The North Bull Wall sticks out above the Port of Dublin in a kind of north easterly direction. Building began around 1820 and took 5 years. It was constructed as a breakwater and to hold back the North Bull sand bar which hindered the progress of ships bound for Dublin Bay.
A not entirely planned outcome was the forming of a 5km long island running parallel to the north Dublin coastline, now the multi-designated Bull Island; Bird Sanctuary, Biospehere Reserve, Nature Reserve, Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation and finally, a Special Amenity Area.
The North Wall, the southern edge of the island, is accessed across a wooden bridge and hoofing along it reveals evidence of that last designation. Dubliners love a swim. It’s integral to coastal life. I guess that can’t be unique but as someone who was raised in the land-locked midlands (of England) the sea, and the culture it stimulates, is still new to me despite by mature age.
Even on the freezing cold, wind-blown morning that I was there, there were old dudes in the water – accessed by concrete steps down into the sea from bathing booths. Remnants of a boom-time for the local community’s aquatic recreationals; their aquatreationals.
Apparently, water quality hit a low during the seventies which, perhaps explains why the dull grey bunkers were left unloved. But a concerted effort, begun in the eighties, has seen that addressed significantly. I can’t say if the swimmers I saw were stalwarts that have persevered through the murky-water days but considering it was a random chilly Wednesday morning in early April, their presence suggests the pastime is still a normal part of life in these parts.