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        grenman                    Midwinter 2014

As we completed our Midsummer 21st June Solstice walk from home to "The Royal Canal" and then on to Dublin, along the canal banks, we thought how great it would be to walk the Grand Canal for Midwinter.

17th December

We set out by train from Ballymote, the cold journey to Dublin took just 2hrs.25mins. There was no heating on the train, the fares were not cut back so why was the heat ?

 

At lots of points on the journey the train line ran alongside the Royal Canal. We enjoyed seeing all the places we had walked for midsummer. The mood is set and the excitment is building.

 

ballymote-train

 

spire

  On our arrival to Dublin we took a bus to make some visits to bring Christmas Wishes to loved ones and to deliver our home made Christmas gifts.

 Later the most obliging daughter drove us to Palmerstown to a friend's house where we spent the night. After a few glasses of wine and a lot of catching up we tried to get some sleep, but excitment took over and sleep didn't seem so important. Lucan Bridge is the recommended start point for the "Grand Canal Way".

 

18th December

Up at 7am.

It seems that Lucan Bridge as it is known locally crosses The Liffey in Lucan Village,  and not what we are looking for. The Lucan Bridge crossing The Grand Canal is close to the train Station at Adamstown. A very helpful bus driver took us to the station and then part of the way back again to join up with the main Newcastle Road, and pointed us in the right direction.

Daylight was now just begining to appear, there was a light mist with some strong gusts of wind, but it was a very mild morning, perfect conditions for a walk. The day's forecast was for rain all day so we were prepared ! 

As we turned down the slipway from the Bridge and onto the canal the conditions were less than perfect ! The wind came headlong down the Canal like a funnel and the rain was so heavy that by the time we got gloves out we were soaked, and struggled to get them onto our wet hands. Undetered, we braced ourselves into the wind, wrapped up as waterproofed as possible and headed "Into the West". We were on our way, our adventure had begun.

4swan1first-barge

 

 

The waves were rising from the water and swans were paddling like mad just to stay still.

 

 

Soon we approached some colourful canal barges.

 

 

 

They seemed occupied, with smoke coming from chimneys, satellite dishes, wind turbines, solar panals and Christmas decortions.  Perhaps no one is up yet, as we pass quietly unnoticed.

The rain eased a little from time to time which gave the wind time to dry out our water resistant clothes, before getting wet all over again. The ground underfoot was heavy and slippery so care was needed in places and our pace was slow. Good thing that we are well used to mucky conditions at home, so wet heavy boots and clothes while not ideal are not impossible for us.

We were surprised at the number of occupied canal boats at HazelHatch as we had not seen this on The Royal Canal.2hatch3hazelhatch

 

 

The Hatch pub is getting a make over including underfloor heating, that will put life into it's now sad appearence. Looks like it will re-open soon.

 

 

 

The birds especially Mr. Heron are busy and plentiful. The weather did not deter them from their daily routine. The Swans are also plentiful, their baby signets now fully grown still with some of their youthful brown plumage still visable.6swanfamily44moorhen

 

 

The moorhens skim the water as we pass looking for camouflage on the opposite bank in the reeds. Soon we forgot all about the weather.

 

 

 

This section of the walk is known as Arthur Guinness Way. We pass Lyons Demesne one of the largest estates in the country, once the seat of the Kings of Leinster, where Arthur Guinness is said to have been born and is buried on the grounds. A taxi driver later told us that Ronnie Woods of "The Rolling Stones"   fame is believed locally to be the present owner. The entrance to the Canal Cafe was closed as we passed, (not a place for two wet adventurers). 23heron5ardclough

 

Ardclough village just a short distance away, meaning Top Stone or Superior Stone and is known for high quality limestone.

On to Sallins from here, which looks like a nice little town.

 

 The Canal runs right through it's centre which is very busy this lunch time with Christmas traffic and shoppers.

8sallins

 

We are not familiar with this town, or with this area. There are so many parts of our " little" country that we have not yet discovered. A lifetime could be spent on adventures in Ireland without ever going abroad, we as a nation say that it is the weather that stops us, but we have decided not to put that in our way as an obsticle and just go for it. We would like to come back along this walk by car and discover more walks in the surrounding countryside.

We are tempted to stop for hot food, but reaching our destination before dark spurs us on, and we are carrying enough food to get us through the day.

 

 

 

 

Walking through Sallins reminds us of The Train Robbery in 1976The Cork to Dublin train was held up here and 200.000 pounds was stolen.

9train110train2

 

 

No sign of a train today !

maybe it has been held up !

