[Dublin Sounds] An autumnal walk in Dartmouth Square

They are so rare, there is something precious about blue-sky autumn days, aka grab-your-bag-and-get-out days. Don’t stop to ponder, to check that weather app or to invent an excuse: who cares if the skies cover up and it starts lashing once you’re out? By then you’ll have made it out and enjoyed a breath of air that is actually fresh, and won’t just yet freeze a lung upon contact. It’s worth it.

On days like these, I like to explore new places or revisit some of my summer favourites in a different, autumnal light. One of these is definitely Dartmouth Square, a beautiful space in Dublin 6 tucked away between the Canal and Ranelagh.  I used to come here a lot more often when I used to live in the area, but I still occasionally love to spend time here, particularly in the spring.  There is a beautiful old-world feel about the place, and apart from the old dog walker and jogger the park is usually as good as empty.  But instead of a a pic-nic or a reading session, this time around I thought I’d sketch my journey there through a quick audio walk.  You can have a listen below as you read- I have bookmarked some of the sounds into the soundcloud track, see if you can spot them without looking.

The recording actually starts at the Luas [1] (Dublin light rail tram) as it drops me off at Ranelagh.  A rattling lift [2] deposits me at street level, where cars zoom past on the imaginatively named Ranelagh Road, still wet with the rain from the previous night.

Cutting pretty much horizontally across the area, the Luas distinctive woosh is a recurring feature in the Ranelagh soundscape: you can hear it echoing pretty much from  any location, including of course under the rail bridge [3].

Things get considerably quiet as I turn into the Northbrook Road.  This is a high end residential area, beautifully preserved with some gorgeous examples of both Edwardian and Georgian houses.

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Turning into Cambridge Terrace [4] the soundscape is mostly a quiet suburban hum of building work in the distance (more on that later), the odd passer-by, the Luas once again, and a dog barking – at me, as I hold the recorder outside his house.

Approaching Dartmouth Square there is a roundabout with some sporadic traffic, but things get quiet once again as we approach the square, which I should mention isn’t really a square at all- it’s a small park that in theory acts as a shared front garden for the houses built all around it, but is thankfully open to the public. This is thanks to the protests of local residents, who back in 2009 succesfully opposed the obscene plans of a developer to turn this historical location into a car park.  Thankfully, the space is now safely back in the hands of Dublin City Council and the local residents, who have kept it open for all to visit and enjoy.  One rare happy ending to a tale of developers’ greed!  But it seems like they’re back in action…

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As I get to the square, the builders are there too [6].  You can just about spot them dotted around many of the houses that flank the square- which happen to be among the most expensive in the capital.  If sound could tell you something about the economy, this is it: this is the audio equivalent of the cranes dotting the landscape (remember 2002?).  One of them is in a sort of whistling competition with a bird, and I am tempted to go over and ask what he’s singing.

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Here I also can’t resist the temptation to step on some crunchy autumn leaves [5], surely one of the pleasures of autumn (please forgive the muddy boots.)

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Before pushing the original cast iron gate open and closed [8], I pause to enjoy the square’s quiet mix of work and natural life busying itself in and around it [7].

Once inside, I make my way under the covered portico [9], which slices the park in half.

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Sturdy vines are all around and climb up to form a surprisingly architectural-looking dome, that handily doubles up as a rain shelter, as I am able to find out as it soon starts to rain…

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So definitely no pic-nic, open air reading or sprawling out on the grass this time around…but as far as idyllic, soft days go, autumn is hard to beat.

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