank from this spot, when eventually those pesky kids returned home for their teas!
Heading further north on the river, as up in age you went, you would swim in deeper, faster flowing waters, and fish for red-breasted pinkeens, but you always had to look out for a horrible blood-sucker-like-creature, with black funnel-like mouth, and slimy to the touch, which would latch on, and suck the lifeblood out of you (so we were told). We ingeniously made nets for fishing from our mothers discarded stockings and wire coat hangers crafted into a loop to hold the net together, tied onto a bamboo cane harvested from bamboo-land up by Corkagh Demesne to form our fishing nets.
In adolescence you progressed onto a fishing rod, sometimes made up from similar materials, such as a longer bamboo cane, with catgut for a line and a juicy maggot held tight on a hook, then dropped onto the rivers floor, awaiting a spotted trout, or red-breast perch to feather-swim-by and gulp the worm down, for me then to whip the line furiously, and hopefully, hook the fish, which was a bit like fly-fishing in its day!
I had my near death experiences on the river too. I nearly drowned on a few occasions. We were always warned on many an occasion by mother to stay away from the river, especially the deeper parts. But the river was a beacon for all the kids in the surrounding areas. On one occasion when swimming, I had been sucked in by whirlpool and was being dragged under – again and again. I was very small, maybe about six years of age. I knew I was in deep trouble and was tiring quickly. I distinctly heard an inner voice, which told me to grab onto the overhanging tree branches above, which I did, and She then gave me up!
Those fantastic memories, and many more of the Camac River (the Drinker) slipstreams into my consciousness and soothes away my pains today.
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