Category Archives: Scenery

Matters of minor importance

Some recent(ish) discussions amongst the People’s Representatives. I haven’t time to analyse them all. All links courtesy of the estimable KildareStreeet.com.

Brendan Smith [FF, Cavan-Monaghan] wants a sheugh in Clones; he got the usual answer. And he allowed Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick] to announce, on 19 December 2013, the death of the suggested extension of the Erne navigation to Lough Oughter [loud cheers]:

Brendan Smith: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has received the feasibility study on the proposed extension of the Erne navigation from Belturbet to Killeshandra and Killykeen; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Jimmy Deenihan: I am informed by Waterways Ireland that it commissioned a Strategic Environment Assessment for the possible extension of the Erne Navigation from Belturbet to Killeshandra and Killykeen.

On reviewing the environmental information from this process, Waterways Ireland considers that the environmental designations of this lake complex make the feasibility of the proposed navigation extension highly unviable. For that reason, I am advised that Waterways Ireland does not propose to pursue this project any further at this time.

Well, that’s one minor victory for sanity. Here’s how a dredger got to Lough Oughter in 1857.

Maureen O’Sullivan is anxious to recreate the economy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by using canals for carrying cargoes. Especially on the Shannon–Erne Waterway, where commercial carrying was so successful before. [What is it about the Irish left?] Thank goodness that the sainted Leo Varadkar gave not an inch: someone should make that man Taoiseach, President and Minister for Finance. And Supreme Ruler of The Universe and Space.

The web-footed inhabitants of the midlands, who have discovered that they live in a flat area with rivers, keep wittering on about Shannon flooding, failing to realise that it is a message from The Lord, telling them to either (a) move to higher ground, eg Dublin, or build arks. On 15 January 2014 Brian Hayes told Denis Naughten, inter alia, that info from the recent OPW/CFRAM monitoring of water levels on Lough Ree (which I think was when the levels were lowered) would be placed on the OPW website “in the coming days”; I haven’t been able to find it yet so I’ve emailed the OPW to ask about it. And on 21 January one James Bannon said that he intends to introduce a bill setting up a Shannon authority, which will have magical powers. Well, if it doesn’t have magical powers it won’t be able to stop the Shannon flooding, but perhaps it’s designed to allow the unemployed landowners of Ireland another forum in which to demand taxpayers’ money to prop up their uneconomic activities.

Finally, a senator called John Whelan wants a longer consultation period on the proposed amendments to the canals bye-laws. I suppose I’d better read them  myself.

Maureen O’Sullivan asks sensible questions …

I am happy to report that Maureen O’Sullivan TD [Ind, Dublin Central] asked some sensible written questions in the Dáil on 15 January 2014.

Under the rather odd heading “Waterways Ireland Remit“, she asked Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick; Minister for the City of Culture]

[...] if he will include work on land maps to determine what land abutting the canals is owned privately, by Waterways Ireland, the Railway Procurement Agency, Iarnrod Éireann, Dublin City Council, Office of Public Works or other; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The minister replied:

I am informed that Waterways Ireland already has an ongoing programme to modernise historic canal ownership maps and register navigation property in its ownership.

She put another question to Jimmy Deenihan under the same heading; you can see the link between the two questions:

[...] having regard to the prospective re-opening of the Royal Canal towpath at Portland Place in Summer 2014 further to the refurbishment of the collapsed wall at Portland Place and having regard also to the Spencer Dock Greenway Project and the re-lining works to be carried out at the sixth level, if he will direct Waterways Ireland to commission a strategic environment assessment for a new canal-side walkway along the south side of the sixth level of the Royal Canal at Phibsborough from Shandon Gardens to the railway bridge at the seventh lock with a new pedestrian crossing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The only problem with this is that even getting an environmental assessment done is likely to strain WI’s budget at the moment, so it’s not a good time to be suggesting new expenditure. However, it didn’t matter in this case, as Jimmy Deenihan explained:

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that it does not own the lands on the southside of the Royal Canal between Shandon Gardens and the 7th lock, at Liffey Junction and therefore will not be commissioning a Strategic Environment Assessment for a new canalside walkway.

She also asked Alan Kelly [Labour, Tipperary North] about that:

[...] noting that it is the intention of the National Transport Authority to pursue a cycling and walking greenway along the Royal Canal in Dublin city, if he will ask Iarnród Eireann, the Railway Procurement Agency and Dublin City Council to assess the viability of opening a new walkway along the Royal Canal, 6th level, from Shandon Gardens to the 7th lock with a new footbridge at the 7th lock railway crossing linking to the existing Greenway route; if, in particular, this option will be explored alongside any re-lining work that might be undertaken by Waterways Ireland along that level.

