Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Marine Clothing
8th February 2011

Trust in the Future?

As the cuts begin to bite, it may be time to look at the British direction for our waterways, writes Brian J Goggin

Foreign weather
The other night, I went to the inaugural meeting of a new lobby group called the Campaign for Real Irish Weather (CRIW). The group’s aims are to secure a restoration of traditional Irish weather patterns, and it intends to lobby both local authorities (like the Irish Government) and central government (the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF).

As the new organisation’s president, Francis Beaufort, put it forcefully: “For the last few years, foreign weather has been dumped in Ireland. Sunshine in May is all very well, but it’s not very useful at that time of the year. And the price we pay is ice and snow in winter, which we definitely don’t want. What we need is nice gentle rain all year round, giving just the right amount of water in the rivers, with neither drought nor flood.”

I could see what he meant. In October we went up the Shannon and along the Shannon Erne Waterway (SEW) to Ballinamore: it was very cold and our newly-installed heating was essential. But there was even colder weather ahead: throughout the winter, owners had to worry about the effects of ice; several boats sank and no doubt there will be others with damaged engines. Bring back rain.

Rain returns
There was plenty of rain on the first weekend of February, when IWAI Lough Derg Branch members and people from the O’Briensbridge Community Group turned out to remove timber from the upper end of the Plassey–Errina Canal.
This was the old route between Limerick and Lough Derg. When Ardnacrusha was built in the 1920s, the headrace weir at Parteen Villa blocked the river, preventing boats from reaching O’Briensbridge and Castleconnell. The old weir at World’s End, Castleconnell, still keeps up the level, so there is plenty of depth, but nowadays (with one exception) only small boats — mostly angling boats and rowing skiffs — use this stretch of river.

However, the Community Group has developed looped walks along the towing-path. The British Inland Waterways Protection Society visited in October, walking from the Limerick canal harbour to O’Briensbridge, and described the canal as a “national treasure”. It has a wealth of artefacts, including seven milestones along the 12-mile route.

The group and the IWAI are now clearing the top section of the canal, so that small boats can travel from the river as far as the first lock at Errina. A small but select group turned out, with two boats, and has now reopened the navigation as far as the farm-house at Drummeen. Another couple of weekends are planned to complete the work, although silt inflow below a drain may pose a problem.

Tightening the belts
Other IWAI branches are active too: Dublin working on the Grand Canal graving docks, Newry & Portadown on the Newry Canal. And so are other groups: Drimnagh Friends of the Grand Canal in their area of Dublin, Breffnie O’Kelly and others further east in the city.

The question now is whether Waterways Ireland should start thinking about some more formal arrangement with groups of volunteers, to build them into its plans and its structures.

The Sunday Tribune of 9 January 2011 said that Waterways Ireland’s staff increased from 355 last year to 367 this year. It said that the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs (to which Waterways Ireland reports in the southern state), or rather its minister, was “among the worst offenders when it comes to increasing staff numbers in the agencies under his remit”.

Waterways Ireland did well from Fianna Fáil’s budgets: it has many new vessels in its fleet, new offices and new and improved systems and procedures. But the days of high spending may be over. The budget, in December, showed that the Department’s current expenditure allocation to Waterways Ireland in 2011 would be down from e25,585,000 to e24,335,000 (a cut of just under 5%) while capital expenditure would be down from e8,000,000 to e6,000,000 (25%).

Admittedly, Waterways Ireland is now starting from a high base, but remember that we are facing several years of further cuts to get government expenditure back somewhere close to revenue. As it is, the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs has been trying to get Waterways Ireland to pay for the Ulster Canal by selling surplus property, but it has missed the boat (or rather the boom).

British move to trust
Changes are under way in Britain. British Waterways pulled out of the Cotswold Canals Partnership in 2008, a decision that seemed to signal the end of the era of big restoration projects.

Furthermore, BW needs more money than it has been getting. As WATERWAYS WORLD puts it, “Its commercial activities are flat-lining at best, the growth in boat numbers has slowed, and the Government grant is heading downhill fast.”

