Cashla 220kV Substation, Spiddal Wave Energy Test Centre, Derrydonnell Forest, Raheen Woods Hotel Athenry.
Cashla Power Station
Having spent the previous day investigating wind turbines in the area, I decided that I needed to complete the journey from the wind farm to Derrydonnell Forest. Much had been made in the proposal from Apple on the proximity to Cashla Power Substation as a core rationale for selecting Derrydonnell Forest as simply the only feasible option for a data centre in Ireland and one of only two feasible options in Europe (Viborg Denmark being the other). Within Apple’s proposals, they will draw power from the 220kV substation until they build their very own on site in Derrydonnell forest at which point Cashla will become a redundant backup substation.
6km North West of Derrydonnell Forest is Cashla Substation. Sandwiched between Coshla Quarry, an active asphalt and stone production quarry and the headquarters and industrial centre for C&F Group, an industrial design and manufacturing company providing industrial design solutions (including the wind turbine I had spotted at Lisheenkyle National School on Day 1). They also provide industrial design solutions including cooling systems for data centres worldwide and employ nearly 1,000 staff (950 more than the expected job opportunities at the Apple Data Centre).
On another remote and narrow road, I couldn’t see a clear place to park so I decided to sneak into the C&F Staff Car Park. Picking up my gear, I wasn’t quite sure what I would be able to get away with so spoke to a security guard. I asked if it would be ok to park my car here and take photos of the substation. I told him I was a photography student. He said it wasn’t a problem at all and I wandered across the road to the substation entrance.
At the entrance I could see two engineers climbing the radio tower adjacent to the substation. They were in full high visibility clothing. I setup to record with my handheld recorder (DR40) and filmed them climb the structure. I could hear a hum from the substation, but nothing of particular note. I wandered around the perimeter, testing my nerve and getting closer and closer to the perimeter fence. Nobody came to ask me what I was doing. Nobody seemed at all bothered. Trucks full of rock passed behind me on the narrow road out of the quarry and the occasional noise of industrial work from the C&F worksite could be heard.
I probed deeper still, certain that there would be interesting tones to find but not carrying adequate tools (just the handheld recorder). I regretted being nervous when setting off as it would have been interesting to record using the geophone.
Listening attentively to the area, I could hear a strange oscillation emanating from the base of the radio antennae. The radio antennae would be responsible for the local vicinities 3G/4G provision and was fitting to be located next to the substation that powered it. As high voltage cable feathered into the distance in all directions, the mast stood strong as a symbol of wirelessness. But at the base, I heard the most peculiar series of oscillations, in phase, out of phase, fading in and out. I wanted to find out more. I wanted to record it better. I did my best.
Spiddal Wave Energy Test Site / Galway Bay
I had been reading how Apple had invested €1 million in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) wave energy test site. I was interested in how even though Apple had publicly been making a lot of noise about their wind farm sustainable drive, they hadn’t invested in any infrastructure projects for wind energy in Ireland but instead chose to invest in an experimental wave energy project. What was the motivation for this? I decided to visit the location just outside of Galway that was closest to where according to maps and data provided by SEAI, the test bed lay.
Having spent the last two days deep inside forests or on top of a mountain range or inside a car, it was refreshing to be by the ocean. The Atlantic disappearing on the horizon. I listened to the power of the waves across the rocks where I stood. I wondered what sounds were happening on the bed beneath, in the metal casings of the wave energy test bed and whether one day this technology might be the solution to Apple’s Data Centre problems.
I remembered how Microsoft had recently announced testing submerged data centres just off the coast of California and how the sea, that seemed so far from Derrydonnell Forest, was potentially so close to the relationship of data. I thought about the fibre optic cable routes that entered Ireland from the Atlantic and from the UK. I thought about the coincidence? of the announcement that a new fibre optic cable would be laid form the US to Ireland entering somewhere within Galway Bay. I thought about the song I had heard so much about, The Fields of Athenry by Pete St. John, and how it talks of a story of a young man named Michael who is sent to Botany Bay in Australia for a minor crime, and how the earliest trans global telegraph cables were sent from the UK to Botany Bay along the same colonial trade routes. How connected this all was. How the oceans became almost insignificant by the technologies submerged beneath them.
