You come here because you like the sound of gravel. Silly, really. A grown woman, moved to happiness by the sound of stones.
Still. You like gravel. Always have. You like how it crunches underfoot; calls attention to itself. You like how it slows you down, discourages speed and carelessness. You can walk slowly here and not be in anyone’s way.
You remember visiting your aunt when you were young, the crunch of tyres as you turned onto her gravel driveway. You remember the dust that rose behind the car; hung for a moment in low clouds before dissipating into the country air.
When I grow up, you thought, I’ll have a gravel driveway. But you’ve lived in nine houses already. Still, no gravel driveway.
And so you come to this park, choose the path that leads away from Hatch Street, away from offices and restaurants. You walk along the perimeter (crunch, crunch), past the fountains, past the open lawn and the benches that surround it. You know you could sit in the sun, but you prefer to walk in the shade. You turn left. The park is quieter here, less busy.
You stop to look at an oak tree, its leaves dappled in the morning light. Beside the oak, a birch sapling. You stand for a long time in front of the sapling. Its peeling bark makes you ache. You would like to touch it gently, press it back into place.
A man walks across the grass, whistles to his dog.
You turn back towards Hatch Street, glance at the office blocks that loom above the park’s brick wall. Inside the offices, people you don’t know are making phone calls and writing emails. At lunchtime, they’ll bring their coffee and sandwiches into the park, stretch out on the grass or find a seat beside the fountain.
The gravel will crunch under their feet, too. Leave the same cloud of dust in their wake.
Designed in 1865 by landscape architect Ninian Niven, the gardens incorporate a wide variety of landscape features including fountains, rustic grottos and archery grounds. They were donated to UCD by the Guinness family in 1908, and placed under the care of the OPW in 1991.
The gardens play host to a variety of concerts and events throughout the year, but are still unknown to many Dubliners. Enclosed by high walls and trees, they offer a welcome respite from city life — a moment of quiet seclusion in the midst of everday busyness.