Her Majesty’s Government doesn’t want to be bothered with all this when it’s carrying out a cull of quangos, so it intends to transform BW into a charitable trust by 2012. Charitable status would allow BW to raise money from other sources (e.g. funding trusts, individual donations, legacies). It would have some tax advantages and it would also allow BW to borrow.

One major component of the plans is that BW would use the services of volunteers more. Some would work as individuals but in other cases voluntary bodies would work with BW. There is a sort of pilot scheme on the Kennet & Avon, where BW and the Canal Trust have formed a Waterway Partnership.

Needs must?
Now, I don’t expect the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to greet with glad cries this — or any other — suggestion for change. Waterways Ireland was set up with no board, no formal involvement of any outside persons or bodies, just a chief executive reporting directly to the two government departments, north and south, and their ministers. It’s hardly likely, therefore, that proposals for popular involvement will be welcomed.

But if the British solution works, and if financial cuts continue north and south, the powers that be may have to consider a new business model.

Published in Brian Goggin
4th January 2011

Going off-piste on water

With the boat laid up for winter, there’s a chance to think about some of the smaller and less-well-known navigations

In winter, when the vegetation has died back, it’s easier to see hidden features, and (if it’s not raining) the light is often very good for taking photographs.

Several of these navigations could be tourist attractions. The Irish tourism product needs to be revitalised — and that includes the waterways product. Shannon traffic figures this year are down about 25% on 2006 and registrations of new boats are down about 50%. One market that hasn’t really been tapped is that for industrial heritage, and the waterways have lots of it, but even abandoned waterways also offer activities (walking, kayaking) and opportunities to get away from it all.

In some cases, though, the powers-that-be don’t realise what they have and what they could (at low cost) do with it, while in others the powers seem determined to block public access to the waterways. Here are some of the problems and the opportunities.

The Maigue through Adare
The Maigue flows north through Adare into the Shannon Estuary. In bygone days it was regarded as a separate navigation and the annual Board of Works reports covered it separately.

There was a plan to link Limerick to Cork by canal, but it got no further than making the Maigue navigable to Adare. A short canal ran from the river into the centre of the town. When the railway came, it cut off the entrance to that canal; the old harbour is now beneath an iron works and a new quay was built downstream of the railway bridge. You can walk down the bank from there; you can also visit the Maigue at Ferrybridge on the N69.

Although commercial traffic was confined mostly to turf boats, and not many of them, the navigation continued in use until the 1920s. However, I have found no evidence — in Oireachtas records, in legislation or in statutory instruments — that the navigation was ever formally closed or that the Office of Public Works ever passed over its responsibilities to any other organisation. I have been pestering an unfortunate official of the OPW for some time now; he has found no relevant records.

Accordingly, I believe that the OPW is still the navigation authority for the Maigue, and it might perhaps give some attention to dredging and to the installation of aids to navigation.

The Munster Blackwater
I have written here before about the delights of the Munster Blackwater and the boat trip from Youghal to Cappoquin; many of the old quays, and parts of the River Bride and the Lismore Canal, can be visited by road.

Further upstream, in Fermoy, the inland fisheries authorities have been threatening to destroy much of the charm of the town by removing its weir on the River Blackwater to make it easier for salmon to get upstream. Fermoy Rowing Club has led the resistance and persuaded Minister of State Conor Lenihan TD to delay the destruction so that the Town Council could repair the existing fish passes in the weir. In December 2009, the Minister directed Fermoy Town Council “to undertake immediate repairs to the existing damaged fish passes in the weir in order to reduce the barrier effect of the weir on migratory fish species”. The work may begin next spring; follow developments on http://fermoyweir.wordpress.com.

Further upstream again, you can follow the line of the never-completed Lombardstown to Mallow Canal: it’s on the north side of the N72 (Killarney to Mallow road). One lock chamber was cleared some time ago; it’s in the grounds of Longueville House Hotel http://www.longuevillehouse.ie/about.

Fish threaten the Suir
The fisheries authorities are also threatening to close the navigation of the River Suir. They want to erect a Crump weir right across the river so that they can install a gadget to count fish. They are considering installing a canoe pass, which would allow kayaks and canoes to get through; larger boats, and anything with an engine, would not be able to get through.