Just as we speak it trundles swiftly past.

 

 

 

 

12liffey13jcanalbank

 

 

Soon we cross the Liffey, the Leinster Aqueduct which amazed us, and we take time to reflect on the tecnology our ancestors were equiped with.

 

 

 

Canal side houses have been restored and extended to a remarkable standard as is this once small thatched cottage. We met with a man clearing fallen trees, who assured us that we were just a bit more than an hour from Robertstown. Heavy tractors and work vehicle tracks have created a deepcut wet mucky towpath. 

14canalhouse15robertstown

 

Our senses have been awakened by the smells as we passed through the town, so we took shelter under a bridge away from the relentless rain to satisfy our hunger, it tasted so good.

 

 

The lights of Robertstown in the distance was indeed a welcome sight, the thoughts of a hot meal and a warm bed were uppermost in our minds as darkness was fast approaching.16hotel17mullaneys

 

This once beautiful big purpose built Hotel in 1801 and extended 3 years later due to demand closed it's doors in 1869 when the Railway line took over from the canal.

 

 

The horse drawn Barge took 9 hours to travel 18 miles along the towpath, what a beautiful pace of life, no time or place in our modern world...

We tried to find accommodtion in Robertstown on line before we set out on our walk without success. Mullaneys looks like the place fpr us tonight. " No Room at the Inn" . The publican does not keep guests, and tells us that there is no accommodation in the town. On our request he very kindly made some phone calls, and found a room for us near Mondello Motor Sport Venue. He also called for a taxi to take us there. We stocked up in his grocery shop for the next day's walk including plastic bags for inside our boots as we could now pour the water out of them. A nagan of Jameson was purchased from the bar before leaving. 

Our accommodation was in a big modern house, but the Bean an Tigh could not supply us with any food hot or cold. So we were very happy to tuck into our recently purchased supplies of fruit, yogurt, cheese and bread. There was a kettle, so we had hot drinks to heat us up. Hot showers and an early bed was all that was required. A successful enjoyable day ends with a Hot Toddy.

Day 2 Friday 7am.

Our clothes dried out over night with the exception of our boots so the plastic bags were just the ticket to keep our socks dry. We walked with the use of our two torches along the very busy and a bit scary road back onto the canal. Fast moving commuters were on their way to and from work or in search of those last minute Christmas presents. We were glad to get off the road and onto the canal banks. We re-walked the same section 4/5km back to Robertstown, stopping off at Mullaney's foodstore, we thanked the grocer for his help the evening before, and again restocked for the day.

We left Robertstown just as the sun was rising,

18bridge19barrow

 

 

It was a beautiful morning, a bit chilly but dry. We knew that it was important to walk on the right side of the canal as it would soon divide into two.

 

The old Barrow line heading south from here, (we make a mental note to come back and explore it in the future),and we continued on our route "The Grand Canal Shannon Line"   where we arrive at Lowtown Harbour. There are a lot of Barges and a sign that says free moorings, what a great idea to bring a little businness to a small town. At Allenwood the road with lots of commuter traffic runs along the far side of the canal, traffic is heavy, noisy and fast moving. There are lots of houses on our pathway today with lots of yappy little dogs eager to have a better look at our ankles.

Soon all is quiet again as the road rumbles off into the distance. 

The slow pace of the canal is evident once again as we meet a farmer sitting on his bicycle, having a smoke, with a lone cow, that walks ahead knowing exactly where to go.

21cow22liftbridge

 

We passed the farmyard where the cow had been for it's morning milking and we are reminded of our friend's farm back in Killucan from our Royal Canal walk.

 

 

We soon see the first signs of Bord na Mona, this lifting bridge once used to lift rail carriages from the track on one side across to meet the track on the other side.

We chatted with a man out walking, who told us that the long stretch of canal ahead would be noticably different, like another world ! sounds intriguing. We are happy to leave the canine brigade behind, to go and uncover the mystery.

There was a noticeable difference in the colour of the water with a floating residue on top, this is the only time we have seen this on either canals. There is a big factory ahead, and it is Bord na Mona's peat Briquette factory at Kilpatrick.

Hopefully it is harmless to fish and wildlife, maybe it is time to send an email just to be sure.

Mr. Heron is very active this morning, it is Friday and Fishday after all. He allows us to get within 30ft. each time before he flies on about 100ft. ahead.

24heron42canalview

 

 

Are we of benefit to him ? 

Does the motion of our walking encourage the fish to swim in his direction ? as we haven't noticed him flying back behind us at any stage !

