For as long as I remember Olivia O Leary has been the great advocate of the River Barrow. Long before anyone else saw its potential. Many many years ago my late father had me read an article she wrote, either in the Nationalist or the Times I can’t remember which, but it had a powerful impact on me, extolling the natural beauty of the area, of an idyllic childhood spent swimming and playing in and along the Barrow near Borris.
She has never forgotten her roots, nor ever failed to promote Carlow when an opportunity arose. I cannot imagine her opposing something that would be good for the County.
Opponents attack her defence of the status quo as a case of Nimbyism. Fighting for what you believe doesn’t necessarily equate to nimbyism.
It was Roosevelt who said “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing”. If people who believe in the importance of retaining the Barrow Track say nothing, it will be a fait accompli and the damage done to the Track will be irreversible. Future generations will not thank the people of conviction for failing to speak out.
What strikes me about the people opposed to the cycleway is that they actually use the towpath and are familiar with every bend in the river, know every rock jutting out of the water, know every tributary and marvel at the sheer beauty around them. They truly care about it.
This is an important national way marked walking route; why would anyone think it a good idea to replace a perfect walking surface with a hardcore surface? Anyone who walks as a pastime, walks in wilderness areas not on roadsides! With access to open countryside so difficult in this country many of our long distance walking routes have to be routed along roads for lengthy stretches; here we have a perfect walking route and a proposal to lay a 112km hardcore surface….does that sound right to you?
I cycle the barrow Track more than most and I do that because I love it for what it is. Turning it into a cycle path will turn it into a bike super highway where walkers and anglers will be placed in danger. There is no room for error!
I haven’t heard a single objector yet who is anti development of the River. There are other ways to improve access and promote the river and the region that are environmentally sound yet will provide a more sustainable tourism model.
According to the Kilkenny People website, an engineer’s report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, raises serious questions about the suitability of the controversial Waterways Ireland “Blueway” plan to replace the grassy towpath along the River Barrow with a hard-surface cycling trail.
In a recent posting here I commented on the issues that he has raised that make the route unsuitable. His opinions will not come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the route but it is surprising that these concerns have not carried sufficient weight with project promoters, resulting in the project becoming controversial.
It’s fair to say that most people opposed to the proposal are not guilty of ‘nimbyism’ but are doing so through conviction that the proposal is indeed flawed and from a love of the beauty of the Barrow Track. I am sure that the vast majority would support a different proposal that respects this unique riverside habitat and maintains as much grass surface as possible.
Local knowledge should always inform these proposals; the engineer’s report refers to maintenance issues for a hard surface – and that is even without taking into account flood damage that will occur!
I would support the upgrading of the Barrow Track and the benefits it could bring to tourism in the area and for the health benefits attached to outdoor pursuits – walking, cycling, swimming and running on a well maintained grass surface with quality quayside developments in the towns and villages along the route. Carlow County Council got so much right in Carlow Town with the beautiful promenade and park which have truly enhanced the river in Carlow Town. An extension of this development a little further towards the town boundaries and in other towns and villages – Athy, Milford, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh and St Mullins would give us an international quality riverside development.
As a regular user I have to continue to point out that the maintenance of the towpath is not acceptable and has caused serious damage on long stretches. This has to be addressed. Waterways Ireland need a larger budget if they are to fulfil their obligations to the towpath.
Again I ask – is it not possible to develop the derelict rail line from Bagenalstown to Glynn just as the Déise Greenway has used the old rail line in Waterford? Surely a good solution? There would be no issue with a hard core surface and in fact it could develop into a rally good Loop cycle by using the grass bank from Bagenalstown to St Mullins to give it another dimension!
There has been a lot of focus on the plan to develop the Blueway along the Barrow Track. And a lot of controversy.
Many make the comparisons with the Déise Greenway in Waterford and the Great Western greenway in Mayo.
I thought I would take a spin down and cycle the Déise Greenway when the calendar allowed.
First impressions are that they have done a fantastic job on the route. Waterford County Coucnil obtained a licence from CIE at the turn of the century to develop the line as an amenity. They have completed the section from Dungarvan to Kilmacthomas and are working on the Kilmac to Waterford City section at present. I have to say it’s a great amenity for local and visitors alike. I have cycled on Greenways in Europe on old railway lines but found them a little boring as they were straight as an arrow and flat too. This line offers a lot more with great scenic views of the Comeraghs, Dungarvan Bay and Helvick Head. Other highlights are the Durrow Tunnel which has been tastily lit and is very atmospheric and the Ballyvoille Viaduct.
I started in Kilmacthomas and headed west for Dungarvan returning to Kilmacthomas. It’s a very easy pleasant cycle, ideal for families. There are bike hire facilities along the Greenway.
The surface is a mixture of tarmac and a cinder surface and on this occasion I was fortunate to use a carbon fibre Teschner racing bike, courtesy of Shane Foley – what a machine! I think my full water bottle weighed more than the bike!
For a Monday in January the Greenway was quite busy with cyclists and walkers and I got speaking to a number of them. All of them love using the Greenway but with one complaint – it has become a victim of its own success! Weekends are very busy times and there is little enjoyment on it as a result!
I would highly recommend the Greenway for anyone looking for a nice route easy route in beautiful countryside. It’s 24kms in length at present but will extend to 48kms when the final section is complete.
The thinking is that the Déise Greenway can join up with the Barrow Blueway to form a pretty impressive off road cycle route across the south east. It sounds amazing and would certainly be a boost for tourism in County Carlow. Would it work?
Having cycled both the Barrow Track and now the Greenway there are a number of differences between both routes.
For a start the Greenway will never flood whereas the Barrow floods on multiple occasions every year. The surface would be damaged and possibly washed away.The Greenway is attracting serious traffic on the weekends – the Barrow track could not cater for big numbers and for other users at the same time. I can imagine arguments between fishermen and cyclists – fishermen need the space for their rods and equipment; a bike track will reduce the area available to them. The Greenway runs along a rail line of no important ecological significance whereas the Barrow is Carlow’s most important wildlife habitat. this is a very serious difference between the routes. I don’t see how a hard surface can be considered in such a sensitive area nor how the Barrow track can retain its existing use and also cater for an influx of cycling enthusiasts.
A few other things struck me while cycling on the Greenway today; in places the route is lined with furze bushes and brambles. I could clearly see the thorn branches on the track after the hedges had been cut. Presumably this results is punctures! Maybe it isn’t the issue I think it is but I imagine in Autumn every year that there will be a problem with thorns puncturing tyres. I did notice that close to Dungarvan a sweeping truck was employed cleaning the path but I don’t think it does the entire route. This is a terrible problem on the Barrow Track because Waterways Ireland leaves the track in a terrible condition after hedge cutting – using machinery that is too heavy and never cleaning the surface after cutting. Farmers on roads always tidy up after the annual cut and the same should apply on the track. The route is very well laid out with protective gates at road junctions that are wide enough apart to allow cyclists continue without dismounting yet preventing motorised vehicles entering. A smart gate system also operates to allow farmers access their lands on both sides of the path.
The Déise Greenway is a great success and I think all options must be explored to see how the Blueway can be sensitively developed without harming the environment. Another thought struck me while cycling along this disused railway line. Running parallel to the Barrow is the disused Bagenalstown to Wexford railway line. If the Déise Greenway could be developed under licence from CIE could the Carlow line not also be developed in similar fashion? I assume the Waterford line fell into the same disrepair as the Carlow line so it should be possible to develop it instead of the Barrow as our off road cycle route!