Water features of Bushy Park Dublin

I’m very lucky to live near to Bushy Park in Terenure, Dublin. It’s a great park with loads of amenities, and is also a park full of interesting places to explore.

One of the parts of the park I love the most is the area alongside the River Dodder between Terenure and Rathfarnham. In this area there are a series of man-made ponds, situated just the other side of the park wall from the river.

I’m fascinated by these water features and how they were built, and often go snooping around in the bushes to understand their construction and to work out how the water flows from one pond to another.

Bushy Park Lake

The Bushy Park Lake is hidden at its start amongst the trees and bushes. It’s not readily visible from the footpath, and you have to go exploring in the trees to get a glimpse of it.

Western section of the lake

It’s not until you get to the first of the two walls that subdivide the lake that you get a good view from the footpath.

One of the walls that separate the lake

Depending on how you wish to count it there is either one lake or three here, as the body of water is separated into three parts by walls with small waterfalls built in that control the flow of water from each part to the next.

There are also two bridges allowing people to cross the lake at these waterfalls.

One of the bridges crossing the lake

The water for the lake is fed from an underground supply at its most eastern point, and then flows downhill over the two waterfalls in the same direction as the River Dodder from east to west.

Here’s a photo of the stream that feeds into the pond. I’m curious to know where this water supply comes from, as it’s much higher up than the nearby River Dodder by a few metres difference. So perhaps it flows here underground from somewhere else, such as the lake in Terenure College.

Underground water supply feeds in at the west end of the lake

As we move easterly through the park the trees and bushes thin out somewhat, and the footpath follows along the sides of the lake. As you can see from the photo below its common for algae to form on the surface at the east end of the lake.

The view of the east end of the lake

At the very far end there is an semi-submerged structure that looks like a water outlet.

Water outlet of the lake

Duck Pond

To the north and east of Bushy Park Lake is the better-known and more frequently visited Duck Pond. It’s a lot more ornamental, with a nice flat tarmac path and benches to sit and admire the view around its circumference. There’s also a small island in the middle. The pond attracts a fair amount of birds, including ducks and swans.

Bushy Park Duck Pond

Water is fed into the Duck Pond from a small waterfall at the west end just near to the bandstand. I suspect this water comes underground from the lake outlet.

Water inlet for the Duck Pond
Bushy Park Duck Pond

At the east end of the Duck Pond is the water outlet, which feeds the excess water under the wall and into the adjacent River Dodder.

Water outlet from the Duck Pond
Water flowing into the River Dodder

Waiting one year for my citizenship

It’s now exactly 12 months to the day since I applied for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. And I’m still waiting…

The INIS website says that “it takes 6 months for a straightforward application” and I would have thought that mine was fairly non-contentious. I’ve lived in Ireland for nearly 12 years now, am married to an Irish person, and I’ve never been in trouble with the law.

Someone on the Immigration Boards suggested that all applications are being delayed because of Brexit, which I suppose could be true. There are around 100,000 British citizens living in Ireland, and I’m sure a fair number of them might want to secure their future living here – in addition to the approximate 12,000 people a year that apply for nationalisation.

There’s an upcoming citizenship ceremony in Killarney at the end of April, but I’d say that it’s doubtful at this stage that I’ll be included in this one as it’s only 6 weeks away. After that the next ones advertised are in September and December of this year – and so, even if my application finishes processing in the next few month, then I’ll still have a long wait to attend a ceremony.

Reserving hotel rooms

A trip from Dublin to Killarney to attend the citizenship ceremony is a pretty long journey. It’s a 300 km drive taking about 3.5 hours each way (and a similar time on the train), so it’s not the kind of journey that I’d like to do there and back in one day.

So I’m made some provisional reservations for hotels in Killarney for both the September and December ceremony dates on Booking.com, which I can amend or cancel nearer the time once I know if I’ll be included in the ceremony.

Renewing my UK passport

My current British passport is due to expire at the start of 2020. When I first applied for my Irish citizenship in April 2018 I had hoped to have switched over to my new Irish passport long before the UK one ran out. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m conscious that some countries need passports to have at least 3-6 months left to run on them before they allow admittance. So it looks like I’ll need to renew my UK passport by about June or July of this year. And then hopefully get my Irish passport some time after that.

Integrating shopping receipts with my bank statement

With most transaction now taking place by card, the days of the paper-based receipts in shops are surely numbered.

Some shops now ask me whether or not I want a receipt – I suppose to avoid the environmental impact of printing something that will immediately be thrown away. And some shops offer email receipts, but that has data protection concerns because I’m handing over me email address that is then invariably used for email marketing.

The obvious solution to me is for the payment card processors to capture itemised receipt information, and pass it back to the bank for integration with my online bank statement.

When I check my transactions on my mobile app it would be great to be able to drill down into the transaction to see exactly what I bought – and perhaps remind me how I managed to spend €92 in Ikea when I popped in for just one thing.

Warning: Does not represent realistic spending habits!

Of course, this does mean entrusting my purchase information to banks, but they can be regulated to treat the data carefully and safely. And I’m sure that the banks would love to analyse the (hopefully anonymised) data to have more insight into our spending habits.

