Tag Archives: greenway

They haven’t gone away, you know ….

There we were, about to breathe a sigh of relief that the Clones Sheugh had been buried at the crossroads, with a stake through its heart and numerous rows of garlic planted around it, when a crack appeared in the earth and the shriek of the undead made the night hideous.

Yes, it seemed that the Minister for Fairytales had successfully diverted everyone’s attention away from Clones by (a) designating the River Finn as the Ulster Canal, which would lead to a scout camp at the spiritual home of Ulster Unionism rather than to Clones, and (b) supporting a greenway walking route to take care of the handsacrosstheborder bit (although ministers from up there seemed to be scarce at the launch. I suppose they’re scarce anyway).

The greenway seems like a better idea to me, given that it’s significantly cheaper than canal restoration and likely to attract far more users, although I wasn’t impressed by the economic assessment in Waterways Ireland’s Ulster Canal Greenway draft strategy document from April 2017 [PDF]. Here is the assessment in full:

6.2 Economic Assessment
Ultimately, the cost of developing a route will play a part in the decision-making process. It may be technically possible to overcome an obstacle, but the cost might make it unfeasible and a longer route chosen. All factors in the Greenway Strategy will be assessed and the most sustainable routes chosen.

That seems to suggest that the costs and benefits of the plan have been thought through with as much care and attention as Her Majesty’s Government over the way has given to Brexit. Which, I imagine, will put paid to much handsacrosstheborderism anyway; I hope it doesn’t put paid to Waterways Ireland as well, although it’s bound to increase the difficulties under which that body labours.

But revenons à nos moutons. Just when we thought it was safe to go out, the dead arose. Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said

Clones needs the Ulster Canal if it’s to have a viable tourism future.

Also from the report of the meeting:

A presentation at the meeting revealed that over 50 percent of buildings in Fermanagh Street in Clones are derelict.

Frustration at the lack of progress with the Ulster Canal was voiced, with representatives stating that it was on the agenda in 1999 and is still on it now.

Perhaps Clones has not got the message: the Ulster Canal is off the agenda. But there is a more fundamental problem: [some] small rural towns are dying because there is no longer any economic need for them. The scale of things has changed since the late nineteenth century; consumers can travel to Aldi and Lidl in larger towns; local markets and fairs are no longer how business is done.

Tourism is unlikely to rescue Clones: if it could do so, why isn’t the town already a tourist destination? Why aren’t its attractions well known throughout Germany and wherever else tourists come from? Enabling tourists to visit by water is not going to attract significant numbers from abroad: there are more scenic and interesting waterways elsewhere, in Ireland and on the continent. There would be a very poor return on the millions that a canal to Clones would cost — not helped by proposals for significant overpayment for land.

I still don’t understand why Sinn Féin is so keen on canals generally and the Clones Sheugh in particular. But Clones might find a new economic role as a post-Brexit smuggling centre.

 

Improvements at St John’s Pill, Waterford

Thanks to Brian Simpson for this update on the continuing resurrection of St John’s Pill [river] in Waterford.


Waterford Council had new fencing erected by Fairybush Landscaping Ltd around Cherrymount bridge and around the slip area. The Council also recently opened a beautiful greenway for pedestrians and cyclists along the St John’s river right into Waterford City Centre.

Our slipway at Cherrymount bridge was being eroded by heavy rainfall and
strong currents when the canal was swollen.

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The slipway

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The slipway fenced (but eroded)

In order to prevent further damage with the approach of autumn and winter, improvement works had to be carried out. With a low tide window for much of the day and a couple of dry days beforehand, Saturday 29 August 2015 was our perfect opportunity.

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Men at work

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Chairman David Hayes [of David Hayes Engineering, Waterford] for organising the mixer, sand/gravel cement from Doyle Concrete

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Doyle Concrete

… and the concrete slabs and capping from Boyce Mulrooney, scrap merchant, Tramore Road, Waterford.

All the committee members who donated bags of cement, tools, ideas, labour and teamwork.

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Wade in the water

A great day was had and most importantly the slip is now much secure and pleasing to look at too.