Insulation: Derrydonnell Forest
On my return drive to Derrydonnell Forest, I started to think about what media theorist and author of The Undersea Network Nicole Starosielski refers to as ‘insulation’. She gives examples of the ways in which media infrastructures constantly require insulation. Whether it be the insulation of gutta percha in the earliest telegraph cables or the insulation of geology in the case of the White Mountain, Pionen Data Centre built beneath the dense rock formations of Vita Berg Park in Stockholm. There is a clear desire for media infrastructure systems to be built with a public knowledge of their existence (fibre optic cables and high profile data centres are announced and launched with much fanfare historically and presently) but once their announcement is made, they disappear into the insulation of the rubber, or the ocean, or the mountain/rock formation, or the dense forest.
Returning to Derrydonnell Forest, I began to look at the simple wired fence that surrounds its perimeter. On day one I thought it was a fence to prevent me from getting in. Now I realised that it was really just to mark the farmland and keep cows out. The plans for the data centre complex
will replace the two wires that make up the fence with a tree height steel perimeter fence. It will mostly have power all the way around it to provide power for flood lighting, security sensors and cameras. With a view for returning in the future, I decided to record the wires moving in the wind, to try and capture the vibrations of the existing insulation of Derrydonnell forest. How much longer would this be sufficient to the needs of the content of this forest?
Meeting with Appeals
Later that evening, I met with two individuals who had filed concerns towards the build of the data centre. Allan Daly, a US national who has resided in Athenry for a number of years, whose expertise are in industrial design and sustainability assessments for companies based in California and Sinead Fitzpatrick, a solicitor and resident of Lisheenkyle who setup the appeal group named “Concerned residents of Lisheenkyle, Derrydonnell, Palmerstown & Barrett’s Park”. The two individuals come from radically different backgrounds but both share a strong interest in the project. I spoke at length with them about many of the issues they both are focussed upon and the experiences they have had throughout the appeal process.
For Alan, the issues that concerned him the most were that he believed the Environmental Impact Assessment was not thorough enough given the scale of the proposal. He felt that there were other potential sites within the Athenry area that could have been suitable candidates for the project and had plenty of criticism about some of the personal interactions with Apple representatives and public consultation sessions. He was an incredibly knowledge individual who knew a great deal about the proposal and about the data centre industry at large. He believed there was a slightly smaller site closer to Athenry town that would have been suitable for much of the proposal and would be in a designated industrial zone as opposed to a forest miles away from anywhere. He compared the Apple proposal to the recent developments of data centres by Microsoft, Google and Facebook in the Dublin area which were in designated industrial sites. What was it that made Apple think they were so different?
Sinead on the other hand had initially begun to appeal as a concerned resident living in the zone 2 area of the proposed site. She had spent a huge amount of personal emotion, energy and money on her appeal and had forged an alliance with a number of concerned residents who were worried about what exactly a massive data centre would do to their area. She paid out of her own pocket for second opinions on several elements of the environmental impact assessment that was carried out for Apple to see if their arguments held ground with an alternative bias. She was even talking about needing to re-mortgage her house if the need to make further appeals were required. Her commitment was impressive but Alan and I were very concerned for her wellbeing. The impact that this proposal had on her life had begun to be quite toxic, struggling to find ways to look after five children and a home with her supportive husband, plus stick a full time job was very apparent and she was clearly concerned herself. With the council’s public appeals hearing taking place the following week, she was concerned about how to keep a presence publicly there, to avoid appearing that she had run out of steam or didn’t care, whilst also keeping up a demanding full time job. She had an estate agent come to value her house, which she had bought in 2001 with her husband. She was told that the value of her home following the build of the data centre would essentially be around the same as it was when she bought it (a net depreciation in value essentially over 15 years). The concerns of the site of the forest being built were far more direct for Sinead.
