Nice to see the spread of visitors to the blog. I’ve only recently taken to regular updates and hope to work on it in 2015. If I get the time (!) I hope to get out and about more around Carlow and record what I see and let people know what a hidden gem the county is.
I will also update on any tours I get to do; my ambition is to complete the Via Jerusalem in the next few years and that’s full of promise.
I am working on a Carlow route that will include as much off road sections as possible and which will attempt to cover most of the county. I’ve done some tricky parts already; just need to join them up now!
Will have some video clips of an interesting section ready to go
There is a lot of disquiet about the proposed investment in a bike route along the Barrow towpath.
As a regular user of the track for cycling I was at first delighted to hear that it’s potential was now being recognised yet I wondered about the ‘development’ planned. I cycle on the Barrow Track every week from the Spring through to the Autumn, less regularly in Winter and so I know it pretty well.
Barrow at Milford
A couple for things strike me about it.
Parts of it are stunning. From Goresbridge to St Mullins is possibly the finest riverside scenery in the country.
The extent of the Towpath is unique – thirty miles from St Mullins to Carlow.
All of it can be cycled. The are some difficulties in cycling it such when the grass gets too high (it’s not very well maintained) or where Waterways Ireland has butchered it in carrying out ‘repairs’ to the surface. They use heavy hardcore in places to provide grip for their four by four vehicles. Seriously, you would break an ankle walking over these rocks on sections the River Griese and Maganey Lock. Maybe a better solution would be to invest in more environmentally friendly vehicles.
It links with the Grand Canal and thus is a Greenway into and out of Dublin for walkers and cyclists alike.
Relatively small numbers use it. There are locals in various towns and villages who appreciate the wonderful gift of nature on their doorsteps but the majority of people would hardly have walked 500 metres on the track.
There’s a great story attached to the river reaching back as far as the mythology of the Fianna, the establishment of St Mullins, the use of the river to access the entire of the island, the use of it for invasion, for trade and of course the story of it’s bio diversity.
The Barrow has huge tourism potential and it would be good to develop it. But this needs to be considered and appropriate.
How best to serve the people who use it or who might use it in the future?
In my opinion, very little development is needed. The surface is excellent for 90% of the route. It does need some repair work – to be carried out to the highest standards and not by the methods used in the recent past.
Good signage, some more access points onto the track to create shorter loops, picnic areas and seating along it’s length; an interpretative centre centrally located, more investment in maintenance and provision of appropriate vehicles and machinery to do the job without causing more damage to the environment.
If reports of the type of surface that is being proposed are accurate it will be an unmitigated disaster. We need less hardcore surfaces, not more, we do not need to replace natural grass banks with plastic grass grids – that never work. Especially on the Barrow Track where nature will take it’s own course and regular flooding will ensure this system will not take root and we will end up with a disastrous surface that will not be replaced afterwards as it will cost millions.
Look at what nature can do on the Barrow track – here is a video of flooding in JUNE 2012!!! This after just 2 days rain.
Christmas is a great time to reminisce. I haven’t looked at this video in a while so it was great to light the fire, put the feet up and marvel at the journey!.
Ronan and I did this pilgrimage route in 2010, starting in Canterbury, taking the Ferry at Dover to Calais and then crossing mighty France, Switzerland and the Alps over the St Bernard Pass, down into the Aosta Valley and south to Rome.
St Bernard Pass
The route we followed is being revived; now there is controversy over the route as it becomes mired in politics and bureaucracy. In any event it was an incredible route; we tried to be as authentic as possible in following the route pilgrims took back the centuries. This meant we were off road for some considerable stretches and if not off road, were on minor roads for 95% of the way. The off road stretches saw us in parts following old Roman roads or crossing farm land on dirt tracks. Great fun and easy to get lost as their is no signposting, or at least very very little!
Ronan on a Roman Road in France
Part of our plan was to divert from the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome and travel to Bobbio and then take the Via d’egli Abati to rejoin the Via Francigena further south.
Crypt of Columbanus
Bobbio is the resting place of the great Irish saint, St Columbanus. This major figure is reputed to be from the Carlow / Wexford border area and we were delighted to possibly be the first Carlovians since Columbanus to travel to Bobbio under our own steam!.
The bridge at Bobbio
We had a few hiccups along the way and had to take the train due to illness and running out of time.