HEART of Stone is the title of a visually stunning two-part series to air on RTÉ One at 6.30pm next Sunday.
The Burren is a place full of intrigue and mystery to Lahinch-based film-maker Katrina Costello, who has been working there for over 13 years. “It is not a landscape that gives up her secrets easily, but in every fold of rock and around every corner there is always a new surprise,” she remarked.
Heart of Stone captures the raw and complicated beauty of the Burren using intimate natural history photography and the spontaneous insights of a cast of local contributors.
Narrated by Brendan Gleeson, the piece takes audiences on a journey through the ages, tracing the genetic story of the Irish people. It tells the story of the Irish hunter-gatherers and reveals what became of them. It asks if prehistoric farmers irreversibly altered this landscape and if modern Irish society is descended from those who first lived here over 10,000 years ago.
Episode one, entitled ‘Symphony of Life’ moves through the natural cycles of the seasons, witnessing spectacular scenes from the natural world, discovering Celtic rainforests and exploring complex subjects, like the formations of the rocks and underground caverns and mysterious disappearing lakes on the Burren.
The scene for this episode is set at Mullaghmore, where beneath his feet, zoologist Cormac McGinley examines the remains of millions and millions of ancient sea creatures. These long-dead animals lived up to 360 million years ago in an environment he describes as being like the Great Barrier Reef. It is the legacy of those life forms that created the Burren’s unique limestone landscape which the zoologist describes as “a mass grave of dead sea creatures”.
Among the wealth of expert contributors to the first episode is herbalist Sinead Keane, who reveals the fascinating “Celtic rainforests” unique to the Burren. “They’re like a vision of the South American rainforests,” she explains, “lush and damp. They’re difficult to access and have survived for thousands of years.”
Episode two locates clues written in the stones, tombs, and underground caverns that populate the Burren and that help us to travel back in time to reveal fresh secrets of the human story.
We discover what Ireland might have looked like when the first nomadic big-game hunters came here. We follow the three distinct populations that lived in Ireland in prehistoric times and unravel the secrets of this unique and mysterious landscape and those who lived on it.
Contributors include Cormac McGinley, Burren Zoologist; Sinéad Keane, Burren Botanist/Herbalist; Carl Wright, Environmental biologist; Patrick McCormack Burren Farmer andPoet; Susan O’Donohue, Burren ecologist; Jesmond Harding, Conservation officer of Butterfly Conservation Ireland; Jim Warmy, Cave Diver and Explorer; Dr Carleton Jones, Archaeologist, National University of Ireland, Galway; Dr Lara Cassidy, PhD Ancient geneticist, Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin; Dr Marion Dowd MIAI, Prehistoric Cave Archaeologist, IT Sligo; Dr Ruth Carden, Palaeontologist, Adjunct Research Fellow, UCD; and Dr Brendan Dunford, Founder of the BurrenLIFE Project.
Katrina Costello of Sea Fever Productions is the award-winning director of The Silver Branch which documents the relationship between farmer and poet Patrick McCormack and the Burren.