Penguin in the woods / Pingouin dans les bois

On Friday when Squirrel came out of school, his little face was beaming with pride and excitement. He had been bestowed the honour of bringing Penguin home for the weekend.

Penguin is a hand puppet, and the class lovey. He lives in a yellow plastic briefcase, with his travel journal and his toothbrush. He spends one weekend with each pupil from the class. And Squirrel’s turn had come.

Needless to say, Penguin had a busy weekend. After a quiet Friday afternoon (they watched Chicken Little together) and a good night’s sleep, Squirrel brought Penguin along for our family swim on Saturday, before a lovely tea party back home.

But the highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly our woodland adventure on Sunday afternoon. With us, Penguin explored a part of Djouce Woods, Co Wicklow, we had never seen before.

Starting from the Calary car park (weirdly, the way in is blocked by huge boulders so cars must park on the roadside), we had hardly walked a dozen metres into the forest when Jedi and Mermaid spotted frogspawn just off the trail.

I knew the season for frogspawn had started, but I didn’t expect to see it so soon, and so often. Every puddle, every rivulet , every brook and creek, were spattered with jelly-like blobs.

Further on we caught our first glimpse of the magnificent Powerscourt Waterfall, on the opposite side of the valley. 

We observed through binoculars a helicopter of the Irish Coast Guard flying overhead, for what was most likely an exercise manoeuvre with the Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue.*


Quand Ecureuil sortit de l’école vendredi après-midi, son petit visage rayonnait de fierté et d’excitation. Il avait l’immense honneur d’emmener Pingouin à la maison pour le weekend.

Pingouin est une marionnette et le doudou de la classe. Il vit dans une mallette jaune en plastique avec son journal de bord et sa brosse à dents. Il passe un weekend avec chacun des élèves de la classe. Le tour d’Ecureuil était venu.

Il va sans dire que Pingouin a eu un weekend bien rempli. Après un vendredi après-midi tranquille (ils ont regardé Chicken Little ensemble) et une bonne nuit de sommeil, Ecureuil a emmené Pingouin avec nous à la piscine le samedi après-midi, avant un goûter exquis de retour à la maison.

Mais le temps fort du weekend fut sans aucun doute notre aventure en forêt de dimanche après-midi. Avec nous, Pingouin a exploré une partie des bois de Djouce, Co Wicklow, jusqu’alors inconnue.

Au départ du parking Calary (curieusement, l’entrée est barrée par d’énormes rochers, si bien que les voitures doivent se garer en bord de route), nous avions à peine fait une douzaine de mètres quand Jedi et Sirène ont repéré du frai de grenouille à quelques mètres du sentier.

Je savais que la saison de ponte des grenouilles avait commencé, mais jamais je n’aurais cru en voir si rapidement, ni si souvent. Chaque flaque, rigole ou mare était maculée d’œufs transparents.

Plus loin, la majestueuse cascade de Powerscourt apparut entre les arbres, sur le versant opposé de la vallée. 

Nous avons observé avec des jumelles un hélicoptère des gardes-côtes d’Irlande qui tournoyait au-dessus de nos têtes, probablement pour une manœuvre avec les équipes de secours en montagne de Dublin et Wicklow. *

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, mapPowerscourt Waterfall, Wicklow, Djouce, woodlandPowerscourt Waterfall, Wicklow, free-range kids, explore

Walking on through the woods, we came across a lovely little den, complete with a circle of stones beside it for a pretend fire. The acorns immediately decided this was going to be our picnic spot.

While Brian prepared the stove to cook some noodles, the acorns set about building their camp, gathering more sticks and soft green moss to cover the den.

Jedi got to try out at last the newly-bought folding hand saw on a fallen tree nearby; Mermaid and Squirrel quickly followed suit.  


Poursuivant notre chemin à travers bois, nous sommes tombés sur une jolie petite cabane entre les arbres, avec un cercle de pierres sur le côté pour un feu de camp imaginaire. Les graines de chêne décidèrent immédiatement que ce serait notre coin pique-nique.

