Tag Archives: trees

The Shannon–Erne Waterway

The Shannon–Erne Waterway, a mix of canal, river and small lake, links the Shannon (at Leitrim) to the Erne (near Belturbet). Formerly the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal, and originally the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District (or some such combination of elements), it was rebuilt in the early 1990s with automated (boater-operated) locks, service blocks, a logo, marketing and other such new-fangled extras that had not engaged the attention of the Office of Public Works.

I have not been able to find a proper cost-benefit analysis, but my impression is that Irish taxpayers paid relatively little of the cost, so that it was a good investment for them. It has been used as an example of the regenerative power of restored waterways, although (unlike, say, the River Suck or the proposed Clones Sheugh) it was a link between two busy boating areas, rather than a dead-end canal. Even so, several of the businesses that were started in the early years have since vanished, although there are some new ones like Ballinamore Marina.

On a recent visit (from Leitrim to Haughton’s Shore and return), though, I felt that the waterway had an air of neglect. This view may have been formed by two nights (one on the outward, one on the return journey) at Keshcarrigan in the rain. Some improvement work was started at the harbour some time ago, but it seems to have been suspended or abandoned: fencing, equipment and materials were left on site. Given that Keshcarrigan was one of the areas afflicted by post-Celtic-Tiger ghost estates, the state of the harbour does not encourage visitors, despite the pleasure of staring at what appear to be the resident boats (one of which, sporting a “For sale” notice, was occupying one of the few long spaces and monopolising one of the few shore-power sockets).

Ballinamore, however, was much more cheerful, especially with a festival going on (the rain drowned the nighttime noise of the funfair), and Haughton’s Shore was peaceful, with not even one dancing van.

But the infrastructure seems to need attention. The paint on many of the navigation markers had faded, although admittedly that rarely caused a navigation problem.

The waterway seemed to me to have become shallower in places (we were told that we would meet even shallower bits if we went on to Ballyconnell), even making allowances for a dry summer. It felt as though there were bars of sand or clay underneath when coming out of locks (going down), but even on some of the stretches between locks the water felt shallower than it should be. This is of course only a series of impressions, but I would be interested to know whether the waterway’s profile has changed since it was rebuilt. It would not be surprising to find that it had: the passage of boats, and especially of those travelling fast, may have undermined the banks. I do not know what programme of dredging Waterways Ireland carries out.

The worst feature is the trees, which don’t seem to have been cut back for some time. They need a large amount of serious industrial-scale equipment to be applied to them for weeks or months.

In some places, large branches had fallen in and not been removed. In others, there was less than the width of the boat between the trees stretching from the two sides. They seriously impeded the ability to see the lines of bends, to judge the approaches to bridges or even to spot oncoming boats: for most of those we met, we had very little time to react (so it was just as well that, except for the lake sections, we didn’t get above tickover speed for the entire journey). Had there been kayaks or other small craft using the waterway, I suspect we wouldn’t have seen them until the last moment.

In some places the trees stretched out so far that it was hard to stay in the (presumably) deep water in the centre of the channel. But the really challenging part was when trees impeded the approach to a bridge, making it impossible to line up properly. Several of the bridges are on sharp bends and, with a large boat, the trees caused severe problems.

The extent of the overgrowth is such that it requires a major commitment to tree-cutting. I can imagine that that would be hard to organise: the bird-fanciers have limited the cutting season to the more unpleasant months of the year, when days are short; getting to and from the cutting site takes several hours out of the limited working day; removal of cuttings would be a major undertaking. But something will have to be done: it’s already bad enough that I won’t return unless I know that the trees have been cut, and if they’re left for another year or two even smaller vessels will have problems.

Fans of recreated recreational waterways might consider that they need serious amounts spent on maintenance. It is not clear that all proposed recreations could generate the traffic to justify the expenditure.

 

A bit of a barney

Photos of lower Lough Derg during Storm Barney on the afternoon of Tuesday 17 November 2015.

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From the R494 driving north from Ballina

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From the same position, looking around the other side of the house

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From The Lookout 1

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From The Lookout 2

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From The Lookout 3

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At Castletown 1

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At Castletown 2

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From the beach at Castlelough 1

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From the beach at Castlelough 2

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From the beach at Castlelough 3

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From the beach at Castlelough 4

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From the beach at Castlelough 5

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From the beach at Castlelough 6

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From the beach at Castlelough 7

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Crows at Castlelough

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From the woods at Castlelough 1

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From the woods at Castlelough 2

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Dromineer 1

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Dromineer 2

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Dromineer 3

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Dromineer 4

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Dromineer 5

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Dromineer 6

More reading material

A bit of a break from the politicking ….

First,  the long-awaited second edition of David Walsh’s extraordinary book Oileáin is now available from Pesda Press. It’s an exhaustive guide to the islands around Ireland, seen from a sea-kayaker’s perspective. It tells you where they are, how you get there, what the tides and currents and hazards are, whether you might be able to camp …. A lot of this is, of course, aimed mainly at folk rather more athletically minded than I am, but I got it for its information about the islands in the Shannon and Fergus estuaries. David’s website keeps an electronic version updated, so that you can check the latest information before you set off, but even if you’re unlikely to start paddling to the Skelligs yourself you may find the information and the photos of interest.