He said:

The development of walking and cycling facilities within the Greater Dublin Area is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with the relevant local authority, which is Dublin City Council in this case.

The NTA provides funding to local authorities for a range of schemes to benefit pedestrians, including new walkways, under the Sustainable Transport Management Grants Programme. Accordingly, I have sent your request to the NTA and have asked them to reply to you directly in relation to the above matter.

I’m all in favour of getting money from other people to pay for waterways.

Finally, under the heading of Inland Waterways Development, she had another question for Jimmy Deenihan:

[...] if he will explore all possible options within current fiscal constraints to advance and develop the potential of the Royal and Grand canal lines that pass through Dublin city; if he will establish an inter-agency group on the Dublin City reaches of the Royal and Grand canals; if he will explore ways to advance their development, examining funding options, including existing funding streams and the leveraging of funding from other sources and the possibility of EU funding which may be available.

I might say at this stage that I don’t see why TDs are asking ministers about stuff that they could find out themselves by asking WI directly. It’s not as though they’re going to get a lot of favourable publicity by doing so: this isn’t the PAC grilling a hospital or charity board and the meeja aren’t really interested.

Anyway, Jimmy Deenihan replied:

As the Deputy may be aware, the Dublin City Canals Study [PDF] was launched on 20th July 2010. This was prepared by consultants on behalf of Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Docklands Development Authority and Dublin City Council. The study examined the existing activities on the Royal and Grand Canals and identified an overall vision for the development of the City Canals within the M50. I am advised that following on from the study an Operations Liaison Group plus two sub-groups (one for the Royal Canal and one for the Grand Canal) were established and continue to meet to deliver the recommendations identified, within the current fiscal constraints.

I am informed that to complement the above study, Waterways Ireland engaged additional consultants to carry out a detailed study of Grand Canal Dock and Spencer Dock with the objective of producing a Master Plan, currently at draft stage, that realises their potential as a recreational amenity and a living, vibrant part of Dublin and its Docklands. Waterways Ireland will continue to work collaboratively to unlock the pivotal role of these two major docks and to attract funding to develop a maritime quarter within the city of Dublin.

I wasn’t very impressed by the Dublin City Canals Study, which didn’t seem to me to be rooted in actual conditions in Dublin. I will look forward to seeing the master plan for the two dock areas.

Anyway, that was a more sensible set of questions from Maureen O’Sullivan, and it kept her off the subject of Effin Bridge.

Où est la plume de ma tante?

Où sont les neiges d’antan? [That's French for "Where is Anto's stash of heroin?"] Où est l’étoile d’émeraude?

I remarked in August, on sighting le grand bateau de Monsieur Thibault in Athlone, that it carried the Le Boat brand, not that of Emerald Star. Emerald Star is now one speck within Le Boat, which is one of the activities within the Marine Division of the Specialist & Activity Sector of TUI Travel, which employs 54000 people.

Le le Boat bateau

Le le Boat bateau

I wrote to Messrs TUI Travel’s “corporate communications” department at the time to ask whether the Emerald Star name was being phased out, but answer came there none: no doubt all 54000 employees were busy at the time. But I noticed today that a hapless seeker after truth, searching for “emerald star”, ended up here, so I had a look myself. There is no emeraldstar.ie website (and emeraldstar.com is unrelated) but the UK Le Boat site has a little badge on the top left of the page saying “Emerald Star from le Boat”. I wonder whether that appears if the site detects that you’re accessing it from outside Ireland. I could find no other mention of Emerald Star, so I suspect the brand is doing a Cheshire Cat.

I was glad to find that Messrs Le Boat have found Google Translate useful. At least, I assume that’s how they produced this paragraph under their “Useful info” tab:

Useful Info for the Ireland

The Irish coast rises tallish from the sea, and yet the terrain drops farther inland, creating a sort of cup where the water gathers. One fifth of the water drains inward to the Shannon River, Ireland’s largest at 360 kilometres (224 miles). The fall on the navigable middle section of the river is slight at only 9 metres (29 feet), which means the water moves slowly. A Shannon River map also reveals the large number of lakes in the Shannon system, a real plus for canal boat cruising!

No, I’ve checked: it’s not Ulster Scots.

Then there’s this:

Feel the irresistible lure of the Shannon-Erne

The Shannon River gives Ireland’s central reaches their character. It’s an obvious feature if you study a Shannon River map. At a glance, it’s clear that the waters influence the land. The fishing is superb and golf is extremely popular! The towpath is level, so you’re in cycling heaven! [...]

You learn something every day: I never knew that the Shannon had a towpath. I wonder where it is.

But that’s not the only puzzle. Messrs Le Boat list some suggested cruises, eg:

The Celtic Cruise Ireland
Oneway: Portumna to Carrick-on-Shannon

[...]