Pendant que Brian allumait le réchaud pour préparer des nouilles, les graines de chêne aménagèrent le campement, ramassant branches et brindilles pour la cabane, et de la mousse verte bien douce pour la recouvrir.

Jedi put enfin essayer la scie égoïne toute neuve sur les branches d’un arbre tombé tout près. Sirène et Ecureuil ne tardèrent pas à prendre le relais.

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland

Rain shower through the trees / Averse de pluie à travers les arbres.

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For the first time, Jedi and Mermaid lit a camp fire without any help, only close supervision.  


Pour la première fois, Jedi et Sirène ont réussi à allumer un feu de camp sans aucune aide, seulement une surveillance rapprochée.

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, bushcraftDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodlandDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodlandDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, campfire

Soon after lunch (which Squirrel shared with Penguin, of course!), we put out the fire and went on exploring.

On reaching the Paddock Ponds, now dry, we turned back to follow the narrow mountain bike trail along the Dargle River. After the recent rainfall the path was very muddy, if not totally flooded. Frogspawn was everywhere.

While the boys hesitantly touched it with the tip of their fingers, Mermaid stuck both hands into it, and lifted it out the water. 

Only later did we find out that tampering with frogspawn is actually illegal in Ireland. Better instead to fill out a report card for the IPCC‘s Frog Survey.


Peu après le pique-nique (qu’Ecureuil partagea avec Pingouin, bien sûr !), le feu fut soigneusement éteint et l’exploration put reprendre.

Atteignant les étangs à sec, nous sommes repartis en sens inverse le long d’une piste de VTT qui suit la rivière Dargle. Après les pluies récentes, le sentier était boueux, si ce n’est inondé. Il y avait des œufs de grenouille partout.

Tandis que les garçons les effleuraient du bout des doigts, Sirène plongea les deux mains dans le frai et le sortit de l’eau.

Il s’avéra plus tard qu’il est illégal de toucher au frai de grenouille en Irlande. Mieux vaut remplir un relevé d’observation pour l’étude annuelle du Conseil irlandais de préservation des tourbières (IPCC).

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, Paddock Ponds

Paddock Ponds / Etangs à sec

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, Dargle, riverDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, frogspawnDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, frogspawn Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, frogspawnDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, frogspawn

Walking along with Pebbles, Penguin took an unfortunate dip in a muddy puddle. He then spent the rest of the walk travelling in Brian’s backpack.

Squelching our way along narrow trails and through prickly gorse bushes about to blossom, we returned to the car with mud-caked boots, and stories galore to write down in Penguin’s travel journal.


Sur le chemin du retour vers la voiture, Pingouin marchait avec Caillou quand il prit une culbute malencontreuse dans une flaque de boue. Il passa le reste de la balade à l’abri dans le sac à dos de Brian.

Pataugeant sur des sentes étroites et entre des ajoncs épineux presqu’en fleurs, nous sommes arrivés au parking avec des chaussures crottées et une foison d’anecdotes à écrire dans le journal de bord de Pingouin.

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, foraging, gorseDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodlandDjouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland

Djouce, Wicklow, Great Sugar Loaf

Great Sugar Loaf

*Two days later, this very helicopter, R116, inexplicably crashed off the west coast of Ireland during a rescue operation – all 4 crew were killed in the accident.


*Deux jours plus tard, ce même hélicoptère, dénommé R116, s’écrasa sans explication au large de la côte ouest de l’Irlande, lors d’une opération de sauvetage. Les quatre membres d’équipage disparurent dans l’accident.

Djouce, Wicklow, hiking, forest, woodland, frogspawn

Hop To It Frog Survey

Every year the Irish Peatland Conservation Council needs the help of people all over Ireland to record where frogs, spawn and tadpoles occur in the country.

The Hop To It Irish Frog Survey began in 1997. The IPCC have frog records from every county in Ireland. Volunteer recorders have returned over 4,500 frog records since the survey began. The information has been databased by the IPCC so that it can be used by researchers and conservationists to help our understanding of the status of frogs in Ireland and to take any steps necessary to ensure their survival.