 From here we leave behind all signs of life, this is indeed a very bleak windy stretch .No people and no houses, another world as we had been told, but very similar to long stretches on The Royal Canal. The wind is almost gale force, and in our faces, and it is an effort to push into it and it takes it's toll on our joints. We stopped at a lock to eat, but the wind made it very difficult as there was no shelter. We pushed on, there were no landmarks visable for us to focus on. In summertime this would be a perfect place for a private swim. The wind was so strong that it was too difficult to walk, talk or take photo's. 

When we did eventually arrive at the Aquaduct and Tullamore tunnel we were exhausted and so happy to leave the wind behind us as we decended onto the road below.  Had we been walking from West to East we would have been helped along with the wind on our backs.

We looked forward to a hot meal, but were so tired that we just pushed the food around the plate,(not like us). Jimmy had tendon pain at the back of his knee, and I had a sore knee joint, possibly both as a result of the prolonged cold headlong winds. A long night's rest may aid recovery.

Our accommodation was just what the doctor ordered.Main street Edenderry

The Auburn Lodge, a family home, run by a caring couple who were happy to have us stay, and not just happy to take our money, unlike the night before, where the bean an tigh had no connection with us what-so-ever. This couple wanted us to be comfortable and to enjoy our stay. They shared their home baking, gave us some contact numbers for our next nights stay, offering to pick us up along the way if our injuries didn't sufficiently recover. After a hot shower and a rub of some deep heat we had a long and restful night. The perfect place to stay in Edenderry.

 Day 3. 20 December

We were up at 7am. our legs seem to have recovered, a walk will soon tell the tale. After a leisurely breakfast with lots of fresh fruit we set off through the quiet streets of the town to return to the canal. We realised that we hadn't taken any photographs since lunchtime yesterday, our bodies had been working in overdrive and rest was the most important thing for us.

Is this an omen to return ?

The lack of wildlife is striking, not even Mr.Heron is up today, did he eat too much yesterday or does he lie in on Saturdays. There are lots of bridges on this first stretch, each one encourages us on to the next and we just seem to be eating up the miles. The day is beautiful, we were enjoying the walk, the legs too are holding up well.

There were two fishermen on this section, the only ones that we have seen, well it is Christmas week !

At Rhode we had our first picnic, and at last a seat, (the first one since we began our walk) just a timber plank across two pieces of wood, perfect ! So easy and at little cost, but it works.

We are amazed at this Bord na Mona swing bridge.

27bnmbridge45swingbridge

 

 

 

 

A perfect way to cross the water with very little effort, no sign of activity today though.

 

 

 

 

uisneagh

 

 

"Mt.Uisneach" is visable in the distance, we become aware of our location. It is Goegraphically located in the centre of Ireland. A sacred historic place of our Celtic and Pagan tradition and is still a place of celebration, especially for mid-summer and mid-winter fire festivals, which is just a day away.

The event known as "The Gathering" originated from here as artifacts were found proving that a gathering of chieftans from all over the world took place here. We visited this magical place a few years ago.

 

 

 

 

Not stopping at Dangean as it is still a long way to Tullamore. The days are very short, we have to keep moving before we loose the light of day. We are just one day away from the mid-winter solstice and darkness arrives very quickly begining at around 4pm and difficult to walk safely by 4.30pm. It would be easy to twist an ankle or fall on uneven ground in this dusky light. We felt tired along this afternoon stretch. We are covering the same distance in an 8hour day as we covered in 12hours during our mid-summer walk, because of the shorter daylight hours.

When we could hear constant heavy traffic in the distance we knew that we would make it before dark. 30tullamore31tullamore bridge

 

 

As we walked under the Motorway we could see the Spire of Tullamore Cathedral. It was an exciting moment and a welcome sight, and we set our sights firmly upon it.

 

We entered the town at a leisurely pace, now with no concern for the approaching darkness. We used our phone to go on line and book a bed for the night as there was no reply from the phone numbers that we had been given, perhaps they are just seasonal accommodation.33willy32choir

 

We strolled around town. This little wagtail is looking for some pre-festive delights.

 

The carol singers in the town centre entertain shoppers, encouraging them to pause and take a moment out from the Christmas rush.

34bed35stairs

 

We went in search of a hot meal, this time, Chinese but again we had no appetite, unable to finish or even enjoy the taste. Our room for the night was calling, this time it's Cinderella's Palace ( The Bridge House Hotel ).

Wow a king sized bed !!! a wee drop of Jameson, a flat screen T.V, with the Christmas episode of "The Good Life"                  ahh !  feels like home....

