Whin bushes, also known as Gorse or Furze depending on what part of the world you are in are a common sight across Ireland in hedgerows and, as here, by the coast where they seem to thrive on thin sandy oil. In full bloom the bright yellow flowers stretching along the coast are a beautiful sight. Every Easter as kids we would pick the flowers and boil them up in water to dye our Easter eggs. Whin has a lovely dry coconut scent and when the coastal winds are blowing across sweeps of bushes they carry the scent with them. In the grey of an overcast day, or in the mist or fog, the bright splash of yellow stands out like a beacon. You can see more whin bushes in my pictures from Castleward.
I grew up in Belfast in the 1970’s and 1980’s — not the best of times. The city was divided with neighbourhoods demarcated by natural barriers like the River Lagan or artificial ones like the many peace walls over 100 of which still stand.
Neighbourhoods were also marked out by flags, painted kerbstones and murals painted on gable end walls. Most of these murals ‘celebrated’ the alphabet soup of competing paramilitary organisations of the time. Later with the end of the conflict in Northern Ireland these murals designed in to intimidate and threaten became an unlikely tourist attraction for curious visitors.
While many of the paramilitary murals remain there have been attempts to persuade our resident artists to move away from depictions of masked men with guns and create a less divisive and less militant style of mural. On a recent trip back to the city I took a walk along the Newtownards Road which runs from the city centre to the eastern suburbs.
The lower part of the Newtownards Road in particular is a strongly Loyalist neighbourhood and has an abundance of murals both old and new. Here are a few of them photographed on a typically grey and wet Belfast day.