A Circle on a Map

On 27 March 2020 the Irish government put the country in lockdown in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. One stipulation was that people should stray no further than two kilometres from home for the purpose of exercise. The limit was extended to five kilometres on Tuesday. Until then, for six weeks, I had been wandering – usually, though not always, in a clockwise direction – around a space of 12.57 square kilometres. Here is a brief description of my first consideration of that space, and some of the images I’ve collected during the subsequent travels.

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The outer edge of a circle with a two-kilometre radius, centred on Athenry’s Market Square – centred on the fifteenth-century market cross, let’s say, for the sake of precision (and a literal stone’s throw from our front door) – intersects with the M6 motorway at an eight o’clock angle in the townland of Ballygarraun South, close the Teagasc agricultural research centre. From there, running clockwise, it crosses an unbroken kilometre-and-a-half of farmland, before leaping between three roads north of the Raheen Woods Hotel – the little, ring and middle fingers of the outstretched hand. After that, it runs into another arc of farmland, hitting twelve o’clock just shy of the abandoned railway line to Tuam. Then it begins its steepening descent through a townland called Ballydavid South, crossing the Monivea road, the Clarin River and the Galway-Dublin main line. At three o’clock it slices through the Esker road near Pollacappul, then swings south and intersects with the motorway once more at exactly six o’clock, just where the Craughwell road passes beneath it. From here, it curves back towards the start, closely matched by a minor road – yellow on the map – that joins the old Galway road right across from the agricultural research centre.
I looked at that circle as it appeared on the map, laid across my desk. Everything outside it was off-limits for now. Within it, the orange and yellow of the roads divided little slices of pale green countryside (on this scale, the map did not show the field boundaries – and there were no footpaths, of course). Within those little green slices lay a scattering of unfamiliar names: Kingsland, North and South; Farranablake, East and West; Mulpit, Gorteenacra. There were a few features too: two or three little dabs of woodland, coniferous and deciduous; feeder streams, running in from the east to join the Clarin; a smattering of archaeological relics named in red – “Holy Well”, “Mound”, “Fulacht Fia”; and eleven tiny red pimples, circles within the circle – ringforts, I supposed.
I looked at the circle on the map, at the space within it. Twelve-and-a-half square kilometres – a vast, undiscovered country.

© Tim Hannigan 2020

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