I fancied a bit of a change for today’s walk and since I had to go into Longford, I took a ramble out to The Junction on the towpath of the long-defunct Longford Branch of the Royal Canal. A little over 5km out from where the N63 goes through the old canal line, you come across the point the Branch joins the canal’s main line.
The Junction was the single most important piece of infrastructure ever built in the county at the time and represented the last piece of an incredible £1.5 million investment in bringing the Royal Canal from Dublin to the Shannon and to Longford town. The 8km Branch took the canal right into a harbour at the back on Longford’s market square before it was filled in the 1960s to build a swimming pool which has since been demolished and replaced with a car-park.
The Branch opened in 1830 but had a very short career as the railway to Mullingar effectively ended the canal as a going concern in 1848. When it reached Longford in 1855 there was little need for the canal except for a few niche purposes such as beer which didn’t take well to being rattled about on the rails. The other main cargo was horse manure which Dublin produced in vast quantities and wasn’t cost effective to transport by rail.
Anyway, for the stretch I was walking there is little left but a deep ditch filled mostly with Birch and Willow trees. There is a good gravel paved path that could do with a little attention and it’s a perfectly flat walk for the 6km stretch I did – the branch took a bit of a winding route to avoid the costly expense of locks.
Before the trail was built in the forest, I used to regularly walk out the road quite a bit further and my turning point was where I’d get a view of a ruined tower house from the road. I rarely go that far any more since I get my kilometres done in the forest, but it’s nice to go a little further sometimes.
It was really quite a horrible day for walking. We had that nasty midlands mist that isn’t quite rain and is invisible to both Apple Weather and Met Eireann’s radar. It still gives you a good soaking though. Still we got our walk done and clocked up another 12km for the years’s total.
Unusually we managed to all get out for a walk today on the last weekday of the school holidays. The route was the usual up and down through the forest on Ardagh mountain. I left everyone at the cross and did my few extra kilometres
I snapped a quick shot of this holly bush as amazingly it is still in berry this late in the season. In some cold autumns the berries will be all gone by late November but this year has been so incredibly mild that these berries have survived the onslaught of both birds and people collecting Christmas decorations.
I did my normal lunchtime walk in the forest today but that’s not what I’m going to dwell on since I’ve done something I never did before. I’ve got a bit bored or running laps of the well-lit local football field at night so I decided for a change to strap on a head-torch and run the forest trail.
The route is about 2.4km each way so by adding a 200m road run to the route, I managed to get in a quick 5 run on top of my regular daily 10km walk.
The feeling of running in the dark with the head-torch projecting through the drizzle was quite eerie but really enjoyable as a change from the usual run. I’ll be adding this to my weekly exercise mix in future.
With unseasonably warm weather continuing, it was a lovely day to get out for the first walk of the new year. As is the pattern for the school holidays, I started out on the track with my daughter along with me and did the first 5km or so with company.
Once we got back to this cross, we parted company and I continued on with the dogs to get a bit more distance one. I’ve recently started listening to podcasts when I’m walking on my own and so I walked on with Neil deGrasse Tyson as somewhat esoteric company.
On my trip back down, I noticed that the whin bushes have started to flower already which is a couple of weeks early. I’m not surprised given that it’s been over 10 degrees celcius at night recently. It’s nice to see the very early signs of spring but we’ve still got a lot of winter to go.
I ended up getting a good walk in with my first 11km or so done fo the year.
Walking forests and trails in the midlands of Ireland