This 2015 article from The Journal.ie has more information – ‘Please don’t touch the spawn – it’s really bad for the frogs and it’s also very illegal.’

Visitor information

Coillte OutdoorsDjouce Woods once formed part of the Powerscourt Estate, formally owned by Sir Richard Wingfield, Viscount Powerscourt. Between 1830–40 he had numerous roads and drives surveyed and constructed, such as Lady’s Drive and Earl’s Drive, which are now part of the forest’s network of trails. He also constructed the Paddock Ponds, which were the water source for the famous Powerscourt fountains. Unfortunately the earth dam which formed the ponds was breached during hurricane Charlie and has not been reinstated. The remains of the boat house built into the bank can be seen on the western side of the ponds. 

The routes and trails in this forest offer excellent views over the valley of the Dargle River, all the way to the Powerscourt Waterfall and to Djouce Mountain (alt. 725m), which lies to the southwest in the Wicklow Mountain National Park.

Getting there

Travelling northbound (Dublin) on the N11, take Exit 8 (Kilmacanogue), then the first exit on the roundabout, signposted for Roundwood and Glendalough (R755). At the next roundabout, take the second exit and continue straight ahead on the R755.
Travelling southbound (Wexford) on the N11, take Exit 8 (Kilmacanogue), immediately after the Topaz petrol station, following signposts to Roundwood and Glendalough (R755). At the roundabout, take the last exit, to Kilmacanogue and Roundwood (R755). At the next roundabout, take the first exit for the R755.

Follow the R755 until a fork in the road. Turn right onto the R760, signposted for Powerscourt Waterfall and Glencree Drive. At the first junction, take a sharp left onto the L1035, signposted for Roundwood. The Calary car park is 2.5km up this road on the right-hand side. Please note that it is actually closed, so cars have to park on the roadside.


Relevé amphibien

IPCC, Irish Peatland Conservation CouncilChaque année, le Conseil irlandais de préservation des tourbières (Irish Peatland Conservation Council) compte sur l’aide bénévole du public pour signaler les emplacements de grenouilles, frai et tétards dans tout le pays.

Ce relevé national a débuté en 1997. L’IPCC a depuis reçu des rapports de tous les comtés d’Irlande – quelque 4500 depuis le début de l’étude. Ces informations ont été compilées dans une base de données qui permet aux chercheurs et aux défenseurs de l’environnement d’établir un état des lieux de la population amphibienne d’Irlande, mais aussi de prendre les mesures nécessaires à sa survie.

Cet article de 2015 publié par The Journal.ie donne d’autres informations : “Veuillez ne pas toucher le frai : c’est mauvais pour les grenouilles et c’est aussi illégal.”

En savoir plus

Les bois de Djouce faisaient jadis partie du domaine de Powerscourt. Entre 1830 et 1840, Sir Richard Wingfield, vicomte de Powerscourt, fit étudier et construire plusieurs routes et chemins, dont Lady’s Drive and Earl’s Drive, qui sont maintenant incorporés au réseau d’accès de la forêt. Il fit aussi édifier les étangs Paddock Ponds, qui alimentaient en eau les célèbres fontaines de Powerscourt. Malheureusement, le barrage en terre qui formait les étangs, détruit par l’ouragan Charlie, n’a jamais été rétabli. Les vestiges du hangar à bateau sont encore visibles sur le côté ouest. 

Les sentiers et pistes des bois de Djouce offre une belle vue sur la vallée de la rivière Dargle, jusqu’à la cascade de Powerscourt et Djouce Mountain (alt. 625 m), qui se dresse au sud-ouest dans le Parc national des Monts de Wicklow.