The fisheries authorities insisted that they needed nobody’s permission to block the navigation, but South Tipperary County Council has insisted that they submit a planning application; I understand that it is currently being prepared and the fisheries authorities could not give me copies of their plans.

If the river has to be blocked to enable fish to be counted, then the fish should not be counted.

And while I’m on the subject, why is the towing-path between Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel blocked in two places?

In Clonmel itself, flood prevention works have resulted in the construction of walls all along the river, with no provision (as far as I could see) for access to the river. I saw one group of people launching boats on planks laid down a flight of steps; couldn’t a slipway have been provided somewhere? And what about providing somewhere safe for boats to be tied up, with a gated pontoon so that people wouldn’t have to clamber over walls to get to their boats? Sixty foot wooden yawls (shallow lighters) used to carry goods to Clonmel, but the town seems determined to turn its back on the river and to make it hard for people to use it for pleasure.

The Limerick Navigation
The Limerick Navigation, the old route between Limerick and Killaloe, was abandoned in 1929 when the new route through Ardnacrusha was opened. However, the towing-paths remain in public hands, although Limerick City and County Councils leased parts of them from the Office of Public Works.

In the early nineteenth century, the Limerick Navigation was the scene of operations of the most remarkable inland waterways fleet ever seen in Britain or Ireland. And the navigation itself is packed with unusual features, some of which are unique but most of which are still accessible. It is possible to walk the old towing-path from Limerick to the university grounds at Plassey, then across the river and along the canal to Gillogue. There is a break in the accessible stretch there, but you can walk by road, or along the headrace, to Clonlara, and regain the towing-path there. The route continues along the canal to the Shannon, then by the river through O’Briensbridge to Parteen Villa Weir. The Flooded Area covers the navigation from there to Killaloe, but the old canal at that point has a great wealth of artefacts.

But nowhere is there anything to tell you that you are walking the Limerick Navigation or that these stretches of towing-path were all part of one route. There is nothing to identify and explain the various features or to discuss the boats, the people and the cargoes that went along this route. It would cost very little to make the Limerick Navigation into a tourist attraction: interpretation and marketing are the main needs.

And now the route itself is threatened. The Black Bridge, built by Thomas Rhodes in the 1840s to allow towing horses to cross the river, bears on its parapets the grooves worn by the tow-ropes. It was damaged by last winter’s floods and has been closed off. It is possible to cross the river using the university’s road bridge, but the Black Bridge itself should be saved, repaired and re-opened as a part of this tourist route.

Plenty to pick from in Estuary
If you want a quick lesson in transport history, get in your car and spend a weekend driving around the Shannon Estuary (a ferry links the Kerry and Clare sides). Some of the attractions (those that charge fees) close for the winter, but there is still lots to be seen.

If you like traditional boats, look for the gandalows from Limerick down (and on the Cashen in north Kerry) and the canoes (currachs) in west Clare. Note the large number of stone piers, built for the estuary steamers and now largely abandoned.

The main steamer ports were Cappa (outside Kilrush) and Tarbert; you can see how the piers were built and extended — and you can think about the early iron steamer Garryowen: when it survived being cast ashore in a gale, the news went around the world and convinced many shipowners to adopt iron for their fleets.

In the summer, you can add the West Clare Railway at Moyasta (between Kilrush and Kilkee), the reproduction monorail Lartigue Railway at Listowel, various stations on the Limerick and North Kerry lines and the flying-boat museum at Foynes.

The individual attractions in this area are fine by themselves, but put them together as an industrial heritage (transport) package and you have something that will bring enthusiasts from overseas — and as the attractions are already there, the cost would be minimal.

Hidden treasures
You never know where you’re going to come across a trace of an old canal. The most surprising I’ve found so far was in Johnstown, Co Kilkenny. It is marked on the 1840 Ordnance Survey map as “Old canal” and the bridge shown in the photo is on a road called “Canal Road”: that’s what we call a clue. The canal seems to have served a single estate, probably allowing farm materials to be moved around and perhaps brought to and from the road.