Neither of them wanted to take a full week of annual leave from their jobs to attend the hearings, whilst obviously Apple would be investing in a score of experts to attend and argue their point to the council.
I had initially planned to try and interview them both but I realised as the time was going on and relationships hand not yet been established, I thought it was best to discuss with them their concerns about the project and try to find as much about their points of view I could. I also asked them if they would be willing for me to formally interview them at some point later in the year which they agreed to. They were very interested in the possibility of an artist intervention into this activity and seemed to understand that perhaps the work wouldn’t necessarily change things for them in Athenry. However, I intend to keep in touch with both of them as well as continue trying to get in touch other people who have appealed, not to mention finding people who are very proactive towards the project, to broaden my scope.
Derrydonnel Forest, Derrybrien Wind Farm: County Galway, Republic of Ireland.
Dawn Chorus – Derrydonnel Forest
Zone 2: 05:35
I was staying in a guest house in the Castle Ellen area, north of Athenry and about a 30 minute drive to Derrydonnell forest. I woke in the dark and snuck out of the house (trying not to wake up my hosts baby on the way). I set off for Derrydonnell. I had prepared my recording pack the night before so I would be prepared to record as soon as I arrived at the site. Time was of the essence and I awoke at 04:30 to discover the chorus was already picking up outside.
The purpose of recording the chorus was to locate myself at the main location (Zone 2) of where the data centre will initially be constructed and to capture what exists now on an average morning in Athenry in May with the potential for this to become a longitudinal study of change to the sonic character of the area. This idea was inspired somewhat by the extensive research and work of Bernie Krause who has been carrying out such studies in forest environments for many years and is beginning to be able to demonstrate significant changes in what he calls the “biophony”; the acoustic footprint of nonhuman biological organisms to the soundscape of an area. My intention is to be not quite so rigorous in my scientific methodology as Krause has become but I would like to be inspired by this activity and add to it a number of other investigations/interventions into the space.
By 05:20 I was setting up at Zone 2, at a point where a small blue flag was attached to a stake. I wasn’t sure as to whether this might be a symbol of a proposed spotting mark for where the administration offices might be located in the build, whether those conducting surveys of the site had already begun to plot and earmark points for the construction project or not but it was a human symbol of notification regardless and it seemed like the ideal spot to base myself.
I set up the DPA4060 Stereo configuration and Sennheiser MKH416 Mono configuration inside a microphone blimp with deadcat windshield, based on a tripod at chest height. I also placed a geophone into the earth below. The bird chorus at this point had been going for a little while but the sun wasn’t quite up and there was plenty of avian activity. Even at 05:30, the swirling frequencies of the nearby M6 motorway could be heard, mostly from distant haulage vehicles; an unavoidable, swirling wash of sound that filled the crevices of the frequency spectrum that the microphones diaphragm responded to. In the distance I could hear the cows from the nearby farm and possibly the ringing of a bell from the farmer. Further into the distance, the horn of a speeding train heading towards Galway City, perhaps the first of the day.
Lost in the generous sonorosity of the birds, the constant cloud of small flies was a huge distraction. Attracted to the warmth of my body they tried to permeate my layers of clothing in any way they could. My constant flinching had become increasingly apparent in the headphones, as my jacket rustled every time I went to wipe my face from the flies, or sniffed due to the morning cold, so I decided to wander around the area and explore it further with another recorder and a camera and to try and not disturb the sound recording with my incessant itching.
An airplane slowly droned overhead, a train click clacked along the tracks, the birds called to one another and the Galway winds rustled throgh the controversial non-native pine trees planted in the forest over 150 years ago.
By 06:00 the sounds of birds remained intesive but were being increasingly replaced by an increased wash from the motorways and skies far above as motorised traffic took over. Deep below the soil, the geophone was picking up a steady hum of noise, almost impossible to determine it’s locale and character. Something for further analysis and investigation when back in the studio perhaps. Had the “geophony”, – what Krause refers to as the sounds of nonorganic origins in the environment – become swamped and overrun by “anthrophony”, Krause’s descriptor for human made sounds? What was the geophone picking up at frequencies that I couldn’t hear through headphones alone?
