Winterage is the term used to describe the transhumance practice of moving the cows in the Burren to higher pastures for the winter. Today, I got to participate in this annual practice along with three of my girlfriends from school and many others from surrounding communities.
The 12-kilometer walk began at the O'Donahue's pub in Fanore. We were served delicious homemade scones, chocolate biscuit cake, tea, and coffee post-registration. Before we began the walk, we were allowed to grab a walking stick. Funnily enough, the walking sticks were parts of the hazel bushes that Katie and I helped cut down last weekend while volunteering with the Burrenbeotrust.
After a quick discussion covering health and safety of the walk, Patsy, a local farmer led the group up the hill to meet up with the cows. When we arrived at the group of cattle, a local priest gave a blessing. He prayed over the cows asking that they be kept safe, well-fed, and able to produce calves in the spring.
After the blessing, we walked behind the cows, pushing them up the hill to the pasture where they will live for the next few months. After arriving at the pasture and seeing the cows off, we walked back down into Fanore.
To add to this enriching cultural experience, I met an amazing woman, mother, and grandmother from Connemara. We walked the majority of the trek together discussing life, family, cooking, being vegetarian, artwork, travel, friendship, work, and changes she's seen in Ireland since she was young. Things that were taboo due to the influence of the Catholic church in her upbringing have become normalized. In her opinion, the shift away from the Catholic church's influence has been positive in many aspects, but now there is an absence of spirituality in general, which has aided in the uprise of consumerism. It was a fascinating conversation.
After we said goodbye, the girls and I headed to Ennistymon for groceries. On our way, we stopped to take pictures along the coast. The day was too gorgeous! We couldn't have asked for better weather or a more positive, engaging experience.