Rothar Routes

Cycle routes & pilgrim journeys in Ireland and Europe …..

Déise Greenway v Barrow Blueway.

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!

Waterford Greenway 1

Waterford Greenway 1

Waterford Greenway Tunnel

Waterford Greenway Tunnel

Waterford Greenway Dungarvan

Waterford Greenway Dungarvan

Waterford Greenway Disused Train Station

Waterford Greenway Disused Train Station

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4 Responses to “Déise Greenway v Barrow Blueway.”

  1. Liam O'Mahony

    How do you come to the conclusions that (a) the Deise Greenway has no real flora and fauna? …my guess is that its edges have more flora and fauna species that the Barrow Towpath itself and (b) that the flora and fauna of the entire Barrow Valley will somehow be adversely affected by the development of a 1.25m unbound hard surface which (unlike the Deise line) will take up less than half of the towpath width. The flora and fauna of the Barrow Valley exists in (1) the hedgerows, (2) the riverbanks, (3) the trees, (4) the wetlands (towpath-east banks), (5) the woodlands and last but not least (6) the River Barrow …EVERYONE ONE OF WHICH will be ENTIRELY UNAFFECTED by the new Blueway.
    You also need to bear in mind that the Deise Greenway is a mere 28km long and has a city and large towns close by whereas the new Barrow Blueway will be 115km long with no city nearby so the assertion that it will be extremely busy is simply wrong.
    Obviously, if the new Blueway is a success (as it will be) the additional tourism, jobs, business income and prosperity will be balanced by a certain loss of tranquility, peace and calm which is the main argument against the Blueway but remember peace + tranquility = emigration + poverty!

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    • Turlough

      Good to hear from you Liam.
      I am no expert but my conclusion was reached because the Barrow is classified as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the European Habitats Directive. I don’t believe the Déise Greenway has that protected status. There is nothing unique about the flora and fauna along the Greenway. The Greenway is of course laid along a disused railway line therefore there really aren’t any grounds for concern about impact on the environment.
      Being an SAC does merit protection and the grass path is an integral part of the ecosystem so I cannot agree with your opinion that there is no impact.
      From a practical point of view the Barrow Track (as it is called locally) is far too narrow for long stretches to accommodate the cycle track.
      I don’t know how familiar you are with the Track but Waterways Ireland has a poor record of maintenance of the existing surfaces and I would fear that they would have the budget or the means to maintain a hardcore surface; i would contend that they would actually damage it with the use of heavy track machinery which they say is essential to carry out repairs to the river banks; why waste money laying a track and then damage it with heavy machinery?
      My last point is that the Barrow floods regularly each winter – and even in summer months. There is no way the surface will survive a single winter of flooding.

      In speaking to users of the Greenway it appears to be a very busy on weekends. Throw in the other river users on top of that and I can see it being pretty congested.

      Peace + tranquility does not = emigration + poverty. Don’t know what economic theory that is based on. A red herring in my opinion.

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      • Liam O'Mahony

        (Your) conclusion was reached because the Barrow is classified as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – INACCURATE STATEMENT – the Barrow VALLEY is the SAC, not the towpath. The towpath is merely an ACCESS to the SAC. The SAC will not be affected by improving the access!
        There is nothing unique about the flora and fauna along the Greenway – TRUE, nor is there anything unique about the Barrow towpath. I’ve tried my best to get you to see the difference between the 95% that will (a) be unaffected and (b) contains ALL the relevant flora and fauna.
        The Greenway is of course laid along a disused railway line therefore there really aren’t any grounds for concern about impact on the environment – DISGRACEFUL COMMENT – the nature along the hedgerows of the Deise Greenway is of immense concern (as is that along the Barrow towpath). Luckily, neither is affected by the access ways.
        Being an SAC does merit protection and the grass path is an integral part of the ecosystem – YOU MUST BE JOKING! The grass contributes nothing of any merit to the ecosystem apart from being home to slugs, snails and a few black beetles, ie pests! The edges, beside the grass track are what contain the valuable flora and fauna (as well as the river, banks, wetland and woods) and THEY WILL ALL BE ENTIRELY UNAFFECTED by the new Blueway! But I’ve explained all that already.