From the blatts

Walls

Low wall on the right

Low wall on the right

The Irish Times reported on 24 August 2015 [may disappear behind a paywall at some stage] that a woman with “a blood alcohol level of 280mg per cent” [I am unable to make sense of that measurement] had drowned in the Grand Canal near Portobello in Dublin. The account includes no evidence that the woman tripped over the low wall that borders the canal; I do not know whether such evidence was presented. Nonetheless

Dr Farrell [the coroner] said he would write to Waterways Ireland for the matter of the height of the wall to be evaluated in the public interest.

I hope that the first step will be a cost-benefit analysis of any proposed change.

Percy Place

On 26 August 2015 [possible paywall alert] the Irish Times said that

Waterways Ireland is to sell an infill development site at 53 Percy Place, Dublin 4, which could accommodate a four-storey office block or residential scheme. CBRE is seeking more than €1.6 million for the 0.04 hectare (0.1 of an acre) site on which there is a two-storey derelict building.

53 Percy Place, Dublin

53 Percy Place, Dublin

The price is interesting. The property was valued at €1.6 million in 2008. WI’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2013 say

Surplus assets represent those assets that the Body deem are not strategic and are available for sale. Valuations of surplus assets are based on Recoverable Market Value from Internal and External valuations reports.

Plot 8 valued at €7,000,000 (2012: €7,000,000); this was valued in September 2013 by GVA Donal O’Buachella.

Percy Place was valued at €800,000 (2012: €650,000) by Felicity Fox FRICS FSCSI Auctioneers Valuers & Estate Agent in December 2013.

47 Lennox Street was valued at €270,000 (2012: €195,000) by Richard Fawcett BSc (Hons) Valuation & Estate Management Valuer, Waterways Ireland based on expected sales proceeds at December 2013. Previously valued at €380,000 by CBRE in October 2008.

The Hatch Bar valued in 2012 at €45,000 (2012: €45,000) by Richard Fawcett BSc (Hons) Valuation & Estate Management Valuer, Waterways Ireland in 2012.

The first three properties were to be sold to fund the construction of the Clones Sheugh. I have heard nothing more of the other two sites, Lennox Streeet near Portobello and Plot 8 in the Grand Canal Dock at Ringsend, and I didn’t see what WI got for the Hatch Bar. However, WI may have done very well on the sale of some other surplus assets, achieving four times what it expected:

The Barges were valued in 2013 at €51,000 based on bids received. Previously valued in 2011 by Bryan Millar, Consultant Engineer Naval Architect and Marine Engineer at €13,000.

On the basis of its asking price for Percy Place, WI seems to believe that the property collapse is over; perhaps it is even now in negotiation to develop Plot 8 and build a sheugh all the way to Clones. In the meantime, if it gets €1.6 million for Percy Place, that will help to alleviate the damage caused by the smash-and-grab raid carried out by the Department of Fairytales to pay for Saunderson’s Sheugh.

Derg Marina

The same edition of the Irish Times reports that Derg Marina in Killaloe has been sold for €1.7 million to “a local investor”. It suffered in the floods of 2009 and would need considerable investment were it to be restored to its former use. The site may contain remains of the PS Lady Lansdowne.

Greenway blues

The Weekly Observer of 26 August 2015 reports in its print edition [the story is not yet online] that Great Southern Trail Ltd, the voluntary body that manages part of the old Limerick to Tralee railway route as a greenway, is to cease doing so on 8 November 2015. GST, said to be the only voluntary group in Europe to manage a greenway, hopes that CIE and Limerick City and County Council will take over the management of the route. The newspaper account suggests that the burden of maintaining the greenway and cycleway to EU standards was too great for a voluntary group:

In particular, a very small number of farm crossings are the subject of unfavourable comment due to the difficulties encountered in keeping them clean.

Art

The Ulster Canal Greenway has an artwork. Waterways Ireland is to be in charge of the Ulster Canal Greenway. But the Shinners haven’t gone away, you know:

[…] Sinn Féin councillor Brian McKenna voiced strong criticism of the efforts made at Government level over the past two decades to put in place the substantial funding necessary to guarantee that the reopening of the Canal – long identified as a crucial project for Co Monaghan tourism – was realised in full.

