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Midsummer Madness

 

THE ROYAL CANAL WALK  MIDSUMMER  2014      

hippylove11

Well what do you think, wouldn't it be great to walk to Dublin for the midsummer, with all the long days and Sunshine. perhaps we could walk along the Royal Canal bring a tent, have the cooling waters to bathe the feet every night . See all the wildlife.....

what  !!   Madness

In  1862 Four Flannery Brothers the youngest just 16years old, left their family cottage in Clooncunny Co. Sligo in search of a better life in New Zealand. The "Famine" still a very recent memory. They walked The Royal Canal to Dublin which was like the main road of the day. From there they took the ship to New Zealand.

They made a rich claim during "The Otago Gold Rush" but with no water to seperate the the gold dust and inspired by their Royal canal walk they spent the next two and a half years with pick and shovel digging a twenty mile long canal, and soon became rich and famous.

We recently met Barry who believes that he is  a direct decendant of theirs and he too is excited for our planned adventure. 

 

P7070003 Friday 20th June 2014

It feels like Christmas Eve, and the excitement is building to a creshendo. We arose at 6.45 it was very mild indeed as we went for the usual refreshing dip in the Dubh Linn.  After breakfast it's time to bid farewell to all. Now a light drizzle is falling so raincoats are part of the wardrobe. There's not much else, spare socks and teeshirt. some vacuum packed smoked Fish, Cheese and Bananas as we don't expect to be in the vacinity of towns or shops during the first two days.

We're off.

We have chosen backroads from Ballaghaderreen to take us to the start of The Royal Canal at Cloondara. Roads that we are unfamiliar with, which add to the excitment of it all. We crossed the Lung River at Banada bridge. On the back roads we could see the new by-pass in the distance. These roads are free from traffic but we passed a house with some Rothweilers which gave us a bit of a fright, two were fenced in but one was free to roam the garden.

The small road on our map which is the old No.12 ordnance survey map which used to run along the Frenchpark Demesne is now gone, we had no choice but to come out onto the main road. We had to hotfoot it as far as Frenchpark stopping at the Douglas Hyde center to rest for a while.1Traffic was quiet at this time of morning but care was needed with fast moving lorries. We enquired from the local butcher in Frenchpark if there was anywhere to get hot food. He directed us to the local restuarant where we had to wait for some welcome homemade hot soup, worth the wait. The village character is dominated by stone buildings. We are carrying 2ltr's each of water which is 2kg the heaviest part of our baggage. If we had been aware of this diversion then we could have carried less and refilled here to lighten the load.

2Behind the village we took the long straight bog road in the direction of Elphin. Nature is reclaiming the many derelict houses on this stretch.

3A passing motorist enquiring for directions offered us a lift which we declined. We eventually came to Kilmaryal church and cemetary, where we aired the feet and ate the lunch. We walked on to the monument of soldiers but were a bit unsure of which road to take for Strokestown. We enquired from a local man who told us we  were on "the wrong road".....no no no you can't go to Strokestown this way.... but when we showed him our map he said ok yes we can. We explained we were avoiding the main roads. We were beginning to tire and had started to look for the place to camp. We soon found a space for the night on a bog track. We had our meal and after a rest and a chat about the day and the next days travelling we hit the hay by 6.00pm...after 38k sleep was easy.

21st June 2014 Midsummer Solstice.

P6210011

After 15 hours rest we awoke to a beautifully Elderflower  scented morning, with 26k to Cloondara we had a breakfast of smoked Mackeral and Bananas, a proper slumming it breakfast. After a 2k start  there lies before us a most beautiful lake, lough Annaghmore. It calls to us as we get closer. What beautiful clear warm water, it's not the Dubh Linn but its perfect today, not a soul insight except the skimming of a tiny perch, at least six skips, like a good skimming stone throw. The water was warm and clear and we enjoyed the  peace and tranquility of having the place to ourselves in the warm sunshine. Off again and before we know it we are in Strokestown a second breakfast of a hot wrap and hot chocolate was greatfully consumed.

