At the weekend we went for a drive along the Coast Road. We parked the car and walked up the steep stony lane towards the lost village. We were looking for a good setting to photograph a new project that I have finished knitting.
It was a sunny summer day with a cool breeze blowing in from the Ocean.
I paused and looked across the mountainside. The wild rugged landscape was amazing. Tiny windswept hawthorns were growing between the rocks.
We decided that a rock strewn hollow away from the main path looked like the perfect sheltered spot for us to relax for a half an hour to eat our picnic lunch.
We turned to the left and walked past the skeletal remains of one of the hawthorns.
I suggested that we sit on the large slab of limestone. Neil thought it would be uncomfortable so we set out our picnic on a smaller rock and sat on the cushioned grass and moss covered mound beside it. Neil poured two cups of tea from the flask.
We sat together sipping tea and looking at the beautiful view across the bay. I glimpsed a tiny movement out of the corner of my eye.
I nudged Neil and pointed over at the hole beneath one of the miniature hawthorns. We expected to see a rabbit appear from it at any moment. We were completely unprepared for what did emerge from the small hole. I don’t know why we were so surprised. Everyone knows that the Glens are one of the remaining strongholds for the fairy folk. But still, you never expect to experience these surreal moments yourself.
But instead of a rabbit we saw a tiny fuzzy face and a big pair of googly eyes gazing at us.
Suddenly a tiny gonk pushed past the larger one and bounced out into the sunshine.
When it saw us it gave a little squeak of alarm and bounced back towards the bigger gonk. I thought they looked so cute.
I nudged Neil and whispered that I thought that the last colony of gonks at Ecos Island (the site of the old Kernohan’s Farm on Kernohan’s Lane) had become extinct in the early 70’s.
“Ssh”, came the reply, “you’ll frighten them.”
Within a few minutes we were surrounded by tiny curious gonks, all staring at us with their large googly eyes. They squeaked at each other.
“I don’t think they see people up here very often” I whispered.
A curious little purple gonk hopped up onto the top of a rock to get a better look at us. Then we heard him squeaking at the pink and purple ones below him.
A few minutes later we had several gonks all looking at us with their strange googly eyes. One of those magical and slightly crazy moments in life. Luckily we had our camera and were able to take a few photographs of these elusive and secretive creatures for our nieces to see. Otherwise, we suspected, nobody would believe us! Gosh, I don’t really believe it and I was there.
Some of the bigger gonks seemed to be alarmed by our presence and were very timid. We could hear them squeaking at the smaller more curious gonks.
Such an amazing experience to find this colony of gonks while walking in the Glens of Antrim.
We won’t tell you the exact location of where we watched them as we want to let these rare gonks live as peacefully as possible. One of those wonderful magical moments in time.
The Background to the Gonk Story
A few days ago, we had a wonderful visit to the Ecos Millennium Environmental Centre near Ballymena. We enjoyed looking at the fascinating interactive galleries, finding out ways to improve our own environmental footprint, and how we are doing so far.
When we reached gallery 2 where we were looking at animal habitats and what we can do to improve the lives of wildlife that visit our gardens. My nieces were much taken by the story of the Extinction of the Ecos Island Gonks. This was a sad tale of the loss of the Gonks habitat, and their demise through over hunting, ill fortune and finally loss of their green, yellow and blue genetic heritage which caused the reds to become extinct when they became ill through a new disease.
I told them about my chocolate brown gonk which I has lived in my mum’s house since I bought it in the early 70’s when we were on holiday at Ballycastle. On our return home my niece found the gonk.
We decided to use some of the wool that my nieces have been using while learning to knit. We made colourful pompoms, gave them felt feet and googly eyes. Suddenly we had a whole colony of gonks.
Neil and I decided to have a bit of fun, while we were visiting the Antrim coast, taking photographs for the Rainbow Sock Series.
This short woolly Gonk story is for my nieces who inspire everyone around them with their creativity and energy.