The quest is almost complete… I have now actually done the whole length of the Royal Canal. But let me not get the jump on myself again, due to the length of the last walk I needed to cover the distance in two posts… so, here goes the first half of my final dash to the Shannon.
I’ll start by saying thanks to Bus Éireann for getting me most of the way to Lock 40. It was a two bus trip. The kind folk relaying my call to say the first bus will be a few minutes late in arriving at the Longford Station. There the local 466 bus waited just for me… that’s what I call service!
The 466 spewed me out at the junction of the R392 and the R397. Within 15 minutes I was again standing on the Mullawornia Bridge at Lock 40, ready to take on the last 12 odd miles to the end of the Royal Canal. The mizzle accompanied me for some while before lifting and letting the weak autumn sun get at my cold bones. It wasn’t long before I found the first bit of interesting stonework. Seems to me the designers of the new Pake Bridge were thinking of nesting sites for martins… or could it be for bats? There’s a line of small openings on the north wall… sufficiently sheltered and free of access to allow for undisturbed nesting. I wonder… bats or birds?
Not much further along is an old stone building on the northern bank… unlike most of the other buildings along the canal Foigha Harbour was placed on the other side, even stranger when you consider the nearest amenities seem to be on the opposite bank of the canal. The next main feature after passing the Cloonbreany accommodation Bridge is the restored Mosstown/Island Bridge harbour near the village of Keenagh. There’s a farm on the eastern side of the harbour that seems to specialise in geese rearing… the white dots on the green pasture can be seen from afar.
The section of canal immediately after the Island Bridge area is rather picturesque. The old wooded area to the north extending all the way to Lock 41. Along this section I encountered the wise heron. There’s an old drainage ditch immediately to the left of the canal as you look west. A work party was busy clearing and renovating the ditch and bank, exposing some of the old stonework down in the trench.
I had a bit of a Van Gogh moment while crossing the Coolnahinch Bridge at Lock 41. A scraggly sunflower caught my attention and while attempting to get a few photo’s I was blissfully unaware of being watched by the cottage owner. I waived an embarrassed greeting before setting off down the slope toward Ards Bridge. Blue skies were rapidly changing to a dark grey menacing threat. Soon it was umbrella time again.
I passed the neat cottage at Lock 42 and made a desperate dash for the promise of shelter beneath the Lyneen Bridge. At this point the icy rain was being driven almost horizontally… my blue umbrella not much use at all! I stood beneath the bridge while the rain lashed about me, having my first good look at maps 13 and 14 of the IWAI Guide… doing mental sums and convincing myself not to take the road above back to Longford but to keep going…