Unfortunately, St. Anne’s Park does not have any “official” trails. You are offered a great number of different paths, each one will offer you a surprise of a pond, a stream, a rose garden garden, or an “old ruin” – one of the ten garden follies.
One “unofficial” trail has been recommended by J. Shannon, the Park’s Superintendent – The Saint Anne’s Trail (detailed information on this trail is published on Clontarf Online website).
The map above will help you orientate yourself (click on the picture below to view and print a large map of Saint Anne’s park).
The long beds contain the shrub and species roses which gave rise to the modern Hybrid Teas and Floribundas so popular to-day.
Their flowering period is not so long, but their hips are very attractive which more than compensate for this. Walking around the garden you will see a wide selection of very popular modern Hybrid Tea and Floribunda Roses.
The Beech hedges used to create shelter and space division are worth noting and also the groups of Lime trees planted at the entrance points to the Garden.
Arriving at the Main Avenue, this avenue is one mile long and is flanked on either side by alternate plantings of Quercus ilex (Holm Oak), Pinus nigra austriaca and Pinus radiata (Monterey Pine). Lord and Lady Ardilaun were lovers of trees and had great belts of Holm Oak planted to give shelter from the easterly gale and the salt sea air.
The trees which are now mature provide shelter and warmth in the Park throughout the year. The red squirrel, (Sciurus vulgaris), although slowly pushed out by a more successful grey squirrel, can still sometimes be seen in the Park early in the morning, running from tree to tree, gathering the acorns which he will hide away for the winter months.
Proceeding along the Main Avenue with the Golf Course on the left, the trail turns left towards the ” Clock Tower Garden.”
This Garden is one of a number of small Model Gardens to be developed in the future, showing how soft and hard garden-making materials can be combined to create a pleasant restful atmosphere in a confined space.
Climbing over the Summer House is Wisteria sinensis, an attractive wall shrub with its masses of blue flowers in Spring
Beyond the fine examples of Yew Hedge(Taxus baccata), is the Nursery Garden, where all the plants are propagated for the landscaping in the City Parks. Some 400,000 bedding plants 150,000 shrubs and 20,000 trees are grown there each year.
P.S. You have to visit a Chinese Garden which opened in February 2012. It is not on the map as yet, but you can read more about it in our post “Chinese Garden opens in St.Anne’s Park“.
Passing under the Clock Tower, which is colourful in Autumn due to the climber Parthenocissus quinquefoila (Virginian Creeper) turn left towards the river Nanniken, but first note the attractive shape of the Pine which is thought to be Pinus wallichiana, beside it is Cedrus atlantica – a blue form of this tree which is more spectacular will be seen later.
Having left the formal section of the Park, we are now entering a semi-woodland area. Under the bridge and along by the river. Looking up to the right will be seen a small tree named Cercidiphyllum japonicum which is oftenplanted for its Autumn colour and just beyond, a specimen of Parrotiapersica, also useful for its colour in the Autumn.
It is in this area that most of the wildlife will be seen: Rabbits, Squirrels, Foxes and Hedgehogs.
Passing under the second bridge with its lovely arches and shelter, a fine stand of Beech Trees will be seen with one Sycamore. Beech trees ( Fagus sylvatica) can be recognised by their long brown pointed buds, shiny green leaves and the smooth grey bark of the trunk. beech is used for joinery, furniture and flooring.
Primitive peoples read meanings and symbolisms into plants which have been lost in our civilisation. Beech symbolised Prosperity. Those interested in the folklore of plants should read a re-view on “Irish Folklore” By Mr. Kevin Danaher.
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) here, can be recognised by the peeling of its bark, its leaves always opposite on the twigs, are heart-shaped and cut into five lobes. The flowers of the Sycamore always hang down while those of the Maple (a very close relative ) stand upright. Sycamore symbolises Curiosity.
Having reached the third Bridge the path to the left brings you to the Band Stand, where open air music performances are played in the Summer months.
The path to the right would bring you towards the Sunken Garden, but our trail continues straight on. Further along are Oak trees (Quercus robur), said to symbolise Hospitality, possibly because the Oak shelters the greatest number of of wild-life species- up to 500 in number.
The Oak is recognised by its wavy lobed leaves, the distinct cluster of buds at the tips of the twigs and by the familiar acorn. The Oak has many uses, for furniture, casks and shipbuilding, (Nelson’s famous ship “Victory” was built from Oak ). The bark is used in the curing of leather, brown dye can be made from the sawdust and ink obtained from the galls.