There was also a canal system in the bogs on the Dublin side of Roscrea, near Racket Hall. Turf was carried by boat, hauled by donkey, to Birch Grove distillery, where the Equality Authority now has offices. A visit to the area should also take in the small but remarkably atmospheric ruins of Monaincha Abbey.

Several waterways books mention the Rockville Navigation, a series of small lakes linked by cuts near Hillstreet in Co Roscommon. One of the cuts is spanned by a fine, but recently damaged, bridge which bears the date 1765, but I have found no written information about who built the navigation or what it was used for. It is still navigable by small boats, though: I went down it myself last summer, from the bridge to the Silver Eel at Grange, and a group from the Heritage Boat Association carried out a more extensive survey.

The Mayor of Roscommon, Cllr Luke Ming Flanagan, kayaked down from the bridge with a companion; with a slight flow on, they reached Grange in a couple of hours. A small investment — perhaps a launching ramp, a bit of tree-trimming and some signposting — could create a new visitor attraction for the county, appealing to those who want a not-too-strenuous kayak or boat trip.

The era of big waterways projects is probably over. For the future, we need to think small.

Published in Brian Goggin

#INLAND WATERWAYS – As the 2012 Irish boating season kicks off this weekend Waterways Ireland authority has warned boat owners on the Erne System that following a period of dry weather the water levels on Lower Lough Erne are below those normally experienced at this time of year.

Boat owners, particularly those with deep drafts, are advised to proceed with caution, keep well clear of all hazards, remain central in the navigation channels and proceed with care when approaching moorings.

Published in Inland Waterways

#INLAND WATERWAYS - Officials at the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are attempting to find the source of a pollutant that resulted in a fish kill on the Threemilewater river in recent weeks.

The Newtownabbey Times reports that more than 120 trout and salmon parr have been found dead on the short stretch of river between Mossley Mill and Doagh Road in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim.

John Webster of the Threemilewater Conservation and Angling Association speculated that the pollutant may have entered the water from any of a number of pipes that flow into the waterway near the railway line at Mossley Mill.

He described the fish kill as "an absolute diasaster", especially coming as it did at the opening of the fishing season on 1 March.

The Newtownabbey Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Inland Waterways

#INLAND WATERWAYS - Three months on from Minister Jimmy Deenihan's statement on the Ulster Canal regeneration project, and there is little to update on its progress.

As reported on Afloat.ie last December, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht replied to a written question from Cork East Sinn Féin deputy Sandra McLennan that the project is "progressing'"despite a U-turn on Government funding, and confirmed that Waterways Ireland would solely fund the scheme from its annual allocations.

However, the minister's latest response - to a question from Cavan-Monaghan Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin requesting an update on the project's progress - is almost identical to his previous statement.

One small difference is an acknowledgement that Cavan County Council has granted planning permission for the project, which involves restoration of the canal between Clones in Co Monaghan and Upper Lough Erne.

Minister Deenihan also stated that his department is "finalising terms of reference" for the proposed inter-agency group that would examine ways to further the project, but gave no timeframe as to when this group would be established.

Published in Inland Waterways

#INLAND – Killaloe and Ballina have been taken the opportunity to have a Discover Day on April 29th 2012. Local business has a key role to play in raising awareness of the tourism assets of Killaloe & Ballina to local people. The Discover Day aims to facilitate them to do that to a wider audience.

A committee of local business people and voluntary groups, chaired by Doug Hyde of Satyma has been working to compile the content for the brochure for the Discover Killaloe & Ballina day; "Businesses are giving a taste of the services and facilities to customer for free on the 29th April. Once local people better understand the unique tourism, recreational and retail products on offer in Killaloe & Ballina the better able we will be to keep tourists and business in this area."

Facilitated by Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Shannon Development and Clare and North Tipperary County Councils the group already has information on visitor attractions, water activities, arts and crafts, face painting, live music, a historical walking tour of Killaloe & Portumna, boat trips and other land and water activities.

Businesses still wishing to get involved should contact Doug Hyde of Satyma on [email protected] or Katrina Mc Girr Waterways Ireland on [email protected] on or before the 7th March 2012 to be included in the brochure for free.