Zone 3: 06:45
I walked away from the spot within the woodlands. I had wandered around excitedly getting bitten and decided enough was enough and I would meander through the forest. I discovered a number of steel boreholes in place along the path. They must have been created to measure underground water levels at the site, which I had read was a concern for the planning applications, following a major flooding incident at the adjacent Athenry Golf Club course, following a period of logging early in 2015. It was a significant concern for the golf course in their letter of concern sent to Galway County Council Planning Office.
Near to a borehole in the area where the EU protected wood bitter vetch plant species was known to be growing in abundance – a strong environmentalist concern of the proposal – were two large bags of stones/gravel, presumably for laying onto the tracks that traversed the woodland.
By 07:30 the weather had begun to turn and concerned not to get caught in a rain storm, I headed back to my trusty hire car.
Derrybrien Wind Farm
Approximately 35Km South of Derrydonnell Forest are the Slieve Aughty Mountains and the tiny village of Derrybrien. Derrybrien is the nearest populous area to the Derrybrien Wind Farm, one of Ireland’s largest onshore wind farms boasting 70 turbines, owned by Hibernian Wind Power. It is no coincidence that the name of the company who just recently laid the first transatlantic fibre optic cable between the US and the UK (with a switchpoint in Cork) is also a subsidiary of Hibernian.
01:45 – 53°04’50.6″N 8°34’37.9″W
I drove around trying to find the site for some time before I saw turbines in the distance on a tiny single track roack. I was maybe half a kilometre away from the fourth largest wind farm in Ireland, high up in the cattle farming fields.
From my view I could see the wind turbines, towering above a forest ahead. I imagined it would be very difficult to get anywhere near there. I had already tried two different routes to get up to the point, one point in case I had to sneak past a herd of cattle blocking a farm track and had come across men with high vis jackets that appeared to be workmen, perhaps security guards. Their presence made me nervous. Why would someone be walking around on their own with all that weird looking equipment? If I had a camera in hand rather than a wind blimp, it would probably make a lot more sense to a stranger. Sound recording equipment does tend to look quite odd.
What I do like about being in the remote mountain area is that there isn’t much in the way of road noise. I placed by handheld Tascam DR40 recorder to pick up the sound from where I parked the car whilst I took my small camera to try and get a better visual look at the towering wind farms on the crest of the hill in the distance.
I drove into the forest at an entrance with a gravel track. As had been the case with all of this particular trip, I felt nervous that I was doing something wrong the whole time. That someone would come and tell me off but nobody ever did. My paranoia constantly slowed me down. I didn’t have a map or any guidance to tell me where I was going. I wanted to feel instinctive, to follow the sounds and see if I could get closer to the farm. It often lead me on false trails.
03:00 – 53°05’08.1″N 8°35’46.5″W
I was certain I was practically underneath a wind turbine. I could hear it through the dense forest tree line. It made a steady hum that began to turn into a rotational wooshing sound. The trees, tightly packed to each other, provide insulation from external enquirers; from people like me. They creaked as they rub against each other in the wind, like a door being opened to a haunted house, a reminder to me that this is not a place I am meant to visit. I listened carefully and heard the gentle throb of the turbine but couldn’t get any closer to it. The ground has almost deliberately been made impenetrable by the forestry team who carved out the landmass for the farm. A deliberate attempt to close off free land to passers-by; it reminded me of how computer games with seemingly ‘open world’ designs often create large rock faces or dense natural tree lines or water barriers to control and prevent you from stepping outside the operational zone of the game… I felt like I was in a game… I felt that I absolutely had to make it to these turbines, to see them close, to touch them and record them and to understand their scale.
