IT was good to see the other side of cycling in Ireland. Two weeks after the Velo-city cycling conference, I was in need of a different news-cycle.
How mortified we all were when these happy, positive Continental delegates arrived off the ferry and were thrust into the Dublin war-zone of cycle lanes that end in a wall and of a car-driving population whipped up into an anti-cycling frenzy by morning talk radio ‘just starting a conversation’.
So, going for a cycle from Dungarvan to Waterford on a greenway was just what the spin doctor ordered.
It was blissful, almost Continental, the way it all worked so well: ambling along in the middle of the road, with views of coasts, farmland, mountains, a tunnel (see below), people overtaking you with a cheery bell, eating a hang-sangwich on a Victorian viaduct; the stress just melted away.
We heard a car engine and didn’t flinch. Normally, this can be like the growl of a predator. Cyclists tense up and look around, ready to climb a ditch.
But that growl was far away, someone else’s problem.
We passed over a valley like something out of Tuscany. Then, there was ‘The Tunnel’. I know it’s not everyone’s job to keep me informed, but still, why did no-one ever tell me this country has an old, quarter-mile railway tunnel in the middle of a wooded valley? How can we be so blasé about tunnels? We’re not Swiss. There’s only about five of them in the country.
Ballyvoyle Tunnel is so long and dark and atmospheric, that when we emerged we had to check that we hadn’t gone back in time, that there weren’t any redcoats jabbing people with their perfidious bayonets for speaking Irish.
In fact, travelling on an old route does give a sense of being in a different time. The pace of life is slower. You bid people a good afternoon. Birds flit around, but in a very calm way; just nipping about, doing their business, without the kind of mad stress they have on bigger roads, where only the early bird doesn’t get the worm and the car in the head, and where their song is confused by ringtones.
Admittedly, this spell can be broken somewhat by a sighting of one of the Boyfriends of Instagram getting a photo wrong and his girlfriend glancing at the result and saying, “feck’s sake, Kevin, take it from above. I do not have that many chins.”
But that is rare enough.
Such is the Hounds of the Morrigan feel to the landscape, surely it won’t be long before we see the return to of banshees, fairies, and a strange little man with a seemingly tempting proposal that has a sting in the tale.
With the proliferation and increasing speed and size of vehicles on the roads over the last 50 years, it’s not just walkers, hitchhikers, and casual commuting cyclists who have disappeared from country roads.
The Sí have also gone the way of the corncrake.
When was the last time you met anyone with an up-to-date, boreen-based ghost story?
Hopefully, greenways will allow us, once again, to play cards with the Divil Himself at a lonely crossroads.
Greenways have obvious benefits for tourism and health, but also, I think, it is prudent to design a network of alternative routes. When we are invaded for our rain in the climate apocalypse years to come, when there are tanks at the tolls and on the M7 — which there might as well be, the state it’s in at Naas — people will need to get around to bringing pikes to the Resistance. So greenways are not only green green, they’re patriotic green.
And although I would never abuse my platform to call for investment in my own village, they could put a lovely greenway all the way from Dripsey into Cork City.
Let’s bring the Sí back to the River Lee.