If their dedication to the Clones Sheugh is a mark of Sinn Féin’s approach to economic policy and public investment, we may expect grants for flax-growing to be reinstated immediately they’re elected. And for opening coal-mines and carrying corn to Dublin.

 

 

 

 

 

Hurrah for the red, white and orange

Colour discrimination seems to be rampant in Ireland. Of the sets of colours [red, white and blue] and [green, white and orange], there is Official Endorsement of two, green and blue, while red, white and orange are ignored. Even the North/South Ministerial Council has got in on the act, with a whole page on its website about greenways and blueways. They must have been overdosing on the Erne flag. Their page is a list of links, sort of plonked there without context or explanation, but there’s probably some hands-across-the-borderism or something going on.

I read in the Guardian today of a proposal for a greenway on the former railway line between Roscrea and Portumna via Birr. And a jolly good thing too, but how many greenways and blueways can one small island accommodate? How thinly will the tourists be spread? And what about those of us who hate walking, cycling, kayaking and other such energetic pursuits?

Grand Canal Greenway

Ewan Duffy reports on damage here.

Are the Sheughers …

seeing sense?

A cynic (not that there are any of them around here) might say that DAHG feels that it has done as much as it’s going to do (admittedly at Waterways Ireland’s expense) by dredging the River Finn and that it has told Monaghan Council that, if it wants any more Sheughery for Clones, it will have to pay for it itself. The Council might like a canal, but only if someone else pays for it, so it will have to be content with a greenway.

And rightly so.

 

Outbreak of sanity in Co Westmeath

Our big thing is to link the Galway Dublin cycleway into Kilbeggan and along the stretch of the old canal to Ballycommon. That’s around a million euro project and the biggest thing in our Vision for Kilbeggan plan.

Thus Dan Scally of Renew Kilbeggan in the Westmeath Examiner.

Carrick-on-Suir to Clonmel towing-path

Messrs RPS, consulting engineers, have been asked by South Tipperary County Council

… to design a minimal impact walking & cycling greenway route along the towpath of the River Suir between the towns of Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir.

I have written about this stretch of the river here, so I was pleased to be asked to submit some comments and I welcomed the proposal. I made three suggestions, commenting more on principles than on details, which local people would know more about than I do.

First, I said that the heritage artefacts along the route should be protected and, if possible, explained. That might be done unobtrusively by making online information available to those equipped with smartphones. Such systems are used by the Canal & River Trust in Britain (here’s an example) and I understand that there have been experiments in using them on the Royal Canal here.

Second, I said that use by walkers requires more than a good trail: walkers also need safe parking places for their cars and information about public transport services that will return them to their starting-points. Car parks themselves need not be along the greenway but the information has to be provided there.

Third, there is scope for more use of the waterway itself, especially by canoes, kayaks and rafts, as well as by anglers. While such uses are (I imagine) outside RPS’s brief, I thought that it would be better to take account now of the needs of such users, and to ensure that the engineering would be able to cater for them in the future (I was not proposing that facilities necessarily be provided now), rather than to have to re-engineer the greenway later. My main concern was provision for enhanced access by rescue services, and Carrick-on-Suir River Rescue would probably be the best people to comment on that. I also suggested that a certain amount of unobtrusive hard edging along the towing-path might be of assisstance to boaters.

If you’ve looked at my page on this section of the Suir, you’ll know that it’s very scenic. Up to now, not all of the route has been accessible and making it so is a Good Thing — and at relatively low cost.

 

FF -v- SF on C18 economic development

More from the splendid KildareStreet.com, this time an actual Dáil debate, with real people speaking, on 30 May 2013. The debate was initiated by Micheál Martin [head honcho in FF, Cork South Central], who asked the minister …

… his plans for capital investment in Waterways Ireland in the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

There are three odd aspects to that question.

The first is that Micheál Martin should already know that the capital expenditure allocation for WI within RoI for 2013 is €4 071 000: I can understand that he wouldn’t have wanted to plough through the vast wodges of budgetary bumpf, but I’m sure he would have read the highlights on this site.

The second oddity is that Micheál Martin must have known that the minister would not himself have any plans for capital expenditure: they would be WI’s plans.

The third oddity is that FF didn’t seem to have any particular reason for asking this question: the rest of the debate (see below) seems rather desultory. Could it be that it’s trying to reclaim the waterways limelight from the Shinners, who’ve been keeping an eye on WI dredging as well as on thon sheugh?

To be honest, it all seems a bit pointless: waterways may be interesting to me, and presumably to readers of this site, but they’re hardly of great national importance. A serious debate, by informed participants, might be useful, but (with all due respect to the contributors) there was little sign of that here.

Jimmy Deenihan did actually give some interesting, albeit minor, details about WI’s plans for this year. I omit the first two paras and the last, which are boring boilerplate bumpf that will be familiar to regular readers.

Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick]: While the Waterways Ireland 2013 business plan and budget is the subject of ongoing discussions with the co-sponsoring Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland and will require formal approval by the North-South Ministerial Council, I have provided an indicative funding allocation of €4.071 million to Waterways Ireland for capital projects in this jurisdiction in the coming year. This will facilitate capital works by Waterways Ireland in developing, restoring and improving infrastructure for water based and activity recreation and tourism, consolidating facilitates and improving access to the waterways across the navigations.

I am advised that the Waterways Ireland draft 2013 business plan has a development schedule providing for 1354 m of additional moorings across the navigations. Works planned within this jurisdiction include a range of major projects such as upgrading Bagenalstown Lock on the Barrow; provision of a slipway and stabilisation of the dock walls at Grand Canal Dock, dredging the Grand Canal; development of houseboat facilities at Lowtown and Sallins; lifting the bridge at Tullamore depot; bridge upgrades, works on weirs and locks on the Shannon; and commencement of work on the Belturbet Service Block on the Shannon Erne and purchase of plant and machinery.

I said that I would welcome information about what “lifting the bridge at Tullamore depot” means. The answer was provided in the Comments below; here is a photo of the bridge in question.

The (currently non-lifting) lifting bridge at Tullamore

The (currently non-lifting) lifting bridge at Tullamore

 

Most of the rest is unsurprising.

The FF follow-up came from Seán Ó Fearghaíl [FF, Kildare South], who said:

I welcome the many positive developments to which the Minister referred but one of our concerns is that since 2011 the funding available for Waterways Ireland has been cut from €35 million to approximately €32 million.

Studies over the years have shown that waterways tourism is one of the activities that is most likely to generate return visits. As a regular user of places like the Shannon Navigation, one never ceases to be amazed at the number of non-nationals one meets on that waterway who have been coming back to Ireland year in, year out. I wonder to what extent the funding the Minister has available to him should be augmented by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. These waterways are of immense value to the local populations privileged to live in the catchment area of each amenity, along with their huge tourism importance. What sort of interaction does the Minister have with tourism bodies north of the Border and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport? Is anything planned for the waterways under the auspices of The Gathering?

What has happened in Kildare this week? We had Bernard Durkan [FG, Kildare North] the other day and Clare Daly [Socialist Party, Dublin North, but originally from Newbridge, Co Kildare] a moment ago; now we have a new chap from Kildare South.

Anyway, it can’t have come as any surprise to Mr Ó Fearghaíl that WI’s budget has been cut: so has everybody else’s, and the budgets were announced last December. I note that he didn’t ask how the Clones Sheugh was to be funded, never mind the Cavan Sheugh to Lough Oughter. But his question is the sort that a journalist might ask: vague, unfocused, couched in generalities, lacking in evidence of research into the subject. I would like to know more about his “Studies over the years”, with particular reference to the balance between and the allocation of the costs and benefits of investment in waterways; generating return visits is not in itself terribly useful (I really do not want Great Aunt Maud here again).