The golf course calls! The fishing itch must be scratched! Castles loom tall! Feel the warm embrace of Celtic charm!

Who writes this rubbish? But this is the puzzling one:

The Northern Shannon Cruise Ireland
Return Trip: Carrick-on-Shannon, via Belturbet

[...]

Travelling in the thousand lakes area takes you from the Lake Niegocin to the Lake Sztynorckie, with plenty to see on the way!

Well, I admit I don’t know the north Shannon as well as I do Lough Derg ["Lough Derg, an angler’s paradise, casts an Irish spell of contentment to keep you fishing and having too much fun!"], but I can’t find either of those lakes on any Shannon or Erne map. Où sont les mille lacs de M. Thibault? Où sont les Niegocins, Antoin? Ils sont dans le jardin avec la plume de ma tante.

A new concept in electricity transmission

Lower pylons 2_resize

We read on the Clare FM website:

The Government says it is not realistic or financially feasible to run new electricity pylons underground.

Well, yes, I’d imagine there’s something in that. Although I don’t quite see why anyone would want underground pylons. I knew some folk wanted underground electric cables, but hadn’t realised they wanted the pylons buried too.

Personally, I’m all in favour of pylons: I like them, and would like to see more of them. I don’t understand why a row of nice pylons should be thought to make scenery less, er, scenic. It might make scenery less like a pre-industrial idea of scenery, but that’s a good thing; big it up for Stephen Spender.

And think of the industrial heritage value in the future: as well as old canals and railways, folk will come to photograph pylons; indeed some people already do so.

 

A threat to an existing navigation

I have a page here about the River Maigue, one of Ireland’s oldest improved navigations, and I suggest here that, as far as I can see, the navigation has never been officially closed; nor has the Office of Public Works been officially relieved of its responsibilities as navigation authority. I think, therefore, that the Maigue is still officially an open navigation, although I am open to correction on that.

Incidentally, the river’s name is locally pronounced Mag, to rhyme with bag.

In 2009 I wrote to the Powers That Be to suggest that the (much to be desired) bypass of Adare, a major bottleneck on the N21 Limerick–Tralee/Killarney road, should pass to the south of the town, thus avoiding the interference with the navigation that would undoubtedly have resulted from a northern bypass. It was no doubt the strength of my case, and a recognition of the importance of the navigation, that caused the Powers to opt for a southern bypass. A proposed link to a proposed M20 Limerick–Cork motorway may have been a minor factor in their decision: as nobody was going to build a motorway to Kerry, Adare would piggyback on the motorway to Cork.

However, An Bord Pleanála overturned the decision [PDFs available here] because the M20 proposal was withdrawn. The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is pleased because it wanted a northern bypass of Adare, to be linked to a new road from Limerick to the port of Foynes; its submission on the matter is here [PDF]. A Limerick ICSA chap has a letter to the editor about the Foynes link in the current issue of the Limerick Leader, although it’s not yet available online.

Now, this proposal has the drawback that it might actually be slightly sensible: a better road to Foynes might stop people agitating for a restoration of the railway line and enable a speedy ending of port activities in Limerick, thus removing large piles of scrap from the riverside. But have the ICSA not considered the damage to the turf-boat traffic to Adare if a road bridge is added to the railway bridge downstream of Adare?

A former British inland waterways campaigner has died

See here and here.

Lough Derg 27 December 2013

Water level

Dromineer 20131227 01_resize

The ramp to the pontoons in Dromineer is now sloping upwards

The water level at Banagher has risen about one metre in the past 35 days.

Wind

Dromineer 20131227 02_resize

Dromineer people need to drink more wine

Dromineer 20131227 04_resize

The ghost ship is back

Towers

Dromineer 20131227 05_resize

Dromineer sans ivy

Garrykennedy 20131227 02_resize

Garrykennedy

Garrykennedy 20131227 11_resize

Garrykennedy from a distance

Shelter

Dromineer 20131227 03_resize

Miranda in Dromineer

Garrykennedy 20131227 04_resize

Garrykennedy 1

Garrykennedy 20131227 05_resize

Fewer boats in WI berths this year, I think

Garrykennedy 20131227 03_resize

Garrykennedy 2

 

Money from the bog

To a small extent reclamation is now going on in Ireland; Mr M’Nab, of Castle Connell, county Limerick, has reclaimed 80 acres of the worst red bog, devoid of vegetation and 20 feet deep. It was drained, then coated with the subsoil, and the land which was not worth 2s 6d per acre is now worth 30s per acre.

Thus Robert Montgomery Martin in his Ireland before and after the Union with Great Britain third edition with additions; J D Nichols and Son, London; James McGlashen, Dublin 1848.

I have written here about Mr Macnab (that was how the spelling settled down) and his talent for extracting money from the bog at Portcrusha, which is between Castleconnell and Montpelier, Co Limerick. It seems that his achievements are still remembered — and emulated.