The Discover Killaloe & Ballina initiative is part of a broader campaign to develop and promote Ireland's Lakelands and Inland Waterways which aims to significantly boost visitor numbers to the Lakeland regions over the next three years.

Published in Inland Waterways

#INLAND WATERWAYS - A new study on the River Barrow and its environs recommends the development of "activity hubs, tourist trails and new angling and boat facilities", The Irish Times reports.

Waterways Ireland and Fáilte Ireland commissioned the Barrow Corridor Recreational, Tourism and Commercial Identification Survey to find ways to exploit the area's "undeveloped potential" for tourism.

The survey covered the river itself as well as its estuary and the Barrow branch of the Grand Canal. Its findings pointed to a number of areas where development is already being actioned, such as in boating and cruising, nature and wildlife, and angling.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who launched the study in Carlow yesterday, hailed the co-operation of the agencies and county councils involved.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Inland Waterways

#INLAND WATERWAYS - A new mobile app that guides visitors around the trails of Lough Derg has gone live, the Clare Champion reports.

More than 20 trails are included in the app, from walking to cycling, driving, cruising and canoeing.

The app - developed in partnership between Shannon Development and US firm EveryTrail - uses Google Maps and the GPS system in smartphones to pinpoint trails near the user's location.

Users can download route descriptions, images and notes, get directions to the starting point and follow the the pre-plotted course.

The Lough Derg Trails app is available for iPhone and Android devices.

The Clare Champion has more on the story HERE.

Published in Inland Waterways

#INLAND WATERWAYS - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has announced the results of studies on the genetic makeup of brown trout stocks in the Suir and Boyne river catchments.

These studies form part of a wider scheme looking at Ireland's larger riverine catchments - assisted by the Office of Public Works, geneticists from UCD and trout anglers across Ireland - and involve a chemical analysis of scale samples from fish known as 'micro-satellite DNA analysis'.

The results from the Suir and Boyne are described by IFI as "quite amazing" and "of significant value" to managing the fisheries in these areas.

In both catchments, the first step saw trout stock samples of young fish examined genetically, and they were shown to be discrete - in other words, fish from any given tributary were found to be genetically different to those from others.

The next step involved samples of adult fish from the main river, contributed by anglers, which were then related to the different tributary genetic types.

Summary results from the Suir and Boyne show that there are respectively seven and five distinct families of trout in the catchment area; that most fish born in tributaries migrate to the main stem till adulthood before returning to their tributaries to spawn; that numbers migrating from individual tributaries are variable, but fish don't cross into adjacent catchment areas; and that there movement of young trout along the river system is "extraordinary", with fish often migrating from near the source to the mouth.

More details on findings for the Suir catchment and Boyne catchment are available on the IFI website.

Published in Inland Waterways

#WATERWAYS IRELAND – The Waterways Ireland Marketing Strategy 2012-2017 has been launched by Minister Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, Minister Jonathon Bell MLA , and Minister Dinny McGinley, T.D. in Waterways Ireland's Enniskillen Headquarters.

Waterways Ireland has a legislative requirement to engage in promotion, including marketing & development of the tourism and commercial potential of the inland waterways for which it is responsible.

In this context from the outset Waterways Ireland recognised that in order to enhance and develop the potential of the waterways, a solid platform for sustained market development was required. The previous strategy was put in place in 2007.

The 2012-2017 Waterways Ireland Marketing Strategy builds on the progress of the previous strategy and prescribes strategic objectives for the future of the organisation. Marketing programmes have also been developed covering the remit of communications, product development, visitor services, promotions, branding and research.

Speaking about the strategy Director of Marketing & Communications Martin Dennany confirmed "Marketing the inland waterways has brought increased dividends for both the communities and businesses along the waterway corridors. The 2012-2017 Marketing Strategy will build on the foundation established and continue to bring a focus on the wonderful resource that is the waterways. We will continue to work in partnership with our colleagues in Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland on the delivery of the tourism aspects of our programmes"

Published in Inland Waterways
Page 20 of 27

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

DBSC
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

mgm sidebutton
bjmarine sidebutton
xyachts sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events

tokyo sidebutton
sovscup sidebutton
vdlr sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating