Last Saturday saw me take on this long section of walk. I had been eyeing the weather for a few days… the forecast for the day seemed to suggest a mostly dry day ahead. The added incentive of meeting with JT and spending the night on 4E was enough encouragement to attempt the 13 odd miles. So, not many seconds after 11 I was again in the car park at the well maintained harbour area just east of the Ballinea Bridges.
The ducks featured a week or so ago were soon heading in our direction… looking for a free feed. I’d neglected to bring bread and as the good lady wife pointed out… these birds were not into fruit. When they realised I was not their friendly food provider they went off… some back to the water… others happily grazing on the fresh green lawn.
The good lady departed and I was soon off. The sun directly on my back. The clear canal water allowed for good visibility, resulting in seeing many fish of all sizes up to about a foot in length. Where was my rod? No time for drooling over lost chances… get on with the walking… there was many a mile to complete before the sun set in the west.
There are some fine houses to be seen in the immediate vicinity of the bridges but for me the lasting memory will be the cacophony created by the dogs in the area… a lap dog on the south side competing furiously with the Alsatian on the north side… sort of like they do in Dublin, I suppose… 😉 I was well away from the houses, past my last stopping point, yet the yapping and barking could still be heard.
The result of all of this… I sped off toward the west and the prospect of more peaceful surrounds. I soon noticed what seemed to be an increased activity in the wildlife… were they sensing the impending storm and enjoying the last good weather? Must be… butterflies, bees… dragonflies… flies, blue and green ones… birds… swallows and swifts, or are the martins? The air seemed alive with the constant buzz and whizz of insects and birds… making the walking a rewarding experience. I hasten to add, the wind was still on my back at this stage…
Not long after passing the first structures, the Shandonagh Bridges, I met the first boat for the day… Meave was making her way toward the east… her skipper enjoying the sunshine and tranquility of the countryside. I rounded the next corner… to be met by the sight of Coolnahay Harbour and Lock 26. Eventually… I’d walked the whole length of the Summit Level… finally… after some months and many interludes, the section between Lock 25 west of Thomastown and Lock 26 was complete.
I found a note attached to a route marker neat the harbour… have a look. Somehow I think many others would have popped the small sum in the pocket and forgotten about it. It’s always gratifying to see the pleasant side of humankind. So… onward I went… now fully into the downhill slide. Lock 26 is soon followed by 27 and then 28… I rounded the bend just before Lock 28 to glimpse a boat slipping into the lock. Great… for a change I could see boats in action on the canal.
I stopped and chatted with the owners. K&A were basking in the sunshine… happily doing the locking duties while chatting. They offered me a ride to the next lock… I declined. Silly… the locks were so close that I could easily have strolled back and complete the short section to ensure that I can substantiate my claim of walking the entire route. (No cheating allowed.) We chatted as they set off… the wind still assisting at this stage so they soon raced away leaving me in their wake… 😉 I was to catch up… and then overtake as they had to negotiate quite a number of locks while I simply strolled on by.
I rested at the well positioned and welcome bench just west of the 33rd lock. Three hours had lapsed, it was time to replenish the sugar levels. As a type 2 diabetic I’m aware of preventing a situation where I may get into trouble so I eat small amount as I go along… fruit and nuts do the trick. I sat back and relaxed. The umbrella’s shelter became a necessity… so, while I waited for the shower to pass I enjoyed the contents of the solitary can of cider I’d popped into the bag before leaving home.
Suitably refreshed, the sugar levels on the rise, I set off on the second part of the walk. Within thirty minutes I was at the next harbour. Ballynacargy is a great credit to the folk who worked so hard while restoring the canal… wide, you could turn a small tanker here, ample mooring spots and a village providing all the necessary amenities.
Another feature I enjoyed about the area was the clump of large trees on high ground to the south of the town… they can be seen lording over the countryside from some distance east of the harbour to way beyond the village. Sentinels… protecting their canal…
My next interest was the area around the 38th Lock and Ledwith’s Bridge. This being the place where JT rescued 4E many years ago. As if on que my phone rang… it was the very same JT… wondering about my progress. I found it quite surreal… there I was walking meters from the spot… JT describing the exact location of that rescue, some 30 years earlier.
JT’s words still ring in my ears… you’re almost with us… only about a half and hour away. Long 30 minutes that was! By now the wind had turned straight head on. The mizzle turned wet at times as I crossed the open expanses of the Ballymaglavy Bog. The further into the bog I walked the more confused I became… a strange noise. It grew louder… carried on the strong wind. Then I caught glimpses of sunlight reflecting off black plastic. I assumed it to be wrapped hay bales… to be seen all over the countryside at this time of year.
Wrong. It turned out to be long rows of cut peat… covered with the plastic. These long sheets were not anchored to the ground but tied down with ropes secured to stakes. This allowed for free-flow ventilation… and also created some noise as the wind ripped through the rows… the plastic being buffeted and bashed… eerie, weird sounds. I wouldn’t want to have to listen to that rolling, swirling attack on the eardrums for any length of time… especially at night. Banshees… they would have to scream to be heard over this din!
Something else that caught the eye… on the north side… in the middle of the heath covered bog is what looks like an imposing hotel structure. JT later corrected my misconception… it is indeed a relic of the economic crash here in the land. Sad. A developer built this place as a gateway to the newly crowned status of the Abbeyshrule Airport. It was to be an international port of call… now, it’s a derelict, incomplete eyesore! Talk about counting your chickens before they hatch…
The scale of the waste is shocking! I could build a magnificent house if I were allowed only a small percentage of the secondhand material… sad… this whole place may yet be bulldozed… covered by the peat it was built on. Sad… I say again… SAD!
I walked… hoping for my first sighting of Abbeyshrule. Not long after passing the massive Bog Bridge I was rewarded by a glimpse of something orange… a wind-sock? Yes… it has to be! Still JT and 4E was nowhere to be seen. And then… at the western threshold of the airfield I crossed the imposing Inny Aqueduct. This structure is worth quite a few visits… again I bang on about when and how it was built. Only a few years after the arrival of the 1800’s…
The canal makes a sharp bend to the left… then, as I pass Scally’s Bridge I catch my first sighting of something in the distance… and, lo and behold… there was the most welcoming sight! 4E beckoned… come hither, come hither!
This was some walk… unfortunately it translated into far too many words… but, I hope you’ll stick with me and enjoy the gallery. Again, click on the first photo to enlarge and then use the scroll arrows beneath to navigate.
PS – I beat K&A into Abbeyshrule… not that it is ever a race… this canal is for enjoying… slowly!
PSS – I have quite a few more very useful pic’s from this walk… especially the wildlife macros. I’ll do another post to include some of these photo’s.
PSSSS – Enjoy your weekend, wherever you may be! Let the sun shine for you… 😉 😛 😉