Barrow towpath campaign
Sir, – Henry McClave takes me to task (August 23rd) for daring to question the motives of a vocal minority who oppose the development of tourism and amenity infrastructure along the river Barrow. In the interests of fairness, I need to correct his contention that I objected to the notion of a grassy footpath along the banks of the river. I never suggested that.
The banks of the Barrow are about 10 metres wide, sometimes wider, and providing a narrow, grit-surfaced two metre-wide strip on one bank will still leave lots of room for people who prefer to walk on grass. There is, it would seem, no real conflict between my aspirations for the route and those of your correspondent.
I would also agree with him on another thing; the section between Graiguenamanagh and St Mullins is the best of the Barrow Way, but the more you go north of Graiguenamanagh, the worse it gets. While it is reasonably passable for well-shod walkers, it certainly isn’t suitable for cyclists, and you couldn’t put a buggy or a wheelchair anywhere on it.
My issue is with those who would seek to block or delay the provision of the kind of infrastructure that is the norm in other countries, the countries that enjoy a booming trade in cycling and walking tourism. By our policy of not providing long routes for this highly sustainable business, we allow this trade and the jobs that go with it to go elsewhere.
We have a short greenway in Mayo that is enough to keep an average cyclist happy for half a day, but nobody is going to spend a week cycling up and down it like a hamster in a wheel.
As your other correspondent Seamus Lennon pointed out on the same page, we need long trails to attract and sustain this business, but the only way we can create these is on strips of publicly owned land. Canal and river navigation towpaths and disused rail lines are assets that we haven’t yet learned to leverage to create jobs and opportunities, as well as providing a better quality of life for our citizens. We need to play catch-up. – Yours, etc,
The Barrow Navigation south of Goresbridge to St Mullins is by far the prettiest waterway in the country. The topography of the valley guarantees that the cycle path will be narrow and the impact on both visual amenity and wild life minimal.
This towpath is also likely to be highly successful, and bring some business and liveliness along the waterway to the towns of Monasterevin, Athy and Graiguenamanagh.
On the waterways in general, there is a need for tighter planning requirements. A large house built in recent years with a long retaining wall fronting the towpath on an unspoiled vista several miles south of Carlow town, or two bloated residences one or two miles apart on what is historically the most evocative section of the Newry canal, are disturbing instances of the need for greater awareness by planning authorities. – Yours, etc,