Last Saturday’s stroll (25 Feb 12) along the inner city section of the Grand Canal is a bit of canal that’s rather familiar to many folk. I’ve driven along this section on countless occasions, yet I have never walked the whole length. As is to be expected, there are countless bridges as this is an area where all the roads seem to converge on an imaginary centre spot somewhere along the Liffey in Dublin city centre.
The best way to describe it… the first bit of the canal… called the Circular Line, is like a section of the inner ring on a dartboard… the bull being the centre spot in the city centre and the strips of wire between the converging wedges the roads linking the extremities of the outer areas to the bull… or, to put it slightly differently, the triple scoring ring represents the canal… the joints the bridges… confused? 😉
To be expected… locks and bridges follow rapidly one after the other… up until 7th Lock at Portobello, that is. From here to the end of the Circular Line there are no more locks… only bridges. But let me not get in my own way again… I started the walk at the station where I usually disembark for work and as the masses were gathering for an Ireland versus Italy rugby game I thought it may be a good idea to try and get a picture of the Aviva Stadium full of supporters.
The short detour into one of the building wasn’t really as fruitful as expected… I was slightly too early for kick-off, so although the view was great, the stadium was only dotted with a tiny scattering of spectators. No use waiting more than an hour for the place to fill up… that would rob too much valuable walking time.
The first bridge, Maquay‘s, is the spot where the canal proper officially starts. When you’re standing on this bridge (not to be advised in peak traffic) you can see the first lock almost beneath the bridge… a backwards glance shows the last glimpses of the GCD basin. Look to your left and the imposing structure of the Aviva looms large over the cityscape… look to your right, down Lower Grand Canal Street toward the inner city.
The canal steps up rather quickly through the first 4 locks… within little more than a few hundred meters one is at the 4th Lock at Baggot Street. From here to Lock 7 at Portobello the pace is slightly less frenetic. The remaining stretch of the Circular Line up to the Suir Road Bridge is flat, the last expanse through the Dolphin’s Barn area is tree-lined and rather peaceful in appearance.
In appearance? Yes, I’d been warned to look out for potential trouble along this stretch as well as a stretch some distance further on. Someone mentioned to be weary of the odd flying object… it seems a favourite pastime of the local youths is the dispersal of stones and other assorted debris. Well, I was prepared… the trusty umbrella at the ready… to be wielded as a sword or to provide shelter from low flying objects… rain included. 😉
I’m rather happy to report no need for the use of the umbrella was required throughout the walk. The only signs of activity in the Dolphin’s Barn area were groups of youths playing football on the common… and a few teams of older lads arriving for their weekly kick-about… and strollers along the tree-lined embankment… and Rocky Balbo running for his life… well, it couldn’t have been Sylvester… this Rocky was about two foot taller than our movie star fella…
The overriding feeling of the day was the anticipation of spring. Folk were out in their numbers… apart from those going off the rugby there were many others, the walkers, the swan feeders, a photographer and a sketcher… groups of pretty people in their lycra… must be cold, even if you’re doing the obligatory Saturday show-off run down the canal.
I saw my first inner city Grand Canal heron… even though this fella must be used to the hustle and bustle of city life the natural instinct of flight was still evident. He did the usual heron thing… getting airborne as soon as one gets too close for his comfort. I momentarily caught up with him somewhere along the way, near the spot where I stood watching a lady in her garden. The rear garden wall is a brick-built south facing heat trap. There are already signs of greenery so early in the season. The espalier against the wall looks like it receives generous attention. I made a mental note to come for a look later in the year… I’m sure there’ll be an abundance of veggies for the taking… hers, not mine! 😛
PS – I mentally dubbed the section of canal in the Dolphin’s Barn area ‘dustbin alley’… apart from bits of assorted junk, I spotted at least 3 wheely bins submerged of partially in the water…