Waterways and greenways


Sir, – Olivia O’Leary (June 22nd) paints a picture of “ a carpet of green grass” and a “thoughtful Camino-style path” on the lower Barrow line. Inconsistently she also seeks more publicity (“something tourism bodies have not given it over the years”), which could generate insidious new pressures on her carpet.

There is a danger of towpath policy nationally becoming incoherent– by divides between a” green grass” lobby and local interests excited by the success of the Achill-Westport greenway in attracting visitors. Its success depends entirely on the quality of the scenery on its western section. As a proof of that, compare the absence of national comment on a recent excellent cycle path from Mullingar to Athlone with the attention garnered by a line of equal length from Waterford to Dungarvan.

One has to accept heavy cycle traffic in densely populated areas around Dublin (including Maynooth), as has for decades been the case for the Newry Canal basin. Elsewhere on the waterway network, traffic is light, and the wide new path on a section of the Royal Canal west of Mullingar is an unnecessary response.

The Grand Canal has long been spoiled by ribbon development on service roads sometimes on both banks of the canal, though it retains its charm where it traverses bogs and also in the thinly populated region from Pollagh to Shannon Harbour.

The Royal Canal and the Barrow have towpaths of very varied quality. Some sections are firm underfoot (requiring no treatment other than regular grass cutting); some are soft and rutted (in part unavoidably because of the wheels of maintenance vehicles), or periodically flooded as on a long stretch north of Carlow. There are also stretches of tarmacadam on local or service roads. As it stands, one very rarely encounters on either waterway a long-distance cyclist. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Olivia O’Leary (June 22nd) once again seems to know more about engineering than everyone else and chooses to ignore the purpose of the new surface on the Barrow river path. The new surface will provide access for us all 12 months of the year and bring much-needed business to the Barrow. Why does Olivia O’Leary choose to ignore wheelchair users and access for parents and buggies? – Yours, etc,


The Mullicháin Café,

St Mullins,

Co Kilkenny.