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Marley Park

Marley Park is a pleasant park in south county Dublin (in Ireland), (Rathfarnham, to be precise) at the foot of the inappropriately named Dublin/Wicklow mountains. It used to be an old estate; the main house is still there (and may actually be open to the public at this stage), and has been renovated by apprentice builders, decorators etc. on FÁS schemes. It also has several groundsmans cottages and gatekeepers lodges dotted around the place, in varying states of disrepair.

Major features of the park include a 9-hole golf course, a BMX track and a super playground. I remember when the playground was officially opened... it has a kinda assault course theme, with climbing frames, tunnels, rickety rope-bridges... unfortunately, going back there at 18, I realised that the rope bridge wasn't even as high as my shoulder, and that the tunnel was probably full of rat poo. There's also a model train track; the train ran on sundays during the summer time, and it was a pretty cool ride....again, only if you're about 5 or 6.

Another feature of Marley is the courtyard beside the old house, which contains a café, and several craft shops, who sell "artistic" tat in clay, wood, metal or glass to unsuspecting American tourists. The craft yard has nice wooden benches, and peacocks, which make it a pleasant place to sit and drink coffee and think deep thoughts. When it's not raining, that is. And if you don't mind the noise the peacocks make; they're beautiful looking creatures, granted, but they make the most annoying noise...

Marley park is also a popular spot for hikers, being the start of the Wicklow Way, which is one of the most popular hiking routes in the country. Starting at Marley, you can walk through boggy hills for six hours, get mauled by feral goats and irate sheep, and end up staying in a desolate youth hostel miles from nowhere. But at least the route is well signposted, so you'll always know where you're lost. Also on the plus side, there's some beautiful scenery, as well as a helicopter-equipped mountain rescue team.

As to the flora and fauna of Marley...well, there are a few streams and ponds in the park, usually populated by mallard ducks, the odd swan, and even the occasional child-terrorising goose. I've never noticed any fish in the water at all, so I can't comment on that. There's also the usual assortment of robins, wrens, miscellaneous corvids and blackbirds twittering around, too. Mammal-wise, there are grey and red squirrels, rabbits, probably most types of nasty rodent living around.

Plant-wise, it's mostly grass. There are some flower-beds in front of the great house, too. Apart from that, there's a lot of mainly deciduous woods, including sycamore, birch and oak. There's usually several varieties of mint growing in the ditches, alongside nettles and other irritants.

The most important plant that grows in Marley, as far as I was concerned, was the Liberty Cap Mushroom. In Ireland, it's illegal to cultivate mushies, and illegal to gather them for the purposes of getting high, but it's also illegal to spray fields with fungicide to prevent their growth. So my friends and I would gobble about 150 at a time, and run through the woods, hallucinating. It reminded me an awful lot of the video for A Forest by The Cure.

If, however, you're looking for something a bit more healthy, there are plenty of soccer and GAA pitches dotted around Marley, complete with goalposts. There's even a hockey club, Three Rock Rovers, and the local rugby club train in the park too.

With all those rodents, bikers, golfers, hippies, groundskeepers and craftsmen around, you'd think there wouldn't be much room for anything alse in Marley. But, no! Recently Marley has become a music venue; acts to have played there include Sting, David Grey, Santana, UB40 and (eurgh.....) Westlife. Dame David Bowie is rumored to be playing there this summer, too.

So, if you ever find yourself at a loose end in Dublin, grab your BMX bike, golf clubs, hiking boots and hippie flares, and come to beautiful Marley Park, to tune in, turn on and drop out. You'll just love it the most, baby.

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