Monday 4 May 2015

The Barrow Way - The Grand Canal Barrow Line

Returning to the other canal for a day out I was hoping to get started early and make an long trip from Lowtown ( near Robertstown ) to Monasterevin and back. That would have been a 49km round trip. As it happened the weather wasn’t quite up for it, and I started a bit late so I’d pretty much decided on turning back at Rathangan for a 30km round trip. In the end I discovered that the Barrow Way is currently blocked just south of Rathangan for maintenance so I had to turn back.

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0.0km Robertstown, Binns Bridge.

The Barrow Way ( and the Grand Canal Way for that matter) follows the paved roadway on the northern side of the canal from Robertstown to Lowtown. This is correctly signed on the ground but incorrectly mapped in a number of online resources that indicate it is on the south side at this point.

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1.7km Lowtown 18th Lock and Fenton Bridge.

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Looking west out along the main line of the Royal Canal from the top of the bridge.

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The Barrow Way crosses over the bridge here and starts off as a grass path, changing to a fairly rough gravel surface after a few hundred meters.

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2.5km Littletown Bridge - The Travellers Rest.

The way follows the public road on the northern bank.

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3.4km Grand Canal Miltown Feeder.

The roadway on the south bank takes Huband Bridge over the Grand Canal Miltown Feeder channel and the Barrow Way passes over an open overflow weir as it changes to a grassy surface again.

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3.5km The Old 19th Lock.

I assume it gets called old since this is the Old Barrow Line along this route.

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This bridge is a novel variant on the integrated lock/bridge structure format, presumably its a recent addition.

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The meeting point of the Old Barrow Line and the New Barrow Line is marked by this little promontory and the Skeic Bridge at the 3.7km point.

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The way crosses over the Skeic bridge and the New Barrow Line canal but remains on the north bank, and follows a fairly busy public road.

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4.0km Ballyteague Bridge.

The way crosses over to the south side continuing along a tarred public road.

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4.5km The 20th Lock.

The way changes to grass path, and quite a poor surface at that.

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4.8km The 21st Lock.

The water at the 21st Lock was extremely clear and you could easily see how the lock is built to make maintenance easy – the canal can be held back by simply slotting in some (strong) planks here allowing the entire lock area to be drained so that the gates can be worked on.

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The surface is extremely boggy at this point. The first of a number of prominent milestones is tucked away along this section. The markings are very faded but I could just about make out the classic OS surveying benchmark carved into the back of it.

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6.9km The Griffith Aqueduct.

After the 21st Lock there is a fairly long 5km section that is only broken by the Griffith Aqueduct. It’s another beautiful example of canal engineering.

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I came across some frog spawn that was strangely out of the water but that might just have been because a temporary pond was drying out. It was sitting just like this on the path, beside a very shallow puddle.

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9.5km Glenaree Bridge and 22nd Lock.

This follows the more typical lock and bridge combination that is common on the western end of the Royal Canal.  

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The tower on the Hill of Allen could just be seen in the distance to the south. The quarry that has removed a significant chunk of the hill can be seen in this shot too.

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At 11.9km The way changes to a rough gravel surface that is on the limit of comfortable walking for me. It’s better than some of the marsh like surface I’d had to deal with earlier but it slows you down and I would not want to walk it in shoes. I wouldn’t think it was great for most bikes either.

13.4km Rathangan.

Rathangan arrives with this rather interesting structure that appears to be just a watering trough for cattle but may have had some other function as a water supply for the town back when the canal was built.

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13.5km R401 bridge and footbridge.

The way crosses over to the north bank here as it passes through Rathangan town in order to stay off the roadway. The surface is OK but there was a lot of livestock hanging about ( horses) that had made a bit of a mess of it.
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I found this entirely whole but cold and abandoned egg sitting by the side of the path. It was quite small, about the size of a thumbnail.

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14.1km 23rd Lock (triple lock) and Spencer bridge.

The way changes back over to the south side and reverts to gravel and grass path. Or it would if it wasn’t shut for maintenance. I hope it’s upgraded to something closer to the Greenway surfaces I’ve seen in Longford and Mayo recently.

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Any plans to walk from Rathangan to Monesterevin are on hold…

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On the way back when I got to Lowtown I finally got to see a boat going through a lock outside of the city.

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