Use in the shop

Several fin-tech companies already provide the ability to notify you of transactions in near real-time. Both my N26 and Revolut cards display alerts on my phone as soon as I’ve paid for something. So it shouldn’t be too hard to expand that to included detailed receipt information as part of the alert.

I’d receive my receipt on my phone before I’d even stepped away from the till, and I would be able to check it over for accuracy.

Then, if I ever needed to return anything, I could maybe just pull up a bar-code representing the receipt on my phone, and let the retailer scan it to retrieve the purchase transaction details on their system.

Usage at home

I could also use the detailed information in the receipts to analyse my own spending habits, and see just exactly how much money a year I’m spending on takeaway coffees and shampoo.

I could also set up detailed budgets for certain products – for instance, to limit myself to spending €30 a month on beer – and check my spending against those budgets.

British citizens in Ireland after Brexit

It looks increasingly likely that a no-deal Brexit will go ahead on 29th March 2019. So what does that mean for the 100,000 British citizens currently living in Ireland?

In Britain much has been made of the need for EU citizens wanting to stay in the UK after Brexit to register for settled status. But there’s no similar arrangement for British citizens to register to stay in their EU country of choice.

It’s little wonder that loads of British people abroad – like me – have been applying for citizenship of the country where they live.

Common Travel Area

Thankfully the situation is much simpler for UK and Irish citizens living in each other’s countries. The Common Travel Area, which predates any EU agreements, guarantees British and Irish people the right to live, work, study, access social security and public services in each other’s countries.

This story from the Irish Times backs up the claim that plans are in place to protect the rights of British people in Ireland. However not every message is so consistent.

The UK Brexit guidance website for citizens living in Ireland seems to cast some doubt on rights being protected. The section on healthcare says, for instance:

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, your access to healthcare is likely to change.

Living in Ireland – GOV.UK

That doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence that all my rights are being protected! I just hope that the website is out of date, and other information out there is more accurate.

It also doesn’t help that the measures to protect the Common Travel Area are being laid out in a ‘memorandum of understanding‘ between the two governments, which doesn’t sound very legally binding to me:

…a memorandum of understanding between the two countries but also a legally binding international treaty on social security.

…but there are obviously timelines required in terms of the legislation that may be linked to that.  

Irish Times – Rights of Irish in Britain and British in Ireland protected from no-deal Brexit

Changing mortgage at the end of a fixed rate

We took out a fixed-rate mortgage for our home around 3 years ago, and that fixed-rate period is about to come to an end.

If we had done nothing and left the mortgage as it is then it would have transferred automatically from the fixed rate onto the bank’s current variable interest rate, which is higher. We’d have ended up paying about €200 more a month!

Instead we approached Ulster Bank a few months ago to ask them about our options for transferring onto another fixed-rate deal. The process has been somewhat frustrating and slow. The bank seems to obfuscate the process in order to dissuade people from making the effort to move to a better deal.

In order to change our mortgage to another fixed-rate we had to request two things from the bank which were sent out in the post:

  • a list of all current mortgage products, which includes all the fixed and variable rate deals, and a form to select which offer we want to move onto
  • a letter detailing the break-out cost because we are quitting our existing fixed-rate deal a few months early

Moving to another mortgage rate

We received the details from Ulster Bank a few months ago, and when we did our sums there was an obvious advantage for us to change our mortgage to another – cheaper – fixed-rate deal. The break-out fee to get out of our current fixed-rate was less than the savings we could make in a single month by moving.

Unfortunately the Ulster Bank process isn’t communicated well in the correspondence sent out to customers. They don’t actually mention how the break-out fee is to be paid, so we assumed that they would just take it from our current account, or add it to our mortgage balance. But no. You have to phone them (within a set period of time of receiving the break-out offer) and pay the fee over the phone. Only then will they move you onto the new interest rate.

And because we didn’t know we were meant to call the bank to pay the break-out fee, they ignored our written instructions, and didn’t move us to the new cheaper interest rate.

I would have thought that a simple phone call from Ulster Bank saying “We’ve received your application to move to a new fixed rate. Would you like to pay the break-out fee now?” might have moved things along. But instead they chose to do nothing, and our form requesting the reduced interest rate was ignored for more than 2 months – losing us hundreds of euros in potential savings in the process!

When we recently chased it up we were told we’d have to start the process all over again as our break-out fee would have to be recalculated. So we had to wait another week for the paperwork to come, phone Ulster Bank and pay the break-out fee, and then return our form for the new mortgage deal (which they say takes them 5-10 business days to process!).

Was it worth the hassle?

It’s definitely worth switching to a new fixed-rate deal if your current one is about to run out. The interest rates today are lower than they were a few years ago, and you could end up saving a lot on your monthly payments.

All the fixed-rate deals are cheaper than the variable interest rate, so unless you’re planning to pay off your mortgage early (which can incur penalties if you’re in a fixed-rate deal) it’s definitely worth exploring.

Under new regulations the banks are meant to make more of an effort to reach out to customers nearing the end of fixed-rate deals to inform them of their options – but I suspect banks are only going to do the bare minimum on this, as it’s not in their interest to promote their cheapest mortgages to existing customers.

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