An elderly lady stopped to enquire about our walk as we sat on the kerbstone eating. She told us of her 18 year old grand daughter who had walked from Landsend to John O' Groats for Cancer research. Her walk had begun with her Father who had to stop after a few days with swollen legs and feet, but she continued the two month walk alone.

Later down the street we got Incense and candles for tonights celebrtion from Theresa in the health food shop. She gave us some tee lights free as she had nothing suitable on sale for backpackers. So we promised to remember her in the celebration. To get to Scramoge crossroads from here we had to walk 4 k of main road , most of which had a footpath We met a friendly farmer on his tractor, possibly heading to the butchers for the Sunday roast. On his way back home he bipped and waved.P6210017

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At Scramoge crossroads we met a couple of bikers,

 

 

 

Jimmy from Ballghaderreen and Tomas from Poland planning a 160k cycle today. We continued on the long straight road to Slatta, past a field where hay was being baled,P6210022 across the Bord Na Mona railway bridge and then further  along the road to Whitechurch. An end to roadwalking is now in sight. We reached Tarmonbarry at 2.20 pm with just 3k to the canal ata Cloondara. First its time for hot food and a drink, and to collect a  bottle of wine for the Midsummer night celebration.

The first sight of water as we cross the Shannon River to the canal was exciting,P6210034 we felt drawn to the water goddess for the celebration, Cancerians time is at a peak and now it feels like my time.

 

P6210042We had a pint of cider at the first lock or 46th lock as its known in Cloondara, and took a walk around before setting off in search of a home for the night. P6210049P6210051

 

 

 

 

About 3k along the canal in a sheltery spot fit the bill.

We had a short commerative midsummer acknowledgement within the tent as the midges were out in force on asuch a calm evening.

As I am a sufferer  with bad feet from an old lawnmower injury my feet are showing signs of wear after the 70k of road walking so far. Gel toe tubes and plasters are the order of the day and I look forward to soft grassy canal banks.

 

 Day 3 sunday 22nd 

It was a very hot and sunny start and after 2k the water was calling. We met  two joggers with a white Molly, after that not a living soul was to be seen. So off with the gear and in for a dip, followed by a a shave The water was surprisingly clean and warm for so early in the morning. 7Just had we rested, dried and dressed a walker with earphones came along, timing is everything. Its important here to walk on the right side of the Canal as it veers off left for longford, there are no markings anywhere to let walkers know where you are, in relation to towns or distance. Lots of room for improvement with signage. The terrain changes all of the time from grassy underfoot to shale, which is more suitable for cycling perhaps. After two hours we came to a road crossing and met a Dublin man living locally who told us of the village restaurant at Keenagh just 500 meters away, but once again no signs. Sunday lunch sounds great as we have not had a proper meal since we set out. Keenagh is a beautifully kept village between Lanesboro and Longford. The village restaurant is run by a young Romanian couple who seve good helpings of well cooked food. Its the Cod for us. As we were leaving at 12.30 the place was filling up, a good sign.1213 

We walked back the road to the Canal where we encountered  a Duck with her offspring, some Butterflies, Golden Dragonflies, Damsonflies a Rabbit a Heron a Moorhen, a beautiful Swan with her two Signets, and her male sentry on guard on the bank. It must be the Sunday afternoon strollers.

WP 20140622 006 17At Ballymahon we talked with a woman whose husband was on a call out to a boat which had overheated, it was the only boat to pass us since we left Cloondara yesterday afternoon. Work is currently taking place to clean the canal of reeds as they are getting caught up in the engines of boats.

She was envious of us taking time out to enjoy a simple walk. She wished for us to inspire her husband who had retired three years ago, but has now taken up part time work as a service man to canal boats. There is now no time to do all the things they had planned for retirement.

Later we were set upon by a mangy dog, who was lying in wait to pounce. When the owner came along he was very laid back and could not see what all the fuss was about. He didn't even try to control the dog when he arrived on the scene, and allowed him to continue to frighten us. A fazer would be a useful thing,(for the dog too)98

After exploring an old forgotten Lock House we are soon thinking of two creamy pints of Guinness, but no sign of a town. We then met a man putting his dog into a van ....How far to the nearest pint of Guinness? we asked  Twenty minutes walk to Abbeyshrule he assured us. We thanked him and almost ran from here . Two pints and two toasted sambos followed by two more pints...heaven....