        From a practical point of view the Barrow Track (as it is called locally – actually it’s erroneously called “the line” …the locals are confused between the Navigation [line] ie the watery bit and the towpath which was constructed for horses, boatmen and anglers). AND NO IT IS NOT “far too narrow for long stretches to accommodate the cycle track”. It is overgrown with briars and weeds in places and that narrows the towpath but when they are cleared the towpath is a minimum of 4m wide and a lot wider in places.
        I am VERY familiar you are with the towpath having sailed the Barrow Navigation for 35 years, using the towpath and locks for what they were intended. Anglers leave fishing line in the river which fouls propellers but you don’t hear of boatment (the rightful users) complaining. It’s “the more the merrier” on the Barrow with them.
        YOU GOT ONE THING RIGHT ie “Waterways Ireland has a poor record of maintenance of the existing surfaces” BUT WITH TOURISM + COCO SUPPORT we can look forward to proper maintenance, at last! So your argument “…would fear that they would (not) have the budget or the means to maintain a hardcore surface” is actually the opposite of the true situation, ie simply wrong.
        You say “I would contend that they would actually damage it with the use of heavy track machinery which they say is essential to carry out repairs to the river banks” – HEAVY MACHINERY IS (1) ESSENTIAL TO MAINTAIN the towpaths (2) BEEN USED FOR 100 YEARS! So your case is hopelessly flawed, I’m afraid. I feel your heart is in the right place but you are listening to too much misinformation and disingenuous exaggeration and scare mongering.
        Your last point “the Barrow floods regularly each winter – and even in summer months. There is no way the surface will survive a single winter of flooding” – BASED ON WHAT? The anti group point to the section NE of Graiguenamanagh Bridge as “what’s proposed” …but it survived the massive Jan16 floods and is as good as the day they laid it! Fact. Check it out. Mud and gouged out vehicle ruts occurred in the grassy bit! So please …get your facts straight. Stop regurgitating lies you’ve merely heard from Nimbys and the “whatever it is I’m agin’ it” group.

        Bear in mind that the greater the numbers using the wonderful new Blueway the greater the tourism income, the better for business, the better for jobs, the better for prosperity in an area that has no other source of income. Most of the young people have to emigrate. Check out the prosperity the Western Greenway brought to that area and you’ll be able to base your statement on facts instead of rhetoric.

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      • Turlough

        I too am a life long user of the Barrow and am very familiar with the Track. I have cycled the length of it on many occasions and I cycle it year round, almost every week close to Carlow Town.
        My belief’s are not influenced by ‘Nimbys’ but from my own experiences of cycling, on and off road both here and abroad. Nor would I class myself as a member of the ‘whatever it is I’m agin’ brigade.
        Apparently Kildare Co Co Civil Engineer has echoed what I have written in an engineers report he prepared on the project.
        Heavy machinery was not used on the Barrow Track for 100 years, at least not near as heavy as what has been used in recent years. Totally inappropriate track machinery, 20 tonne trucks, plough up the surface and are causing subsidence of the banks – the exact opposite outcome of maintaining the towpath.

        The long term maintenance is surely an issue if you agree that the heavy machinery has been a cause of much of the damage. How is it proposed to maintain it using the same methods and not have the new surface blitzkrieged again. We all know how tight the budgets are for our Local Authorities and Waterways Ireland. It is difficult to see how an adequate maintenance budget will be provided after the surface is laid.

        If the towpath was not damaged by machinery, and if it was properly maintained as it is, the surface would be brilliant for off road cycling.

        Don’t forget this is also a national long distance walking route. I can’t fathom how we designate these routes; so many of our long distance walking routes have long sections on roads – truly awful for walking (and really defeats the purpose) while we now are talking about removing this perfect natural surface to replace with another hard surface! That doesn’t make sense to me.

        Especially when we have so many alternatives. How is it possible to create a fantastic Greenway in Waterford and in Mayo on disused rail lines and not do it in Carlow? The disused rail line runs through the nicest part of Carlow, parallel to the river if a bit removed; developing it would not impact on the environment and we have a real plus – a top class cycle route and a top class walking route. Bringing double the economic benefit!

        And as a keen promoter of our fantastic network of local roads all over ireland which are IDEAL for cycling, we could develop thousands of kilometres of safe cycling routes on good surfaces in all counties for little expense. What a network that would be.

        As a sailor I am sure you can see the need for investment in the river itself; I know nothing about boating but I imagine slow boating down the Barrow has great appeal to boat lovers.

        Carlow Local Authorities did outstanding work along the Quays in Carlow Town, design and build of the highest standard. The best use of money would I feel be to replicate this work in Athy, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graiguenamangh and St Mullins. build your economic development in the towns and villages and retain the natural environment as it is. Build that and they will come!

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