The Lovely Lakes of Ballinure.

Described once by local historian, Paddy O’Driscoll as “A part of my heaven”, the islands and lakes at the south western corner of Bessborough, still remain as peaceful tranquil as ever as they silently await their fate.

Located alongside the Bishops Walk, this complex of five wooded islands and lakes, appears to have been constructed by the gardeners on the Bessborough estate from the mid 1800s for the Pike family, who lived in the nearby house for approximately 100 years from 1820.

The construction of the lakes complex likely date from the era of Lydia Pike who married Ebenezer Pike in 1841. They had seven daughters and three sons and the beautiful gardens of Bessborough were created to entertain the Pike children and the many others who visited it in this period. The Pike children used some small canoes to paddle around among the islands.

The islands were in turn linked to each by a series of miniature curved stone bridges, “works of art” according to Paddy, of which just one bridge still exists. Now heavily wooded and overgrown and fenced off, an old entrance stone remains to what must have been an amazing natural wonderland for children in its time. It was a noted breeding ground for the local duck population as the waters of the Douglas Estuary lie just to the south of what was once Bessboro Woods.

Paddy regularly took parties of students and many others through the “nutgroves”, mainly hazelnut trees which provided plenty food for a large red squirrel population on the Bishops Walk. This walk, which contains an old ice/cold house was used by the public and continued through the Bessborough Wood to the Douglas Estuary. It now ends at the wall, where the Southern Ring Road runs alongside the Douglas Estuary. A public pathway outside brings one back to the Blackrock Railway Walk.

At the southern end of this walk was a windmill to pump water to the estate. Known locally as the miniature “Lakes of Killarney”, Paddy always pointed out that these lakes were on the western borders of the old Ballinure townland and were created by local gardeners who lived in Mahon and Ballinure and should really be the Lakes of Ballinure. The townland of Ballinlough begins on the other side of the boundary wall.

What a fantastic amenity this environmental wonderland would still make for the local community and all visitors, if reinstated to its previous condition!

It would indeed be heaven!

Paddy mentioned on a walk he did in June 2003 which was filmed by Frameworks Films that some local people had photographs of the Lakes in the time of the Pikes, we will be delighted to show them if anyone can locate a photograph or indeed have any memories of them.

Published by ferdiaomahony

Writer of local news and history, in the community of Mahon, Blackrock, Cork. Graduated from UCC, with a BA in History and Politics.

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