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Diamond Hill by Mantz Yorke

A glorious summer day in the Connemara National Park: a blue sky interrupted only by the occasional puff of fair-weather cumulus. No likelihood of rain. We check in at the Visitor Centre and start out on the path that curves gently up Diamond Hill. This looks like being a long way round to the top, so we decide to go direct. Bad choice: the tawny grass is very tussocky and it’s a struggle to get to the top without turning an ankle. But we get there, then head away from the summit to where we can enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the tree-lined stream below and the hills opposite. We find a comfortable spot in the grass and relax.

After a while, faintly, I hear a call for help – at least, I think I do. Was it really someone, or just a sheep bleating? I ask Ann if she heard someone calling out. She says she heard only sheep. The faint call comes a second time, from below us, and again I can’t tell whether it is from a person or a sheep. On the opposite side of the valley two walkers are climbing a path: they are tiny figures in the distance, but I can see that they too have heard something because their dark heads turn pink as they face our way. I feel sure they wouldn’t have turned for a bleating sheep, and I am becoming convinced that there is a person in distress somewhere. 

I can’t see much of the stream from our picnic spot, so I cross a barbed wire fence and move down the convexity of the hill to a spot where I can get a fuller view of the valley and the stream. I don’t see anyone, so I shout ‘Hello: anyone there?’ There’s no reply, but the couple across the valley, now on the shoulder of their hill, again turn towards the sound before moving out of sight. I move a little further down the steepening slope, still not seeing anyone, and call out a second time. Again, there’s no reply.

I begin to doubt, after all, that there is a person who may have fallen near – perhaps into – the stream , and make my way back to the picnic. We enjoy an hour or so just lying in the sun before heading back to the Visitor Centre – this time down the proper path rather than chancing it through the tussocks.

Checking out at Reception, we tell the man at the desk that we thought we’d heard someone call for help down in the valley, but that we hadn’t had a response to calls. He notes this down, observing that an uncollected car could indicate that someone was in trouble and that it might be necessary to send rescuers into the valley. He remarks that, before we returned, a woman in a dull green fleece had checked out, and the backs of her dull green fleece and slacks were soaking wet. On such a glorious day, he had thought it odd.

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