WATERways

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Daingean, County Offaly

We left the Grand Canal at Shannon Harbour, and followed the Shannon south towards Banagher, then Portumna. A wide band of  marshy land teeming with watery life -  the callows - borders the Shannon. Hoping to keep close to the water’s edge we took a wrong turn, and came across the newly reconstructed Meleek weir and walkway, which spans the callows for three hundred metres. It was breathtaking at dusk to be suspended over this extraordinary landscape.

Continuing along Lough Derg we stopped at an abandoned jetty, previously the embarkment point to visit Inis Cealtra (Holy Island), and Denis plunged into the clear cold water.

Meleek Weir

Rossmore on Lough Derg

LIMERICK

The next day we continued down through Mountshannon towards Limerick, where the admirable Pat Lysaght brought us out on the Eye of the River.  At 78, Pat is nimble and fit, on the water from morning to night guiding boats through the treacherous waters of the Abbey River.

Pat Lysaght chats with some canoing friends on the river Shannon in Limerick.

Swimmers near Goresbridge on the Barrow, July 2021

Towards the end of the summer, we finally reached the beautifully proportioned small harbour at Dromod, near Carrick On Shannon,  then headed North to join the Shannon Erne Waterway.

We lost our way—the area is a puzzle of lakes and rivers—and had the delightful surprise of discovering Acres Lough. We entered Northern Ireland at the Belcoo gap, taking the main road to Enniskillen to make up for lost time.

The Harbour at Enfield has recently been beautifully restored by the OPW and there are many more interesting pieces of built infrastructure along the Royal Canal: a small aqueduct where the canal crosses the Blackwater river, the dry dock at Mullingar, elegant locks and mill houses.

We persevered through the heavy drops, before being forced to descend  on the rocky, slippy precipice that borders the Royal Canal near Coolmine, to carefully pick our way by foot, pushing our bikes and blinded by sheets of rain.

At Maynooth Harbour the rain cleared and we were relieved to join the Royal Canal greenway, a 130 Km long surfaced pathway.

theROYALcanal

We set out from Waterford Harbour, aiming to follow the Barrow navigation from the estuary to County Kildare. This wasn’t easy, the estuary is bordered by farmland,  the road following a winding, hilly route far from the water’s edge.

At St Mullin’s we joined the towpath. It was an unusually hot and sometimes tropically wet summer, and the landscape was lush as a result. Belts of thick forest lined the river between St Mullins and Graiguenamanagh, and temperatures hit a dizzying 30.8 °C.

This brought about behavioural changes in the population. Large groups of overheated people lounged in cool pools behind the Barrow weirs.  Children dive-bombed into the water from the bridge by the 20th lock - like scenes from Ireland of the 1950’s.

We cycled from Waterford to Sallins in this intense heat feeling privileged - it was an unusual summer in so many ways, we were very happy to be part of it.

Summer 2021

loughDERG

eBike RECCE

Clondalkin, County Dublin

Leaving Lanesborough we turned left and found ourselves on a rough track through the Kilteevan peatlands. It was a hot day and this isolated pathway through wind-knarled trees was silent except for the hum of bees and a distant rumble of the Athlone road. Knotty tree roots broke our trajectory, but we bumped along happily discovering small inlets with boats moored in a haphazard way, including a curious bright yellow hover craft at Gailey Bay.

the upper SHANNON

and the ERNE

Enniskillen is paradise for fishers and boaters, and a wonderful nature reserve in itself,  but it is hell for a cyclist, so we ditched our bicycles to explore the rich and diverse shorelines of the city by foot.

From Enniskillen, on the final day of our recce, we cycled south along the Erne to take the bus from Belturbet. Across from the bus stop a sculpture commemorating two young people who died in a car bombing in 1972 reminded us how far our country has come since then.

The waterways are unconcerned with the artificial barriers we create as human beings, but flow from one territory to the next sustaining life as they go.

As guardians of the precious resource of water, we must learn to do the same.


Spencer’s Dock

Boys about to jump from a bridge near Lock 20 on the Barrow navigation, July 2021


After Mullingar we passed through austere peat landscapes, bereft of human presence, except for an isolated park bench somewhere near Glencara.

On July 7th, released from pandemic quarantine, we headed off on economical, bottom of the range eBikes to cycle the length of the Grand Canal.

On day one we cycled from Dublin to Tullamore, 90 kilometres along paths of varying quality. Excellent cycle paths in Dublin gave way to fragments through the Dublin suburbs and Kildare.

We scrambled over gates and through long grass, but finally, as we approached County Offaly, the path improved and the sun came out. The greenway lay straight and wide in front of us. Between Tullamore and Shannon Harbour the canal cuts through the Ferbane Bog, which fuelled the Ferbane power station from 1957 to 2003. Much of the ecosystem was destroyed, but thankfully it is now being restored. These bogs are important carbon sinks as well as rich reserves of biodiversity.

A few days later we repacked our eBikes and hit the Royal Canal. It was raining heavily when we passed the giant coppery head of Luke Kelly near the Sheriff Street Lifting bridge.

loughREE

The Royal Canal meets the Shannon at Clondra and Tarmonbarry, and the Shannon widen out into the breathtakingly beautiful Lough Ree just slightly lower at Lanesborough.

theBARROW

http://www.schooloflooking.org/SoL/home.html
BOAT.html
PARTNERS.html

AN ART EXPEDITION ON A SOLAR POWERED ELECTRIC VESSEL ALONG RIVERS & LAKES

CONNECTING COMMUNITIES ACROSS IRELAND TO BUILD A ZERO CARBON FUTURE.

ARTS COUNCIL OPEN CALL AWARD / SFI DISCOVER AWARD 2021

We stayed overnight in Athlone, before making a mad dash to Clonmacnoise, again in pelting rain, to meet our friend and fellow artist Kevin O’Dwyer, who has photographed Clonmacnoise for many years in every season.

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