Despite the shade from the trees, a variety of plants will be seen growing here, as nature left to itself will always cover bare earth,and it is from these wild plants that better garden forms are produced to suit similar areas in the garden. Examples are Holly (Ilex aquifolium); Coltsfoots (Tussilago farfara); Ivy (Hedera fragrans); Lauristinus (Viburnum tinus) and many more.
Under the metal bridge and to the right will be seen one of the many shelters that were erected to provide cover for visitors, should it rain while they were out for a stroll. Further along its old Pump House (No longer in use ) which housed the to the equipment to ensure a supply of water to the Guinness residence in years gone by.
It was the Ardilauns who made this pond with the two islands in the centre, these island now provide shelter and nesting areas for Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and Water-hen (Gallinula chloropus). Walking around the Marina, an Observation Tower can be seen on the mound and lower down, to the left, is the Holy Well of St. Anne,which has been dry for many years.
In the area, some examples of tree roots can be seen. Notice in particular the fallen Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) which is still alive, holding on by just a few roots.
Leaving the Pond , you may turn right and move along the “Chestnut Walk” or turn left, which will take you to the Coast Road. The View from this path is of the North Bull Island, which is approximately 150 years old, containing a three-mile long beach and it is also a Bird Sanctuary. Many of the may be seen in the Park, particularly curlews (Numenius arquata), oyster catchers (Haematopus ostralegus) and the more common gull (Laridae) family.
Along this route are Elm Trees (Ulmus glabra) recognised by the rough oval-shaped leaves, the red flowers are conspicuous in Spring and seed surrounded by the papery membrane can be seen in autumn. The lobes of the leaves are always uneven.
“‘Tis a wedge of the Elm that splits its itself” is an old proverb referring to the toughness of the wood, so it is used for packing cases, furniture and coffins. It symbolises Dignity.
The Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) which is said to symbolise Grandeur, can be recognised by its black buds and leaves which have 4 to 7 pairs of leaflets up to 3 inches long. The fruit is often called a “Key” because of its shape. The wood of the Ash is used in the making of hurleys, as well as handles for tools and furniture. Ash trees were commonly found in churchyards, as it was said “A fire of Ash will banish the Devil.”
The horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) can be recognised by palmate leaves of 5 leaflets and the horseshoe shaped leaf scar and the brown sticky buds. Cattle and deer will eat the chestnuts but horses will not touch them, though in Turkey they were fed to horses to cure them of several diseases including shortness of wind and cough.
The wood is soft and has little value, it is used mainly for kitchen tables. Approaching the Sunken Garden is the Blue form of Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ (Atlantic Cedar) mentioned earlier, which stands out clearly against the Autumn colour of the Horse Chestnut.
This area contains a Pool, Rockery and a Sunken Lawn from which the name of the area is derived. To the right of the Rockery behind the Weeping Ash (fraxinus excelsior pendula) is a Tower and Bridge, erected by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness to commemorate the birth of his daughter Annie Lee, in 1838.
Climbing the steps of the Rockery, you will notice a large number of silver-leafed plants, these are specially chosen, as they are the most tolerant of the salt sea air.
Leaving the Sunken Garden and approaching the front lawns is a vista to the old walled Flower Garden with the fine Entrance Gated. Framing this vista are Lime Trees (Tilia platyphyllos) recognised by its heart-shaped leaves and the zig-zag effect of its twigs.
As Lime wood has no obvious gain, it was used mainly for piano keys and decorative carving. Grinling Gibbons in the 17th century used it for his master-pieces of wood sculpture.
Here at the Front Lawn is one area where, if you are watchful many birds can be seen, including the Barn Owl (Tyto alba, Long-eared Owl (Asio otus), Curlew (Numenius arquata), Magpie (Pica pica), Sparrow Hawk (Accipiter niaua) and the Kestrel Hawk (Falco Tinnunculus).
To left and right are two trees of Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica purpures) and in the distance a Weeping Elm (Ulmus montana). Approaching our starting point are several Yew trees, (Teaxus baccata), the upright Irish form generally found in graveyards, The red berries as well as the leaves are poisonous. Yew is held to be one of the Longest lived trees. A specimen in Muckross Abbey is said to 900 years Old.
Trees which were a familiar part of our great-grandfathers’ landscape, are still part of ours, familiar neighbours – almost personal friends.
The Tudor-styled Red Stables host day and residential artists’ studios from within Ireland and abroad. They are also home to Tir na nÓg Caife Red Stables, where you can enjoy lovely lunch or tea and one of their delicious cakes.
A Farmers Market takes place in the Courtyard in the Red Stables on Saturdays from 9.00am to 5.00pm so you can also stock up on your favourite jams, artisan bread or fresh fruit and veg.