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!