Days drawing in but what a summer we had

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Each weekday morning my alarm clock goes off at five o’clock and from this week, I have found myself having to switch on the light in the bathroom, a sure sign for me, that the days are getting shorter, which got me reminiscing of the good old summer of 2013. Mixed Blessings - Kevin Blessing

Each weekday morning my alarm clock goes off at five o’clock and from this week, I have found myself having to switch on the light in the bathroom, a sure sign for me, that the days are getting shorter, which got me reminiscing of the good old summer of 2013.

Mixed Blessings - Kevin Blessing

It’s a great county we live in when the weather is good. In fact, I don’t think there’s a better place on God’s green earth on even a semi-decent day.

As you may know, I am not long back from a trip to the States for my honeymoon. We were lucky enough to see some great sights and meet some interesting people, but it all pales into insignificance when compared to ‘Lovely Leitrim’ on a sunny day.

Having been out and about when the good weather hit, I have to say I count myself lucky to live in our county. The good atmosphere, the good humour, the burnt backs, the farmers’ tans, the smell of fresh cut grass, the melting ice creams and the kids flying around on bikes - my five year old twin nieces, Abi and Millie learned how to cycle without the stabilisers for the first time during the sunny spell.

It seems hard to believe that just a few months ago, we were deep in the depths of the worst fodder crisis in years to hit the country. While driving home from work this summer, it was a real pleasure to see the farmers of the region in overdrive to get the hay in. There was an almost palpable air of excitement coming off the balers and tractors flying from field to field. You could tell the farmers were delighted with this much needed change in fortunes. But it’s far from all sorted for them.

Unfortunately for many farmers across our county, they didn’t get to enjoy the financial savings that the heatwave brought the farming sector this summer. Making hay is considerably cheaper than making silage, but for many farmers across the region, even with the hay-making weather of recent months, the issue of storage became a factor. Round bales of silage can be stored in open fields as they are tightly wrapped and protected from all sorts of harsh weather conditions, however hay cannot absorb the elements in the same way, and need to be stored in a shed.

And while it was great to see the air of excitement across the meadows of the county, I was taken by the size and speed of the machinery being used. There were not so many farmers saving hay with a pitch fork in 2013, even square bales have become a bit of a rarity. Big balers and big machinery is what’s being used nowadays. It’s easy to see how so many farm accidents occur with this kind of kit being used at such speed.

And speaking of making hay, the tourism sector of the county got a welcome boost from the good weather this summer, with the visitors to our county staying longer and spending more.

Carrick On Shannon was like something out of the Italian Riviera this summer. It’s was fantastic to see such a welcome boost which came on the heels of all the 400 birthday celebrations and Connacht Fleadh in the town; no more than the farmers, the good weather provided a much needed boost for the sector.

Failte Ireland claimed the good weather was worth around 10 million euro a year to the sector. And Leitrim never looked lovelier than it did this summer in the good weather, our most picturesque little county never looked so beautiful or boosted of its beauty so well. I am sure the powers that be will have taken lots of promotional pictures and videos of our tourism facilities during the heatwave to promote our county going forward.

But one thing disappointed me. Our county seemed to empty of local people from Leitrim that weren’t busy baling or selling cappuccinos to tourists.

Every man, woman and child in the county with the time and wherewithall to pack a bucket and spade into the car, seemed to head to the nearest beach in Sligo or Donegal quicker than you could say ‘sunscreen, towels, shorts’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of sand between my toes, I love a swim in the sea and I would be the first to accept we are blessed with a range of wonderful beaches in our neighbouring counties.

The bit that annoys me is that when my sisters went for a day out to Corry Strand, between Drumkeerin and Dowra during the heatwave, there was no one there!!

They were literally by themselves with the kids. Now they came home amazed, that this hidden gem was left to themselves, and they loved it. But it put me to thinking about all the lovely lakes and rivers we have across the county, all great swimming spots where you can cool down with fresh clean water flowing over you.

I know the kids will want to go the beach and that’s fine, but we should be exploring and our own county and we should be the ones flocking to our hidden gems that ‘Lovely Leitrim’ has to offer.

If we don’t believe in the resources and assets we have ourselves, how are we ever going to get tourists to enjoy them?