04:30 – 53°05’24.2″N 8°34’40.9″W
I had heard about Peat Bogs. I had never fallen into one before. I could smell the subtle wafts of Peat everywhere I walked. It was nothing like the fine peaty whiskeys of the scotland. I felt the change in air pressure around me and began to be quite concerned it might rain heavily at any moment. I began to walk back to where I had parked the car a few kilometres back along the track, taking cover under the tree line as it began to drizzle.
I was so keen to get close to the turbines, having travelled all that way. As I came up upon the hill entering the forest, I could see them maybe just a few hundred metres to my left over seemingly open ground. I decided to make one last attempt.
Making sure that I was efficiently equipped but tightly packed for the walk I set off only to immediately discover a stream following the side of the road. All along the route, I had noticed streams but suddenly it felt like it had been purposely placed there. I could hear whirr of the turbines and see them powering round and round and decided to push on. The terrain looked incredibly rugged. Unnaturally rugged. In the same way the forest in my previous location was so thick you couldn’t pass, the surface here was so rugged you couldn’t walk. I saw a gap in the mulch of trees scattered everywhere and aimed for it in the hope it would be a naturally occurring break in the terrain. It wasn’t. It was an irrigation channel for the peat bog that I suddenly realised I was standing in, all the way up to my sodden right knee. The shock of falling into a peat bog, on your own, many miles away from anywhere and anyone makes for one of the worst chapters from any Andy McNab book. Surely I would just carry on and power through to reach my goal… However, I am not former SAS and I decided enough was enough and conceded defeat to the semi-natural barriers constructed and tentatively walked back to my car.
The sound of the turbines even from here, even as I wrung out my soaked socks and trousers was quite powerful. A throbbing turbulence like no sound I’ve ever heard in a forest before, or even an urban environment. I began to think about how surely this would affect the ecosystem around it in some way, maybe in subtle ways, maybe less subtle ways (I had heard about the intensive and heavily criticised forestry process undertaken in developing this wind farm resulted in a major landslide and a hefty fine from EU regulators for poor management).
Apple had been incredibly vocal about how sustainable the design of their data centre would be. Estimates had suggested that the entire energy requirement to power the fully operational data centre complex would be in excess of what is required to power the whole of Dublin. This energy would be drawn from negotiated deals with the wind farm suppliers but there was no announcement of Apple pledging to invest into any new turbine infrastructure. Surely this would mean that this would result in an increase of around 8% of energy requirement but without any additional investment into increased capacity. Would this mean that ultimately energy bills would rise by a small amount across the board, to all public citizens of Ireland, but Apple wouldn’t pay a penny more. Their efforts to locate their power sources in sustainable conditions is commendable but ultimately, they will be buying off of the grid and have no real control of how they power their facilities. And what of these sites… how are wind farms impacting on the environment? How are they manufactured? Where do the components come from? What are the environmental repercussions? What sounds do they make within the spaces they occupy and how might this be representative of a wider narrative that stretches the focus of media infrastructures beyond that of the data centre but casts itself much wider into a global ecological and ethical investigation?
I slowly packed up my gear and drove back to Athenry. A huge storm hit on the way. I survived, just, but I feel terrible for coming into my hosts home, absolutely stinking of peat bog water.
Derrydonnel, Palmerstown, Toberroe, Athenry: County Galway, Republic of Ireland.
Athenry Town Centre
I Walked around the historic town centre area of Athenry. Parked the car in a car park near the train station on the edge of the centre, beside a contemporary designed anglican church.
I walked around the medieval castle ruins and the ajdacent original medieval town wall. I took some photos around the area as well as at the site of the ruins of a Dominican Monastery.
Having taken photos of the original Athenry Church (now a tourist visitors centre), I decided to take a tour of the centre to learn a little about the history of Athenry. The information presented was mostly a general narrative of medieval history but there were interesting maps of the original town structure as well as information about the relationship between the De Bermingham family (who “owned” the land having travelled from the Birmingham, UK area) and the Domincan Monastery which had a self-contained and very separate relationship with the ‘indiginous’ locals. Athenry was a place for market trading and at one point was on the coast but subequent receding waters have drawn the coastline out to where Galway Bay now sits some 25km West. The towns historical centre, including the difficult to navigate, narrow roads remain to this day. I asked the guide if Apple trees were a historically popular source of fruit farming at all but the guide wasn’t sure.
