The Pipes of Baidhb:
Park at the roadside car park beside the ruins of Tankardstown engine house (N52 08.329 W07 20.640). Walk west along the road for about 400m. At signs warning of unprotected mine shafts cross over the low wall and follow path outwards and eventually down.
The Pipes Are Calling…
This EarthCache can be found along a length of Waterford coastline known as the Copper Coast. The Copper Coast extends between Tramore in the east, to Dungarvan in the west, and comprises six local communities: Fenor, Dunhill, Annestown, Boatstrand, Bunmahon and Stradbally. All are easily accessible along the R675.
This coastline, is without doubt, an outdoor geology museum with a geological heritage that reflects a variety of environments under which the area has evolved over the last 460 million years. Sedimentary and volcanic rocks illustrate the closure of the Iapetus Ocean and subsequent volcanism; the collision of two continents leading to the creation of Ireland – as part of a desert dissected by large rivers; and, finally, the effects of glaciation during the Ice Age. Cross-sections of these are exposed along the spectacular cliffs and interpreted for the public at various points.
Copper was mined extensively in the area during the 19th Century. The Copper Coast icon is the mine complex on a high point of the cliffs. This is the reference point noted above (Tankardstown Engine House). In recognition of its outstanding volcanic geology, as well as the very significant history of mainly 19th Century copper mining; the region was awarded the designations of "European Geopark" in 2001, and "UNESCO Global Geopark" in 2004.
There are many wonderful examples of ancient geological processes that could feature as an Earthcache, I have chosen the feature known locally as the Pipes of Baidhb. (pronounced "bide"). According to legend the Baidhb, like the Beansidhe, was regularly seen on the roads around Fenor. She was a ghost-like woman with a long drawn face who drifted from place to place screeching at the top of her voice. She was dressed in white and was very frightening to see or hear. I've certainly never seen her!
Three other features can also be examined as you seek out the pipes. Access to the beach is tricky enough and caution is advised at full tide. It is advisable to check the tide times before you visit and go at low tide. Don’t worry – the tide won’t isolate you but just be mindful. When you gain access to the beach after climbing down, look in the “corner” where the headland meets the cliff. An excavation can be seen and is easy to walk into. Note the green oxidised copper on the walls. About 10m further on was a similar excavation which has recently collapsed. It looks like a big pile of rubble now. Just by these two features the cliffs are, for a short distance, are composed of limestones. These banded and pale grey/buff coloured rocks reflect a temporary respite from the vulcanism during the evolution of this part of the coast line. They are about 455 million years old and if you look closely at the vertical surfaces you can seen many crescent shaped sections through fossil shells. These rocks, which continue intermittently eastward from here all the way to Tramore contain many fossils of different types, many now extinct.
Fossil Layers in the Limestone
Continue up the beach towards the co ordinates, The pipes appear as a colonnaded arch, an array of angular columns sweeping up from the beach at the co ordinates to the crest of the cliffs, and back down again about 150m further east. This is the Giants Causeway of the Copper Coast although formed here by a different rock, rather than basalt – can you identify this rock? It is a volcanic rock, but a much more treacly and silica rich than either basalt or andesite. It is generally produced towards the end and far more explosive stages in the evolutionary life cycle of a volcano. In this case, rather than being erupted onto the surface, the rock has been injected in an arch like form into mudstones. As it cooled, the columns developed and grew inward at right angles to the rock – mudstone contacted all the way around the arch, so forming the sweeping colonnade in the cliffs.
The last feature which you need to see in order to answer the logging questions is the Bawn Ivy Lode, it can be found approx 180m further east along the beach. In a shallow alcove, testimony to the tenacity of the miners of the Copper Coast can be seen. A set of vertical adits (an adit is a horizontal tunnel) mark the projection of the Bawn Ivy Lode on the cliff face, each adit developed to test the lode at different levels. How many adits can you see? Lodes like this were deposited in fractures in the rocks when super hot, metal rich fluids, forced their way through weak planes in the rock structure. These fluids are derived from deep within the earth's crust. The super hot fluids could also cause massive alteration of the rocks which through they passed – now most obviously visible as a change in colour of the original rock. Such an alteration zone or gossan, to use a miner's term, are common around mine workings. Another colonnade of columns is conspicuous in the mid – upper left hand side of the cliff. Look into the lowest adit, those with eagle eyes will see green and brilliant azure colouration of the rocks. This is most probably green malachite and blue azurite.
Malachite and Blue Azurite
This is a tantalising glimpse at what lay in the heart of these cliffs and is a reminder of the men and women who strived to remove it.
To log your visit please e-mail me through my profile the following information:
(a) How many windows are in the west-facing wall of the Tankardstown Engine House?
(b) What rock type are the Pipes of Baidhb formed from?
(c) How many vertical adits are visible at the Bawn Ivy Lode?
It would also be great to have a photograph of yourself with your GPS in front of the Pipes - although this is not a logging requirement.
There is much, much more heritage associated with this area and I have only scrapped the surface. There are some information boards near the engine house but some further on line research may be needed. I hope I piqued your interest!
Safety - Note 4 **** Terrain: The access to the pipes is tricky. Three things to keep in mind:
(1) There are open mine shafts around, most of them are fenced off and common sense says - Do not fall down one!!
(2) The scramble down to beach level can be slippy in the wet, please take your time.
(3) There is a small window whereby the high tide will prevent acess to the site or may cut you off on the way back, please use common sense and the following tide times: here. Dungarvan Habour times will be good enough.