While the rest of Europe melts in 45 degree heat, we’ve managed to string together three or four days without rain and the temperature has got into the high 20s. Not that I’m complaining as it is lovely to get up into the forest at this time of the year. For some reason, this year we appear of have abundant bilberries and they are ripening a couple of week early. They are still not at their sweetest but they make for a nice nibble while walking the forest.
It’s also time again for the blackberry blossoms to come out.
There is so much up there at the moment – we are coming into the peak of summer and we get a few weeks where it’s possible to go for a walk without fleece and GoreTex jacket.
It’s been a mild winter so far so it was nice to get up to a blanket of snow over the landscape. With the new track, it was a lovely opportunity to take a slightly different walk. As it was the middle of the day it wasn’t remotely cold.
Although recently it’s been quite busy in the forest thanks to the new track, I had the place to myself for a change.
Although it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this place, I’ve still been wandering the roads around the mountain and elsewhere although I’ve since broadened my activities to include running and cycling. I’ve even gone back to the passtime of my misspent youth and taking up scuba-diving again.
But, amongst this array of activities, Ardagh mountain has been a constant in my life. I still walk up there three or four times a year and I still find it an important part of my life. With a new year, I’m going to try to get back into the habit of posting here occasionally when I have something vaguely interesting to say.
I set off my fairly regular loop of Kilronan mountain from Keadue shortly before 9. There was an ominous looking cloud hanging over the mountain but I figured it would probably clear by the time it was up there and I had map and compass handy anyway.
By now I know this route pretty well and didn’t really have to bother with the map. I headed out of the village, turned left and started heading up the hill.
The route climbs sharply for the first three kilometres or so. First it’s on minor roads before switching to odd an old track. This takes you right past an old sweat house. Then you pass a cairn that was built to commemorate the victory of a candidate in the 1918 general election.
Not far after here we split away from the miners’ way proper and the trick is to follow the red way-markers although they may change colour soon since there are a whole load of new waymarker posts installed. The route takes you towards and then pass a row of wind-turbines.
I had a quick stop for coffee and a banana at the end of the turbines and as it was getting quite windy, I put on my raincoat and gloves. After this welcome break, I headed on towards the abandoned mine.
From here it’s on to another short road section before going back to tracks and eventually going on animal tracks across the bogs. The mist had long cleared and the views from here were quite spectacular.
I was getting due another break so stopped at 10 km and had a rest against a peat hag to get out of the wind. This has this Devil’s matchstick in spore.
After my break, I passed this holy well which pretty much marked the highest point of the day and the end of the rough tracks. About 400m past this, I joined a rough old mountain road and started heading down.
There seems to be all sorts of interesting things in spore as I went down – there were loads of horsetails.
From here on, it was a fairly simple road walk and it was getting time for lunch. I headed on until I passed the 15 km mark and had lunch on a little bridge on a fairly busy regional road. Suitable refreshed, I headed on towards Ballyfarnon
From here I headed through the Kilronan castle estate and ended up back in Keadue 6 hours after I’d left it.
It was a pretty normal lunchtime walk on a grey overcast Wednesday. My legs were still a bit tired after the weekend’s exertions but it was good to get out. There was a bit of excitement today as I came across a pony almost as soon as I entered the forest. The dogs were very excited about this and they whined and barked the whole way round which didn’t help as they just drove it further along the path. It finally managed to get past us just before we rejoined the road.
I got a a good early start and was on the trail from the Harbour area of Longford by 8 am. As expected the town was quiet and there was nobody on the trail except for a few dog-walkers and a few birds.
The remains of the canal are kept relatively clear for the first couple of kilometres around the town and it is quite a nice place to walk.
As I head out along the back of the industrial parks on the Athlone road I leave the walkers behind and once I cross the road it gets a lot less wilder. Since there are no locks on the branch, one would think it would be quite easy to re-open it but there are two major problems -once is that the harbour is gone and there is no possibility whatsoever of re-instating it. Secondly, there are about three road crossings where the road just goes straight through where the canal once was. This makes things a bit difficult.
Anyway, I pushed onwards. The plan was to get to mainline and turn left towards Abbeyshrule. Unfortunately, there is no way of turning left at the junction as there is no path so I had to up to Kilashee and backtrack about 1.5 km to get back to the junction on the opposite side.
