Last of the Foxgloves

Day 75

I was a bit late getting out today due to losing track of time at work. It was yet another fantastic day but it is definitely getting colder.


As you can see, the visibility up the top was fabulous with the horizon a good 70 km away in place I should think. In the latter part of the walk I came across a solitary foxglove having a second coming. It even still had some buds on it.


Day 74

With the fine weather continuing I had yet another dry lunchtime walk. It was a bit overcast and a relatively unremarkable walk. It took the shorter of the two routes as I was running a bit late.


Everything is dying back – even the mushrooms are past their best and it is rare to see some nice colour. So I took this shot on the edge of the forest to show there is still a splash of colour about.


Lunchtime walk

Day 73

This was the usual quick lunchtime loop. The dry weather has continued and it is still very warm considering the time of year. It was a fairly normal walk with no great excitement.


The place is still covered in mushrooms with a few places having almost a carpet of them. Unfortunately I didn’t get a terribly good picture of them aside from these new arrivals


The leaves are turning more by now but not a lot of them have fallen. Hopefully they will all hold out a bit longer. The place is still very dry. Normally by now the streams would all have rewatered and indeed some of them did come back a bit a few weeks ago but they have all dried up again.


Royal Canal – Ryewater to Ashtown

After I had fed and watered myself, I set off again, and quickly got through Confey station. Not long after that I came across the remains of the old Lucan North station which is now a private house but has the remains of a shelter on the up platform just about visible through the undergrowth.


From here on it was beginning to turn into my usual plod once I get beyond 30km. There was the odd train to punctuate my journey and these were starting to get a bit more frequent as the evening rush approached. I checked the timetable on my phone and figured that I had a very tight schedule to make the last train at Ashtown to connect with the 1705 Sligo train.


Amazingly for an area relatively close to the city, there was very little built up around the canal and railway. Perhaps this was something to do with the dividing line drawn by the canal and the comparative sparsity of bridges in the general area.


At Clonsilla, the canal swings away to the left of the railway and the relatively newly reopened Dunboyne branch crosses the canal on a modern overbridge.


The two runners stretching were appreciating and photographing the rather fabulous graffiti on the bridge. I had noticed the same artist must have been at work on a Waterways Ireland weed-trimmer a kilometre or so back.


The bridge was absolutely festooned.




A couple of hundred metres further on, there was a concrete anchor for a pipeline crossing the canal similarly decorated.



Shortly after this, we entered the deep cutting that runs for about three kilometres between Clonsilla and well past Carpenterstown. This was an stretch of rock that had to be blown through with gunpowder when the canal was being built. Due to the expense involved, the towpath rises up to 7 metres above water level in several places and for the whole stretch rarely dips below 5 metres above.


This made life very difficult for the horse-drawn boats and even still the footing is somewhat treacherous particularly for tired legs. It is believed that the awkwardness of the towing arrangements was a contributory factor. A night boat struck the bank near Porterstown bridge and the boat capsized. The facts are somewhat hazy but either 16 or 17 peoples drowned that night. It was the worse accident to have occurred on the canal.

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Here you can see the sheer scale of the engineering works required to dig this channel. Remember that this was a hundred years before dynamite was invented. Mostly nowadays we just glide over such engineering on trains or in cars without even noticing and don’t give the slighted thought to the thousands of men who laboured in horrible conditions for a pittance of wages to construct such things. Their sacrifice is so regularly discarded when these things are shut down on a whim only for the mistake to be realised 20 or 30 years later.


Anyway, enough of that. Things were really dragging on and time was getting very tight indeed by the time I reached the 12th lock which is as far as boats can go except by special arrangement.There was a grand-looking pub here and I would have loved to stop for a drink which would probably have quietened down my screaming feet a bit but unfortunately, time was pressing and I had to drive at the other end of my train journey home anyway.