After making the daily walk report with a very interested grand-daughter, which also prevents her anxious mother from worrying about our safety and well being, we check out the bed for size......zzzzzzzz

Day 4

Solstice Mid-Winters Day     21st December 2014

After a good comfortable sleep and a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and mushrooms we set off with light feet in search of the canal. When we found it, we asked a young man which way was West ? as it was not yet light and we didn't want to find ourselves walking in the wrong direction. He seemed unsure, but knew which way to Shannon Harbour. That was good enough for us. He remarked that it is a long way from here to there ! on hearing that we had walked from Dublin he said it wasn't really so long after all.

We felt confident of completing the final 35km approx. today.

As we left Tullamore we turned to see the Cathedral Spire just fade from view. We were mindful of today being the shortest day of the year,The Solstice, the return of the Light, and our "Grand Canal Walk" was timed to honour this fire festival, just as the "Royal Canal Walk" was timed to honour of the mid-summer fire festival. gfires

We also promised ourselves two nice creamy pints of Guinness if we made it to Shannon Harbour (a goal worth aiming for ). 37ruintwo38ruin3

 

We passed the ruin of Srah Castle. 

We could then see tall chimneys in the distance, this is Ballycowan Castle, a very interesting looking building with a lived in galvanised roofed cottage to the front of it.

 There was smoke rising from the chimney of the cottage, if the days were longer we would explore more here.

A jogger passed us, he had two Jack Russel dogs, the smaller younger looking one tucked himself in behind us, hoping not to be noticed. Our pace seemed to suit him better, but after a lot of coaxing from his companions he eventually gave in to their request and joined them. On their return the very friendly man in his sevevties it seemed, bade us the time of day with no sign of breathlessness so the little jack will have develop his stamina. There is a lack of Heron's and Moorhens, as there are a lot of long stretches where the banks have been cut right to the water's edge, nowhere to hide or be camouflaged. 40pub thatch41sugar

 

At Rahan the Thatch Bar is closed up and for sale, this once was D.E Williams Ltd. a locally owned Distillery, a stark reminder of the times our little country has been forced into.

 

 

Sugarbeet is widely grown in this area it seems as animal fodder.

 

28arches

 

 

 

 

A giant mast grabs our attention on the skyline.

29amast

 

 As we get closer we approach a large 3arch stone bridge. 

 A Sunday stroller told us that Bord na Mona have been seen crossing with up to 10 carriages at a time. It was built in 2000. to meet their needs, as were all the previous ones in their time. We are now close enough to the Aerial to see that it is about 300ft tall, big enough to be a radio transmitter, (possibly Spirit radio)?

 After we passed through Pullagh and enjoying a canal side picnic we watched a man in the distance get out from his jeep and cross the water, standing in what looked like a boat. "Rub a Dub Dub three men in a Tub"

46boatmen

Two more men came from a field and stepped into a water tank, (not a boat).It seemed as if they were stepping onto solid ground, it wasn't their first time to step on board. we asked if we could take a photo as we were in awe of them standing in this shallow tank.

As they pushed away from the bank the strong wind and waves blowing from the West swept them downstream. They used the rushes to stop themselves, one man got out and towed them back again. We moved on as it didn't feel right to stand and watch although we were anxious for their safety. A few minutes later all three passed us in the jeep. All is well.

Further along there there was another deeper water tank moored to the bank. Is this a regular form of transport by farmers for crossing over? It makes sense, if there is a distance between bridges especially if the towpath on the opposite side is too rough for a veichle.

 

43goose47ducks

Christmas is coming and "the Geese are getting fat" It's best to keep quiet, keep your head down at this time of year, as any turkey knows, (goose, duck, chick beware).

 

 

 

When we arrived at Armstrong Bridge we saw the road sign for Ferbane and knew that we would make it before dark.

We stopped for our final picnic just past Belmont Bridge. As we looked at our map to judge the distance remaining we realised that we have just a few kilometers to go, we are getting excited as the end is in sight. 

The phone rang !

Our friend Dave is already at Shannon Harbour to meet us and take us home. We stood up and suddenly our tired legs sprouted wings. With smiling faces we approached our destination just as darkness was falling 16.16

The shortest day of the year had just the right amount of daylight for us.

We three exchanged warm greetings, before sampling the Guinness . Well worth waiting for. Slainte.49jj50 jj2

 

We left this small village in darkness just as Santa Clause was about to come and make the final check to his list, ensuring that all the children of the area had been good all year.

 

 

He has no need for concern about us !

 Home in time to celebrate this festival of fire.

firefestival

 

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