Towpaths and greenways

 

Sir, – Olivia O’Leary’s description of the river Barrow will certainly encourage lovers of natural beauty to visit this tranquil place (June 15th). They will have to be hale of heart and nimble of foot though, as the track is not accessible to individuals with mobility concerns.

Contrary to her description of the track as being accessible to walkers and cyclists, in many places it is downright dangerous, being rutted, tangled and muddy. Waterways Ireland could develop short sections of the track for walkers of all ages, individuals using wheelchairs and mobility aids, parents with buggies and families on bicycles, thus allowing all members of the community to enjoy the beauty and spirituality of the riverside, as described so lyrically by Olivia O’Leary.

Low raised walkways could be developed beside the track. This would provide access to all members of the community without causing damage to the natural environment. After all, where there is a will, there is generally a way. – Yours, etc,

AILEEN BRODERICK,

Carlow.

Sir, – The grassy towpaths of the Royal Canal are much beloved of walkers and those who appreciate its flora and fauna. I have been walking its banks for many years and appreciate its beauty and tranquillity. On one occasion, two years ago, I walked its full length over nine days, starting at the Liffey and ending up at the Shannon. It is my Camino de Santiago and it brings to me the space to think and to find a little peace in this fast-paced world.

There are some magnificent grassy sections, such as those between Kilcock Harbour and Cloncurry Bridge, and there are some tarmac sections that are necessary to accommodate local farmers. However, I was surprised at the large sections of towpath that are of gravel or tarmac to accommodate cyclists. They are meant to accommodate pedestrians as well but they seriously hinder anyone wishing to take more than just a leisurely stroll. The surface is too hard for a 10km or 20km walk. On the other hand, cyclists have always used the green towpaths. However, the only serious way to experience the beauty and peace of our canals and waterways is to walk them and to soak up the huge variety of animal and plant life. Whizzing by on a bicycle just won’t do the same thing.

I recently drove to Longwood Harbour to stroll back towards Enfield and was shocked to discover that the whole towpath had been gouged up and covered with rough stone. A width of three to four metres was ploughed up and the high grass on the hedgerow side was gone. This grass is a habitat for a large variety of insects and butterflies as well as many wild flowers.

Ploughing up well-established and well-used towpaths that harbour part of that diversity is surely not the way to go. I also believe that any tourist with a genuine interest in our waterways would agree. – Yours, etc,

TOM DREDGE,

Leixlip, Co Kildare.