Greenways and the Barrow Valley
Sir, – Over three days in August 2015, a group of us hiked, biked and kayaked the 113km length of the Barrow from Lowtown to St Mullins. During that sunny weekend in peak holiday season, we met just one other group of long-distance walkers, no other cyclists, and we did not see a single barge movement of any kind. Apart from the occasional stroller near Graiguenamanagh, the only towpath users seemed to be a large angling group near Bagenalstown. Cycling from Monasterevin to Graiguenamanagh we found that the towpath is deeply rutted, overgrown, regularly blocked by locked gates and is near-impassable in many places. Most of our group – all fit and able-bodied – chose to take to the road instead.
Despite the wonderful value and hospitality we received from restaurants and accommodation providers, it is clear that this stunning amenity is shamefully neglected and is in deep disrepair. Waterways Ireland’s proposal to return the towpath to its former accessible state should therefore be welcomed and supported. Opponents’ concerns surrounding the ability of walkers to coexist with mythical monsters on bikes or worries about the risk of children falling into the river are unfounded; witness, for example, the success of the Great Western and Waterford Greenways, or any number of long-distance towpath routes across Europe such as the Canal du Midi in France.
The Barrow is a wonderful natural resource that should not remain the preserve of the few, but should be opened to locals and visitors of all ages and abilities. Leaving the obvious economic arguments aside, the intangible social and lifestyle benefits associated with such a usable facility are immeasurable.
I fail to understand why any community would not encourage this initiative. Judging from our experience, the Barrow does indeed need saving and this may be the only way to do it. – Yours, etc,
Dr CONOR O’MAHONY,