S’y rendre

Circulant en direction du nord (Dublin) sur la N11, prenez la sortie 8 (Kilmacanogue) puis, au rond-point, la première sortie, en direction de Roundwood et Glendalough (R755). Au deuxième rond-point, prenez la deuxième sortie et continuez tout droit sur la R755.
Circulant en direction du sud (Wexford) sur la N11, prenez la sortie 8 (Kilmacanogue), tout de suite après la station service Topaz, et suivez les panneaux indiquant Roundwood et Glendalough (R755). Au rond-point, prenez la dernière sortie pour Roundwood et Glendalough (R755). Au rond-point suivant, prenez la première sortie pour la R755.

Continuez sur la R755. A la fourche, tournez à droite sur la R760 et suivez les panneaux pour Powerscourt Waterfall et Glencree Drive. A la prochaine intersection, là où la R760 vire à droite, continuez tout droit sur une route secondaire, signalée pour Powerscourt Waterfall et Glencree Drive.

A la première intersection, tournez à gauche sur la route L1035, signalée pour Roundwood. Le parking Calary se trouve à 2,5 km sur la droite. A noter qu’il est fermé et que les véhicules doivent stationner sur le bas-côté.

 

 

13 Responses to “Penguin in the woods / Pingouin dans les bois

  • All that frogspawn! How fantastic. We love den building, and I am coveting your folding saw! What a great place for a lovely family adventure #countrykidsfun
    Sonia Cave recently posted…Aspö Adventure – Exploring Our Archipelago.

  • We have been out spotting frogspawn too, in fact it will be my post for Country Kids next weekend. the streams are filled right now and we have tadpoles too. Well done the kids on their campfire and an amazing looking den. I bet the class Penguin has never been on such an exciting outing before. The views are stunning, what a wonderful spot to explore.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #Countrykids
    Fiona Cambouropoulos recently posted…Farmer Nick Spies New Kids on the Block

    • Thanks Fiona for the lovely comment! Looking forward to reading your post about frogspawn, tadpoles, etc. I find this fascinating, nevermind the kids! x

  • That waterfall in the distance looks amazing, as does your wall in all honesty. Beautiful countryside. Well done on the fire making too. Seeing frogspawn never ceases to excite me. My son got to see it in the school pond last week and he was beside himself telling me all about it. #CountryKids
    Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One recently posted…Dig In! from Drumond Park – review and giveaway

    • The waterfall, the highest in Ireland, is part of the Powerscourt Estate, and it is one of our favourite local hangouts too.
      I too find frogspawn fascinating. It is something I never saw growing up in France.

  • We looked after the class teddy a few weeks ago, it’s such a lovely opportunity to take them on a fun adventure! That den looks great!
    The Princess and The Pickle recently posted…A year in photos: 19th March 2017

    • We looked after class teddies before, but Squirrel was never all that interested. He was so proud when his teacher read out to the class our entry in the travel journal and showed them the photos of the weekend 🙂

  • Wow! I reckon Penguin had a pretty awesome time staying with you guys for the weekend! What wonderful scenery! I was very sad to read about the helicopter crash though, how awful :-(. #TuesdayTreasures

    • We are spoilt for breathtaking scenery in Wicklow, feeling grateful for it every day.
      Seeing that helicopter some 36 hours before it crashed has affected me/us in an unexpected way. The whole country is in shock still.

  • We spotted frogspawn for the first time last weekend – I’d been trying to find some near us as I don’t think the girls had ever seen it before. Love the den building and well done to Mermaid and Jedi on building the camp fire by themselves. Sounds like Penguin had a wonderful adventure. How sad to read about the helicopter crash though – such a tragedy. #countrykids

    • Well done on spotting some frogspawn! I had seen it before that day but never touched it. The kids’ bushcraft skills are coming along great, so proud of them!
      We’ll all been deeply saddened by the helicopter crash, especially after seeing in action, so to speak, only two days prior.

  • I haven’t seen any frogspawn for years, I have fond memories from childhood of spotting it and the tadpoles that followed. That waterfall is stunning. It looks like you had a day full of adventure. Thanks for linking up with #TuesdayTreasures.
    Angela Webster recently posted…How To Spring Clean Your Finances And Save Yourself Money

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