Many Irish towns and villages, however, have tended to turn their backs to rivers.
Others took the opposite approach and were actually designed around rivers, which dictated the lay-out of streets and malls. The River Bandon, for instance, would have strongly influenced the development of the eponymous plantation town, in Co Cork, in the 17th century.
And who could ever come away from Fermoy or Youghal without a lasting memory of the Munster Blackwater and its commanding presence, especially when in full spate? Other places that similarly spring to mind are Westport, the delightful Co Mayo town built around the Carrowbeg, and Sneem, Co Kerry, which also makes the most of its rocky river tumbling down to the sea. Little wonder then that both Westport and Sneem have been eminently successful in the Tidy Towns. An exciting proposal is the Marina Park Masterplan by Cork City Council which covers the entire length of the marina from Shandon Boat Club to Blackrock, including the Atlantic Pond and Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It seems more towns are coming to appreciate the value of their rivers as attractions and features that need to be protected. Anyone who has ever been to Puck Fair in Killorglin, Co Kerry, will have crossed the arched 19th century bridge over the Laune.
The Laune will be central to a biodiversity plan for Killorglin. In simple terms, biodiversity means the variety of life on Earth and the plan, commissioned by Killorglin Tidy Towns with the support of South Kerry Development Partnership and Kerry County Council, will focus on that in microcosm.
The study, to be carried out by Dr Patrick Crushell, of Wetland Surveys Ireland, aims to collect information on the present status of the variety of life within and surrounding the town of Killorglin. This will assist in identifying those issues that are most relevant to protecting the environment and natural life of the area. This has also the hallmark of a plan that could be a template for many other towns to follow. It will set out a broad range of actions that can be undertaken at a local level to halt the loss of, and possibly even enhance, nature within the local community.
Rosie Magee, of Killorglin Tidy Towns, says of the Laune plan: “We hope that this plan will help us to promote its value and ensure its protection into the future.’’ Flow on lovely river.