Incidentally, in the same work, published in 1848, Mr Martin refers to the

… large practical mind, great experience,  and Christian philosophy …

of Sir Charles Trevelyan.

Ballylongford (and Inishmurray/Cahircon)

SHANNON-RIVER. This is by far the most considerable river in Ireland, or perhaps in any known island, not only on account of its rolling 200 miles, but also of its great depth in most places, and the gentleness of its current, by which it might be made exceedingly serviceable to the improvement of the country, the communication of its inhabitants, and consequently the promoting inland trade, through the greater part of its long course, being navigable to a considerable distance, with a few interruptions only of rocks and shallows, to avoid which there are in general small canals cut, to preserve and continue the navigation.

Thus Wm Wenman Seward, Esq [correspondent of Thomas Jefferson], in his Topographica Hibernica; or the topography of Ireland, antient and modern. Giving a complete view of the civil and ecclesiastical state of that kingdom, with its antiquities, natural curiosities, trade, manufactures, extent and population. Its counties, baronies, cities, boroughs, parliamentary representation and patronage; antient districts and their original proprietors. Post, market, and fair towns; bishopricks, ecclesiastical benefices, abbies, monasteries, castles, ruins, private-seats, and remarkable buildings. Mountains, rivers, lakes, mineral-springs, bays and harbours, with the latitude and longitude of the principal places, and their distances from the metropolis, and from each other. Historical anecdotes, and remarkable events. The whole alphabetically arranged and carefully collected. With an appendix, containing some additional places and remarks, and several useful tables printed by Alex Stewart, Dublin, 1795. [Google it if you want a copy.]

Seward was one of many people who saw the Shannon as a valuable resource, even if they were vague on how it was to yield a return. I was reminded of that on reading the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan for the Shannon Estuary 2013–2020: an inter-jurisdictional land and marine based framework to guide the future development and management of the Shannon Estuary. The Introduction includes this:

The Shannon Estuary is an immensely important asset and one of the most valuable natural resources in Ireland and the Mid-West Region in particular — the fringe lands and the marine area both provide space and location for development, activities and opportunities to progress economic, social and environmental growth within the Region.

This report is an attempt to show how the estuary could deliver a return. The core point seems to be that a small number of areas are designated as “Strategic Development Locations for marine related industry and large scale industrial development”, thus protecting them from the attentions of the environmentalists: the whole of the estuary is a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area.

Almost all the Strategic Development Locations are already industrialied in some way:

  • Limerick Docks (in Limerick city)
  • Ballylongford (of which more below)
  • Tarbert (power station)
  • Aughinish Island (alumina)
  • Askeaton (Nestlé)
  • Foynes Island and land to the rear of Foynes (main port on the estuary)
  • Moneypoint (power station).

There is one more, Inishmurry/Cahircon (which is not boring), which is even more interesting because there is no industry there at present. It was used as a resting place for certain vessels, but it was also proposed as the site for an explosives factory. Perhaps the designation as a Strategic Development Location suggests that that proposal is not dead but merely sleeping.

Ballylongford is equally lacking in industry, despite activity at Saleen in the early nineteenth century. However, Shannon Development assembled a large landbank nearby; the report’s Executive Summary says:

The Ballylongford Landbank benefits from a significant deepwater asset and extant permission for a major LNG bank.

Here is the area in question. Note that the red oval is just to indicate the rough location; it does not show the boundaries of the landbank.

Ballylongford (OSI ~1840)

Ballylongford (OSI ~1840)

You can see a proper map and a marked-up aerial photo in Volume 1 of the report [PDF] on page 73 (77/174).

Shannon Development agreed to give a purchase option on a little uder half of the site to Shannon LNG Ltd, which proposed to build a liquefied natural gas terminal there, to be supplied by ship; much information is available here.

The Commission for Energy Regulation decided to introduce charges that would have increased Shannon LNG’s costs; the company took the matter to court but, yesterday, lost its case. The Irish Times report here will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage; the Irish Independent report is here and the Limerick Leader‘s here (its photo shows Tarbert and Moneypoint; the Ballylongford site is off to the left).

If the Ballylongford development does not proceed, plans for economic growth on the Shannon estuary may prove to be for the birds.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Another tour-Limerick-by-water idea …

… but this one, unlike the rest, might actually make financial sense: it uses existing infrastructure, it probably has a low capital requirement (as the firm presumably already owns the kayaks) and it seems to offer the prospect of extra income, without much extra cost, in the off-season, with low fixed costs. Furthermore, it covers the more scenic parts of the city: the Park Canal is not, alas, one of them when seen from water level, because the banks are so high you can see nothing else.

The Limerick Post covered the venture here.