From here, it was on to the aqueduct crossing the M50 orbital motorway which must be Ireland’s most complicated motorway junction, involving a motorway, a major road, a couple of minor roads, a railway and the canal.

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From here on it was a real mad dash as the train time was getting closer and closer. There were other options, but the probably would have involved me standing all the way home which I really didn’t want to do.


It really was such a mad dash into Ashtown that I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture. I made the train with literally 30 seconds to spare. Ashtown marks the end of the Royal Canal Way but not necessarily the walk. It was a little anti-climactic to finish the walk of this way, but I will try to revisit it and walk from Ashtown into the city over the next while.

Royal Canal – Kilcock to the Ryewater Aqueduct

Fortified by my coffee and chocolate bar, I set off walking again. So far I had the place mostly to myself, I’d seen a couple of dog-walkers around Kilcock but by now the fishermen were starting to make an appearance. The mist had also mostly lifted and it was getting to look like quite a fine day. Just out of Kilcock, I came across this shed that back in the days of the building boom had been a helicopter hanger.


The canal, railway and road went in parallel for about 1.5km outside of Kilcock until the road took its leave of us and the route returned to silence.


Not long after this I came upon another lock and this one had a couple of boats by it. I resolved to make it as far as Leixlip before stopping for lunch but was planning on another quite coffee break at Maynooth.


The canal had really long straight sections at this point – a function of the very flat landscape I suppose.


There is an interesting contrast between the style of the railway bridges and that of the canal. As they are right beside each-other for this whole section, it seems that a lot of the canal bridges were just extended into railway bridges but the stonework is quite a bit fancier on the railway half of the bridges which were built about 70 years later.


Just after this bridge, we crossed the Rye water over a little aqueduct which was barely noticeable. It would cause considerably more bother the next time we came across it.


I wasn’t that long getting from Kilcock to Maynooth which are only about 6km apart but as I had such a long section from Enfield to Kilcock, I decided to treat myself to another cup of coffee at Maynooth harbour which was in need of a good clean-out.


After a quick break it was onwards towards Leixlip where I was planning to take my lunch-break. We another few km of very straight sections of canal.


Another one of these dual bridges – they all look strangely lob-sided as the railway half obviously needed more clearance so that side ended up higher.


I came across rather a fabulous pigeon loft near Leixlip – all the mod cons. By now I was getting quite close to my lunch stop – it is quite nice being right by the railway, as you always know exactly where you are. The OS map has the railway mile posts on it so you could tell how long it was to go pretty much exactly when the railway was visible. I rounded the turn coming to Louisa bridge.


I’ve always liked the name Louisa bridge, and can’t find its origin anywhere. Most of the canal bridges are named after investors or directors but there is the odd exception.

Anyway, this is the point for my next stop – the massive Ryewater aqueduct which carries the canal and railway 70 or 80m above the comparatively insignificant  Ryewater river. This massive engineering structure absorbed close to a third of the entire share capital of the original canal company.



The view from the canal side is quite rural although you can see the Intel plant to the left of the area in this shot. The view from the railway is much more built-up but is  more obvious how far above the landscape you are.


I sat down by this ruined cottage for my lunch and had a bit of a rest


Royal Canal – Enfield to Kilcock

I had a very early start to get the last chunk of the Royal Canal Way finished off. I arrived in Enfield by train at 7:15 and was greeted with a heavy mist as is normally the case at this time of year. The train journey was uneventful, even if I did feel a bit odd among the commuters in my hiking gear

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Anyway, without much ado I sorted myself out and settled into the hike. I backtracked a couple of hundred metres to cross the railway and the canal to get onto the tow-path and then got moving. The disused signal box at Enfield looked quite ghostly in the mist and half-light of the morning.


It was quite unusual for me to see if from this angle after having passed it literally thousands of times on the train but this walk in general was about seeing things from a new perspective for me.

There were a few interesting flowers about but the light was still quite dull for taking pictures. With the thick mist there was little point in taking pictures of anything else so I mostly ignored the camera and got on with walking.



