Sir, – Felim O'Rourke's letter of 21st February regarding the Barrow Blueway deserves a reply. He (February 21st) notes the value of off-road cycle and walkways in both Britain and Germany and talks of the success of the Western Greenway, all of which points are true. He also mentions the variety and varying age-profile of the users.
However, the Barrow towpath is completely different to the Western Greenway or the soon to be opened Waterford Greenway, which are based on old railway lines.
The Barrow towpath is flanked on one side by an often very fast-flowing river and a deep drainage ditch on the other, and I’m not sure that I could ever recommend to someone to bring their young children along it to learn to cycle there, surface “improvements” or no.
As it stands, the Barrow towpath is a green laneway which every user, walker, jogger, cyclist, angler and the local wildlife use and enjoy for its unspoiled nature. This unspoiled nature is the great attraction of the Barrow.
As a cyclist, I can manage to bounce, bump and bimble along at a leisurely pace without disturbing anyone and enjoy the peace and quiet afforded by the current grassy surface over the original towpath surface. The current surface doesn’t encourage speed, which is a good thing.
Unfortunately, in places and particularly recently on the stretch south of Ballytiglea Bridge, Irish Waterways has laid down gravel and dust of the type proposed in their application. Having cycled on this surface, I can tell your readers that it is no improvement over the original surface. Noisy and harsh, I would be better off cycling on the road. And in laying down the surface at Ballytiglea Bridge, Irish Waterways cut down every tree, shrub and flower and blade of grass where the works were carried out. It is like a bombsite.
As an example of how not to sensitively enhance an almost natural unspoiled setting, it is a perfect example.
The residents of the Barrow Valley are certainly not against some enhancement and improvement of the Barrow Towpath. Definitely, in places, some improvement is required where the surface is soft and boggy. A hard surface along perhaps a maximum metre-wide strip (rather than the full width of the existing towpath) would suffice for touring cyclists, wheelchairs and motility scooters, but please, without cutting down every bit of greenery in sight.
What is proposed by Irish Waterways is overkill. It will destroy utterly what is great about the Barrow Track, its unspoiled nature.
I advise people to go for a walk or cycle along the Barrow Towpath very soon, before Irish Waterways destroys it. – Yours, etc,
Bagenalstown, Co Carlow.