The water level on the main line was considerably reduced as Waterways Ireland were doing overwinter maintenance on this section. It isn’t looking terribly like it will be open by Easter. I headed towards Kilashee and took my first break on the lock gate after about 10 km.
There is finally some sign of life in the trees with some of the willow trees in these parts displaying catkins. There is an interesting wreck in the weeds beside the canal right by the junction. It is amazing how they took these out of the water and just left them to rot.
I pushed onwards towards Kenagh still making a good place of over 5 km per hour. It was perfect walking weather. Warm enough, dry but overcast so that it wasn’t too warm.
I stopped again on the the 15 km mark as I’ve decided to try this time to stop every hour or so and sit down for 5 minutes to see if this helps later on in the walk. After this, I went straight through Kenagh harbour without stopping and continued on towards Ballymahon.
With another stop in the middle of nowhere between Kenagh and Ballymahon, I got to Mullawornia which is an incredible stretch of the canal where it contours along the side of a substantial hill and offers great views of the surrounding countryside.
From here it was on towards Ballymahon where I figured on stopping for lunch. After the turn at Foyra, it was only a couple of kilometres to go.
However, with the 25 km mark behind me and a break overdue, I decided to pick a nice bank to sit on and eat there. I had a good lunch of soup and a cheese roll until I was rudely interrupted by a farmer spreading lime. This put an end to my break so on I went.
I had a quick pause to fill my water bladder at Ballymahon (or Ballybrannigan) harbour and went on. The overcast skies of the day started to clear and it was turning into a rather fabulous evening. My stop every 5 km strategy was working well and my legs felt like they had a lot left them so I started entertaining notions of extending the walk to marathon distance.
Anyway, I pushed on towards the 30 km mark but decided to stop a little bit early after spotting a nice resting place under a tree near Fowlard’s bridge.
I polished off the remains of my soup and had a handful of nuts and got going. Fowland’s bridge was a bit awkward as there were works going on that blocked the path under it and so I had to climb up the bank and cross a barbed wire fence and the N55 to get past. It would have been nice for them to have put up a sign at the previous bridge.
It was an easy haul into Abbeyshrule with the evening really turning quite fabulous.
I reckoned up and decided I need to go a few hundred metres beyond Bog bridge and return to make up the marathon distance so I ditched my rucksack and decided to finish it up. On the way out, there were some people parachuting.
I made it to bog bridge with no great fuss and then headed back to Abbeyshrule to head home and eat a huge dinner.
Not a bad day’s walking having added 42.3 km to my yearly total
I’ve got a few days off in a row again due to the St. Patrick’s day weekend and so have managed to do quite a few walks while the fine weather continues
It gets so much easier up in the forest after a dry week since the job of negotiating the soft bits isn’t quite so difficult.
There is still not much sign of buds or willow catkins but there are a few daises appearing. Not a lot else has developed since.
I’ll be breaking my run of forest walks tomorrow since I’ve got a long walk planned. It hasn’t been a bad run of walks with five walks in the last 7 days. It is getting quite rare that I actually have a day where I don’t go to Dublin and don’t go for a walk.
I’ve managed three walks in three days which is pretty good going. At the rate I’ve been going this year, I’ll manage my hundred walks by the end of September. Anyway, we’ve had a couple of dry weeks and the difference up the forest is amazing. Quite a bit of it is drying out nicely and it is a pleasure to finish every walk with dry feet.
There even seem to be a few more people around there. There was a car parked up this morning and I am pretty sure I heard a dog barking in the forest yesterday so it is nice to see the place being used.
That’s really about it. Amazingly we still have holly berries on a few bushes which is really very strange at this time of year. But spring certainly seems a bit late – there is very little budding activity so far.
It was a fine sunny morning so we all got changed and out for a walk immediately after breakfast. It was a really beautiful spring morning which made for a change after all of the stormy wintry weather we’d had during the week. The frogs have certainly been busy – the whole path was covered in frogspawn in one spot.
The gorse is also getting going into full flower after its brief couple of months of partial dormancy. It seems none the worse for wear after the last couple of weeks of cold weather.
We came around to the fallen tree which is quite awkward having fallen right across the path but we can manage.
Anyway, it was nice for a change to have a walk where we weren’t battling rain and wind.
Walking forests and trails in the midlands of Ireland