Shannon enthusiasts will be familiar with Richard Hayward’s Where the River Shannon Flows, written as Hitler’s war was breaking out. It is an account of a road trip down the Shannon during which a film about the river was being made: the party was in Portumna when Hayward heard, on a wireless set through a window, that Britain was at war with Germany. I was privileged, some years ago, to be able to see the film and to match it with the scenes from the book, from which L T C Rolt drew information for his Green and Silver. Hayward was a proud Ulsterman, but one who was happy to meet, converse and exchange songs with anyone of any creed anywhere in Ireland. He was, if I remember correctly, a confectionery salesman by way of a day job, but more importantly he was an actor, a writer and a singer. His style is of its time, and perhaps rather laboured by modern standards, but he was a decent skin and I haven’t read anything of his that I didn’t enjoy. I am pleased to learn that a biography, An Unrepentant Romantic — the life and times of Richard Hayward by Paul Clements, is due to be published by Lilliput Press in May.

In the same month, UCD Press is to publish James Murphy’s Ireland’s Czar: Gladstonian government and the lord lieutenancies of the Red Earl Spencer, 1868–86. That’s this chap here, whose claim to fame is that he has a dock on the Royal in Dublin, and a harbour on Lough Allen, both called after him.

I don’t know whether I want to shell out €50 for Nigel Everett’s The Woodlands of Ireland, 700–1800 [Four Courts Press, May], but I like the idea that it

Focuses on the fundamentally pragmatic and commercial view of trees adopted by Gaelic civilisation, and the attempts of the various Anglo-Irish administrations to introduce more conservative woodland practices into Ireland.

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmaid? Why, we’ll import seacoal from Whitehaven, of course.

Finally, I am hoping that Joe Curtis’s Terenure: an illustrated history [The History Press, Ireland, March] will have more information about the remarkable Bourne family.

The information on forthcoming books comes from the magazine Books Ireland, which was until recently edited by old Shannon hand (and, if I mistake not, former Ditchcrawler) Jeremy Addis. Jeremy has now passed over the tiller and the magazine is now edited by Tony Canavan and published by Wordwell.

 

Waterways Ireland and the cuts …

WI’s tree-cutting on the Barrow.

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang

The old Limerick Navigation included a section of canal at Killaloe, with three locks. The uppermost, now disused, is still visible at Killaloe; the middle lock (Moys) is accessible by small boat; the third (Cussaun) is under water in the Flooded Area created by Parteen Villa Weir. The wall that divided the canal from the river downstream of Killaloe bridge forms an island whereon are the former eel-packing station run by the ESB, the former goods store (inhabited by Waterways Ireland) and the former marble mill (now an ESB engineering works). The island hosts the Killaloe market on Sunday mornings.

The curious can (obstructions permitting) walk a little further downstream to where the wall was breached, allowing boats to access the canal below the bridge without having to go as far as Moys Lock.

An obstruction

A section of the canal below the bridge in Killaloe ~1900 (OSI)

The west side of the canal, below the slip, was lined with trees.

The trees

May 2008

May 2008

May 2008

November 2008

November 2008

November 2008, with homemade boat shelter

The trees behind the marble mill: seen from the far side of the river in December 2009

August 2010

A fallen tree blocks the canal in December 2010

April 2011

April 2011

November 2011

November 2011

November 2011

Waterways Ireland Marine Notice 86 of 2011

MARINE NOTICE No. 86 of 2011
Shannon Navigation
Lough Derg
Killaloe Canal

Canal Maintenance – Tree Cutting

Waterways Ireland wishes to advise all masters and owners of vessels that tree cutting will take place along the Killaloe Canal banks from the vicinity of the cathedral downstream to the lower entrance from the river
Shannon, from Monday 19th Sep until about mid Oct.

Access to this section of the canal will be closed during this period. […]

Marine Notice 24/2012 of 16 March 2012 said

Works are still ongoing along the Killaloe Canal banks from the vicinity of the Cathedral downstream to the lower entrance from the river Shannon.

Access to this section of the canal will be closed until further notice.

That notice has not (as of 10 June 2012) been withdrawn so it must be assumed that the works continue.

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?

The works photographed on 10 June 2012.

Waterways trees

Nama to Nature has been planting trees at Keshcarrigan on the Shannon–Erne Waterway, along which far too many developers wanted to sell houses that would have fast boats parked outside. I don’t know whether my photo shows the Waterways estate or a different one.

Keshcarrigan September 2011

 

h/t Ireland after NAMA.

An unofficial temporary Royal Canal closure?

A correspondent writes:

Trees in the cut (photo reproduced by kind permission of the copyright owner)

 I walked the stretch of the Royal Canal from Drumcondra to Leixlip last Sunday. Just before Callaghan Bridge there was considerable work being done felling trees along the bank. Hopefully no boater tried to pass this way over the weekend […]. Several trees lay across the width of the canal, and a very large section of what looked like plywood was also floating on the surface.

I understand from WI’s website that winter closures affect locks from the 8th eastwards, but no Marine Notice suggests closures just west of the 12th (although closures were expected from the 33rd westward). Perhaps anyone planning to navigate on the long level between the 12th and 13th should check with Waterways Ireland.

 

Castlelough

 

 

Flat calm on Lough Derg.