Upon leaving, I asked the guide if she had any opinions about the proposed Apple Data Centre at Derrydonnel. She didn’t know much about it but introduced me to a colleague who was gardening outside. I spoke with him at length. He was a historian by profession. He hadn’t really thought about the environmental impact of the data centre but generally speaking thought that it was inevitable that it would go ahead as Apple are a big multnational corporation. “You can’t stop them really can you?” He said. He felt that generally people saw it as a good thing because he and his friends (who live in the Athenry area) were all initially under the impression that when the first announcement was made to build the centre (in early 2015), there was a promise of significant employment opportunities made by Galway council in the initial related press releases (need to find some examples). However, it has begun to increasingly transpire that there less jobs than first believed and that the impact on the Athenry community would actually be quite negligible. He seemed relatively concerned but not enough to feel it necessary to become active by it.
Shortly after I spoke then with a man who was working on his own in a small cafe/creperie called The Nook. He spoke with great concern about the incompetence, ego and corruption of councillors within Galway County Council. He expressed huge concerns that a large company wishing to invest in the area were being prevented planning permission, most likely in his view due to a lack of vision and a ridiculous desire to flex their egos on big decisions just for the sake of saying something. He spoke at length about his own issues with getting planning premission granted for a small extension to his home in Athenry and used this as a comparison to the difficulties that he saw Apple were having with their planning permission request. It was interesting how he tied his own experience to that of Apple’s, given how the scale of these two proposals are quite substantially different.
Sounds in Athenry Town Centre
Vehicle traffic, pedestrians, casual vocal murmurs from business tradespeople, residents and tourists. Wind in the sporadic trees and birds. Distant sound of a train passing through and releasing its horn.
The Proposed Site
I drove out of the town centre to head to the site. The proposed site is approximately 6km West from the town centre of Athenry, 20km East from Galway City and around 200km North of Apple’s European Headquarters in Cork (2.5 hours drive).
I wasn’t entirely sure where I was heading but I came across a number of interesting locations on the way including an abandoned cattle market area, a sign celebrating the birthday of someone who was maybe a member of the Derrydonnel gun club. It was mostly farmland for cattle and a number of high standard, spacious, detatched houses.
I visited Scoil Naomh Mhuire (a primary school that is adjacent to the site) and where a number of houses are located. There is a small wind turbine inside the school area. I recorded here and listened to the subtle sounds of the small wind turbine as it rotated and pivoted. I listened out for the distant wash of the M6 motorway (roughly 1.2km North from the school which as at the North-West tip of the site). It was ever present but not violently disturbing. (I should look into average number of road users on the M8 around that area on any given day.)
Zone 1: 17:30
Confused about how to access the space, and concerned that I would need to trespass on farmland to access the forest, I moved around the Athenry Golf Course and parked my car there and prepared a fieldpack. I walked approximately 1km to the Zone 1 location that was in the South West corner of the forest site. I setup my recording equipment on the side of the R348 road about 100m from the forest edge and began to record a stereo recording with DPA4060s, a mono with MKH416, pointing towards the forest and then a handheld DR-40 recorder pointing away from the forest. Lastly, I recorded the Geophone inserted into the rocky earth beneath me. I heard traffic coming from a distance, the distant sound of a farmer loading hay into a trailer and cows. Many cows, chewing grass, flapping tails and the occassional moo. The area is predominantly affluent housing and cattle farmland. I took measurements with my phone of the ambient dB(A) level.