 A birthday party was happening at this time and a man called Martin, who appeared to wish he was not the lucky birthday boy, arrived to a surprise welcome, but surely he settled in to the spirit later, This was the 39th lock and the best yet. As we were leaving Abbeyshrule we noticed a beautiful Corncrake awareness sculpture.26 Re-energised we set off  for a nice place to pitch up for the night. We passed a small but active airfield and  an aquaduct, 27then the place appeared.

Our two second pop up tent does what it says on the front, two seconds and we are in. We paid 39 in France for this pop up no bars one man tent. It's very light weight, and we also bought two light weight sleeping bags. travel light is the secret.  

 

What an amazing day the phone tells us that friends have called to stay so a neighbour brings a key. Another friend wants to meet up, but mayby next time. The joys of the cell phone!!

 

Day 4 Monday23rd.

We set off about 7am. The already hot sun and the light breeze across the water is cooling, the scent from dinner plate sizes Elderflowers is intoxicating. Just  a little way along and four Herons arose from the water,4herons this is  a breath taking moment for us to see these jurasic park looking birds probarbly parents with their young.The call is similar to that of a seagull and we stop in awe looking skyward untill they dissapear from view.

Its time for a dip and to relax for a while and take it all in. The water is warm and clear the dragonflies are in  abundance, it's mating season.The morning Sun stirs all manner of nature and they fly around oblivious to us as we enjoy the morning waters.33 

We arrive soon at Ballynacargy which has a beautiful Harbour. 30Ten years ago we docked the canoes here in search for food for a Barbecue. Today we just require a hot chocolate which we got in the local shop. We stocked up on water and a few extras to get us a little further on our way. We talked with some locals including the postman, who had nothing for us today!! We heard of a Barbecue with music that had taken place  last night  a few locks further on. Later as we approached that lock Coolnahay we met two men from Dublin walking the canal in the opposite direction. They too found the terrain in parts less suitable for walkers than for cyclists, we assured them that some parts of their later walk is more suitable for walking. Its a small Harbour and the tidying up was taking place from the night before.34 P6230201EMPIR.........

We've been told its two hours to Mullingar from here, so we may have dinner there today.

The Flora and Fauna just amazes us all the way along. Half way there we arrived in Balla and talked to a county council worker who showed us some maps. It was good to see where we were located on his GPS system.

1618

And hour later we could see Mullingar in the distance we spoke with two elderly men sitting on a bench, who said we were two miles from the center of town. With some rest and food we realise there's a possability  we May reach an old family friends home by night time, and hopefully set up camp there in his orchard for the night.

Peppers cafe in Mullingar is where we chose for dinner, where the food was good and reasonably priced. Then a stroll around town. Joe Dolan was in the town square as large as life "theres no show like  a Joe Show"joedolann

We bought the necessities for the continuing journey, and the staff of the local chemist, whom we had met in Peppers gave us some suncream  samples to put in our pockets for easy access and wished us well. Several people commented that we looked as if we had been to the Mind and Body festival which had just taken place at the weekend. (must have been the tent and backpacks)

Our next stop is Mary Lynch's pub. After what seemed like a very long hot afternoons walk, we were tired and glad of the rest, and had the much longed for pint and a toasted sandwich. The customers here were very interested and impressed with our adventure. A staff member told us the shop at Killucan railway station 30 minutes further on would still be open to get some food for tomorrow's breakfast. This is near our distination, although we were tired we thought we would push on just a little further.

 

 

As we approached Killucan for the first time along our Canal walk we saw an advertising sign to let us know there is a village ahead with a shop. These signs are badly needed along the canal and could save travellers from carrying heavy loads of water. So we left the canal and entered the village, In Cunningham's shop we asked for some yogurt only to be told, ah shor we wouldn't stock that, and were awaiting on supplies of Bananas. So we stocked up on water and sampled the Guinness in the bar which was mighty. 