I resolved to make Kilock before stopping as it was a good 13 – 14 km away as there was little point in getting into a habit of regular stops early in the walk. I reckoned on having to do 40 km to get to the end of the official Royal Canal Way at Ashtown and figured if I could get there a little earlier that I might be able to make it a little further. By 8:30, I had reached my step goal for the day of 10,000 steps and I still had a long long way to go.

With about 8km done today, I finally hit the end of the Long Level – a 32km stretch with no locks. I had very few locks to pass today – I think I counted about 5 for the day. Most of the locks on this side of the summit are in a group near Killucan and there are 10 in the last 8 km to the sea. Most of the locks I passed today were to be double-chambered affairs – including this one.


The mist really was hanging on this morning and by now my feet were getting quite wet from the heavy dew on the grass. Needless to say, I hadn’t bothered bringing gaiters which I had taken for the other tree sections and not needed. By about 9:30 the sun was making a feeble attempt to get through the mist but not really doing terribly well.


By now, I wasn’t far from Kilcock when I came to Allen bridge. Kilcock is quite spread out and there was a nice walk through the back-end of the town to get to the main harbour which is by the new railway station.


After another lock and an annoying road crossing, I was at the harbour and I sat down for a well-earned cup of coffee and a chocolate bar. They have a well-organised canoe-polo club in Kilcock and I sat opposite their club-house for my rest.


Proper Indian Summer

Day 72

Yet another fine day for a lunchtime walk – this is getting to be a bit of a habit. We had fine blue skies but the temperature isn’t quite what is was in high summer. Still, I’m not complaining.


Some of the leaves are beginning to turn and you can see a light sprinkling of fallen leaves in some places. It is quite restful to just sit under a tree waiting for the leaves to come down. Hopefully the storms will hold off for another few leaves to give the leaves a chance to turn properly colourful. Normally, we get one huge storm in late September that clears the lot in one fell swoop and then we miss the fabulous colours as the leaves fade away by themselves.


Even the mushrooms are start to get past it. Something had a nice feed on this one – hopefully it wasn’t too poisonous.


Autumn sunshine

Day 71

After an early breakfast, we got ourselves out of the house into a spectacular early autumn morning. There was hardly a cloud in the sky but there was a bit of a nip in the air to remind us that we were no longer in the middle of the summer.


The early part of the walk was uneventful as it is usually is at this time of year. Everything is dying back and there is not a lot new to see. There was a poor solitary foxglove flower hanging on for dear life


However, once we get across the road and into the second half of the look, the mushroom wonderland experience continues. We didn’t spot any new varieties today but there were a few more fine examples making their appearance. This stop is quite amazing – like some sort of fairy dell and the weird effect of my poor photography only adds to the magical appearance.


The rather deadly-looking red toadstools have sorted out themselves in a few new stands. I didn’t see this one last year.


This tree-fungus has sort of had enough of things by now.


Once we got out of forest, my sharp-eyed daughter spotted this grasshopper and I managed to get a really good shot of it.


Nearby the holly-tree is coming along quite well in time to have the berries ready about three weeks too early so that birds will have them all eaten.

Will the mushrooms ever stop?

Day 69

I had intended to make this a mushroom-free day but there were so many new ones that I couldn’t resist it. It was just me and the dogs today but the weather was fine and it is still warm enough for walking without a fleece.


At the top, there are a few pines doing quite a good job of seeding themselves along the side of the path.


On the path down from the top, these guys were growing in the open in among some sphagnum moss. Although they look like flowers, they are actually mushrooms.


A little bit further on and under cover, I found this really interesting-looking tiny purple mushroom.


Finally, after a bit more, these guys are decaying quite badly now.


It was quite a slow walk as I was messing about a bit taking photos but an enjoyable trip round the forest. My new cheap boots leaked slightly unfortunately.