Zone 3: 18:15
After some time recording I decided to make a direct bearing towards the forest. I was nervous, not knowing if it was ok to be in the forest or not (I didn’t actually know who exactly managed the forest if anyone). I dashed through the field, avoiding the irrigation channels produced for Cow feed, as well as the cows themselves and their waste matter. I climbed into forest edge. The ground was thick and spongey with moss. I made my way through to Zone 3 on the map which was deep inside the woodland having crossed a surprise discovery of a gravel road track that went through the centre of the forest. There was nobody in site anywhere. I reset my recording equipment in the same configuration but also put together an additional stereo pair of JfR Contact Microphones that I inserted into the base of a coniferous tree. I was continuously being eaten by small winged insects, and stepped out from the wooded section and stood on the track whilst the recording took place. I listened to the deep tones of the forest on a hot day, the creaking of the trees as they brushed and rubbed against each other in the tops.
Whilst in Sweden, I recorded with contact microphones inside the base of a tree above the Pionen Data Centre and had some very interesting results. I thought I would speculatively try the same here, within the trees that Apple had been claiming were dispensible as even though they were well over 100 years old and fully matured, they were ‘non-native’ trees to the area. I wondered if the tree had anything to say.
Between Zone 3 and Zone 2: 18:40
I began to walk with my blimp setup recording in my hand. The sun was large in the sky. I knew I would not be so lucky during the forthcoming days (rain was forecasted constantly) so I decided to continue to record as much acoustic material whilst I still could. It was also an opportunity to traverse the woodland. I walked along the fresh looking gravel track and began to think about the surroundings I stood within. I thought about the conversation I had with the man in the Crepe Cafe. I spoke my thoughts aloud. Was I making a big deal out of nothing? This space was unoccupied, maybe it wasn’t that an impressive forest, maybe the Athenry area really does need an injection of something to lift it’s economy. Perhaps I had been thinking about it all wrong.
I saw someone in the distance and panicked. What if I wasn’t meant to be there? What if I get in trouble? I snuck back into the tree line, along the edge of where a large piece of forestry felling activity had taken place (central area of the forest). Clearly there was a lot of aboriculture activity taking place. I then found that I was adjacent to a farmers large shed where he was working and I was standing on a tracked and trod footpath. It dawned on me that this was public land, that my panicking was completely unwarranted. I saw a man taking his dog for a walk and began to feel quite stupid for approaching the forest as if I didn’t have any right to be there, sneaking around as if I was a character from Metal Gear Solid on a covert operation. I decided to whistle.
Zone 2: 19:15
I kept my recording setup ready. The forest cleared again around the edge of a path where a different section had been felled. The size of the forest was immense. I thought about how the plans on paper really didn’t give me much of an impression of perspective of actually just how big the site was, and subsequently just how big the eight individual 24,505m² data centre units would be to fill it.
Beginning to feel tired, I realised I needed to head back to my car but had managed to walk many kilometres away from where I was parked, with a full and heavying pack. I walked south through the path which will become the entrance to the site (if it goes ahead), leading back to the R348. At the entrance, I saw a car parked from where the dog walker had been – I should have parked my car there but had been nervous with where to place myself earlier.
Tucked beneath the bushes beside the road, I saw a white sign that had been flipped over. I turned it round and discovered it was the original notification for planning to build document. Placed for public viewing, and then left there for almost a year without any progression. Perhaps deliberately flipped over and hidden by someone who didn’t want people to read it, didn’t want people to know their dog walking woodland and adjacent countryroad might be about to face a significant change. I began my 2.5km walk to the car… tired and ready to rest. A car drove past me and stopped. I approached the car and a smiley face welcomed me, “hey there, how you keeping? Can I take you somewhere?”… I hitchiked, it was a beautiful day in Ireland and I was overcome with gratitude.
Summary of Sounds heard in the Zones
Zone 1: The distant din of traffic from the M8. The occassional closer sound of cars or small trucks on the R348 driving at speed. Cows chewing, mooing, stamping, flapping. Insect flybys. Rustling of bushes and distant trees gently brushed by the wind.
Zone 2: The distant din of traffic from the M8. Trees rustling in the wind. Various birds tweeting. Insects flying by.
Zone 3: The distant din of traffic from the M8. Birds tweeting. The rotating motor of a small wind turbine. The gentle pulse of wind being pushed around by the wind turbine blades. Rustling of the trees in the forest.
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