Towpaths and greenways

 

Sir, – John Mulligan (June 13th) points to the Deise Greenway in Waterford as a model of what should happen to the Barrow towpath. I took a 2½-hour walk along the Waterford Greenway from Kilmacthomas over the recent June bank holiday weekend. While it is a very good amenity for cyclists, it was not comfortable for this walker. Family groups cycled at a gentle pace, but there were many male cyclists who went at speed on the hard surface. As the numbers built up over lunchtime, and cyclists were coming in both directions, I found myself constantly stepping off the tarmacadam track to get out of their way. The Greenway is made for cyclists. If I were a cyclist, I would enjoy it. As a walker, I felt quite uneasy.

In any case, there is simply no comparison between the two paths. The Deise Greenway is a very nice tarmac road laid along the old railway line. While there were some pretty wildflowers along the edge, it has none of the richness of wildlife that the Barrow River towpath has with its herons, and otters and kingfishers.

The grassy surface of the Barrow towpath accommodates walkers, joggers, and cyclists – and wildlife – at a pace where no one user intimidates the other. The carpet of grass ensures quiet. All you can hear is water and birdsong. There is time to watch the fish jump, to stop and talk to the people who pass you on the way. Instead of digging up 114 kilometres of it and laying down a hard surface for cyclists as Waterways Ireland propose, why not keep it in all its unique grassy beauty and develop it as a thoughtful pilgrimage way to the seventh-century monastic settlement of St Moling in St Mullins? Pilgrims have been coming there for centuries, particularly at the time of the Black Death in the 14th century to drink from Moling’s Well which promises health in mind and body. Developed like the Camino de Santiago, with which it has a connection, it can provide a more sustainable sort of tourism. Above all, it needs to be publicised and with the public controversy over the hard-surface Blueway, visitors have increased substantially.

As to your correspondent’s claim that only a “handful of locals” opposed Waterways Ireland’s proposed hard surface Blueway plan for the Barrow Towpath, I would point out that over 440 submissions have been made to Carlow County Council – a record number,it is understood – and the vast majority objected to the plan. They came not only from locals but from people all over the country. – Yours, etc,

OLIVIA O’LEARY,

Chairwoman,

Save the Barrow

Line Committee,

Tinnehinch,

Co Carlow.