Not that the minister offered many hard facts in his reply:

I have seen for myself the provision of moorings at Killaloe and Ballina. Those have made a major difference to both towns in different counties on either side of the Shannon. The result of that investment is obvious and local people would accept that.

As regards involvement from Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland is augmenting Fáilte Ireland’s promotion of the waterways. Waterways Ireland is providing funding on an annual basis for the promotion of tourism on its waterways. It is a North-South body, which is also very important, because Tourism Ireland promotes the entire island and the waterways network of more than 1,000 navigable kilometres can really be pushed on an all-island basis and we are doing that. I have tried to minimise the reduction in funding for Waterways Ireland because of its North-South significance and its potential and considerable work has been done. We have improved facilities for tourists so we are now ready to proactively promote this great facility.

Any, like, figures? Statistics? References to analyses? How much of WI’s budget is being diverted to the tourism bods and what is the benefit?

Next (and last) up was Peadar Tóibín [SF, Meath West], with “now for something completely different“:

A number of groups are actively trying to create a green way along the Boyne from the estuary to its source. The Boyne is littered with internationally recognised heritage monuments and would be a fantastic tourist attraction that would bring people into the region. People who holiday in the region visit Trim Castle and Newgrange on coach trips and as ar result Meath does not get the full value of their tourism. The Boyne Canal runs from Navan to Drogheda. It is not covered by the Waterways Ireland network. Would the Minister agree that such a canal should be brought within the ambit of Waterways Ireland, along with other canals, and would he consider the funds that might be available to help with the development of such a green way along the River Boyne?

The minister’s reply is interesting:

We have no plans to extend the present 1,000 kilometres of navigable waterways. The focus of our investment in capital development will be from Clones to Lough Erne to the value of €35 million.

What? No Cavan Sheugh? No Kilbeggan, Longford or Mountmellick Branch?

Oh, and note that the figure of €35 million is being quoted for the Clones Sheugh, although the last estimate I had form WI was higher than that.

The minister continued:

As regards the green way, I do not have direct responsibility but any way I can help through Waterways Ireland, I will do so. As a keen cyclist and walker, I am all for encouraging green ways wherever possible. If the Deputy has a proposal I can forward to Waterways Ireland for discussion, I will gladly take it.

Well, well. A Monaghan greenway is being developed; why not a Clones greenway too, instead of an expensive canal?

Sinn Féin’s sheughs

I have remarked before that Sinn Féin seems to be devoted to the leading-edge communications technology of the eighteenth century, the canal. I have no idea why it takes such an interest in the subject, but further evidence of its devotion has emerged in the last week.

The Fermanagh Herald reported, on 5 May 2013, that Michelle Gildernew MP [whose Sinn Féin page seems to have disappeared] listed the Clones Sheugh amongst the jobs on which European taxpayers should spend money. She did so at a meeting with Colette Fitzgerald, head of the European Commission’s Belfast office; Ms Fitzgerald made polite noises but did not promise any money.

But Sinn Féin does not confine itself to Clones. Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, whose Sinn Féin web page is live but well out of date, is (as Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure) the NI minister responsible for Waterways Ireland. We learn from the Londonderry Sentinel that she wanted Waterways Ireland to be landed with responsibility for the Strabane Sheugh.

Happily, the North South Ministerial Council shot that down, but the minister wants to see whether the unfortunate Strategic Investment Board can find any loot for the canal. It might be better if they were asked to find a use for it first: even if it were restored, it would be unlikely ever to see more than a few small boats in a year. It might provide a walking route, for which (pace the Clones dudes) neither locks nor water would be needed, but the Londonderry Sentinel leaves me unclear whether the towpath is usable. It says:

A year ago the Sentinel reported the ‘tow path’ section of the Strabane Canal was to open for the first time in 50 years in June 2012.

It doesn’t say that the towpath did reopen, which seems odd; a Belfast Telegraph article of June 2012 says that it was reopened temporarily but WalkNI says that it is being restored. So is it open or not? I’d like to know, because I favour walking routes along unrestored canals, as does the learned IndustrialHeritageIreland, which also notes encouraging interest from Monaghan County Council.