P6230223A hundred yards away from the train station our family friend was not at home when we called, so we lift a note and moved on a bit disapointed, We will be back. P6240240

 

We camped just past Thomastown for a restful nights sleep. A lone jogger passed just as the sun was setting.....

 

 

 

 

Day 5 Tuesday 24th.

Another beautiful sunny morning.P6240252 We bathed our feet under a bridge in the Sunshine after an hours walk and ate breakfast. After another half hours walk we came to Morans pub post office and grocers  in Hill of Down county Meath where we had Tea toast and Marmalade. The owner here is a lovely friendly man very eager to help and oblige He agrees with us about signage along the canal.

Its a long distance from here to Enfield but the walking surface is the best yet. P6240258With a soft grassy track which became a magical lush green walkway. Beautiful birds, a Heron and butterflies and even a Falcon flew overhead, which we heard before we saw it. In Enfield we had a great meal in the Bridge Inn, really good food and generous helpings, just the thing for this long stretch. P6240288Jimmy took a walk on an old footbridge just in time to see the steam train Pass. There was a small dog locked behind a gateway which we had to pass through on our way As we opened the gate he shot out , like a bullet from a gun. But who could have left him here in the big heat of the day, he could not have been forgotten as he was barking loudly for all to hear....WHO? jimbridge

At the Blackwater aquaduct there was a man having his lunch and bathing his feet, he too was walking the canal from Dublin, heading west and enjoying the nature as we  were. We passed Furey's Bar in Longwood but we were not hungry and decided to put it on our list for another time. It looks like a beautiful pub.

Surprisingly there was no lock from Thomastown untill Kilcock which was very busy with evening commuters when we arrived so we kept moving even though our feet needed rest. Too mny people for us just now. We walked on in the direction of Maynooth. P6240279There's now no where suitable for dipping, camping or getting off track. As we consure a lot of water while walking especially in this hot weather nature calls often. P6240295There are a lot of people walking, jogging and cycling. Very soon we are in Maynooth harbour and we enquired about  a room for the night from two local fishermen. They told us about B&B and a Hotel. They also said that walking to the city would not be a good idea as parts would not be safe for back packers. We went to the Hotel which was fuly booked up, but they found accomodation for us in the Campus of N.U.I. P6250309

At the college the receptionest told us the canal to the city is dodgy with some young drinking groups hanging around. 

What a magnificient building and a splendid place to spend a night. It feels like an adventure in itself just staying here. We got to our room and inspected  and attended the tired feet. We savoured a bottle of wine and reflected on the locals remarks and observations about walking to the city. So we think we should heed the signposts. We  relaxed and decided that our canal adventure stops here.

We slept soundly on a soft matress.

 

Day 6 Wdnesday 25th.

As we awoke we became aware of our surroundings, the birds are singing and it is time to depart. We are each thinking but not saying that we are drawn to walk the canal to Spencer Dock. We know it is within striking distance today, but the unspoken allows us to go to the train station. Once onboard and we pass each station on the way to town we become aware that we have done the right thing and allow the spoken word to confirm our thoughts.35

Now as we talk almost daily and reflect on our mid-summer Royal Canal Walk we become excited. The experience of being with nature and never knowing just what lies around each corner, who you will meet, and share a moment with, is a memory to behold.

It was a very worthwhile and memorable adventure which has put the longing on us to undertake a walk on the Grand Canal....soon !

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The Royal Canal Walk was a positive experience for us. Some work is currently being done to clean the water, to make it more user friendly for boats. Also the towpath is undergoing some changes. it appears that it is encouraging cyclists, with a hard surface similiar to the Western Way. Maybe a half/half surface could be achieved. This surface is very difficult for long periods of walking.

Signage is important also to let the traveller know where theyare located in relation to towns and villages.

This could be done with the use of an Information Board/ Map along side the bridges, and would work for the benefit  of the user and the towns.

 Siul shona.......zwildfairy

 

 

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