Monday, 29 August 2011
The Road Less Travelled
The Lough Derg way is a 25km walking trail that stretches from Limerick City to Killaloe and another 40km on to Dromineer. The route takes in the banks of the River Shannon, the canal and the shores of Lough Derg. I had heard some people say they wouldnt feel safe wandering alone along a narrow path on the outskirts of the city. I never pay heed to those who allow the potential dangers that always surround us to dictate their lives and in doing so deny themselves the opportunity to explore something new and experience the wonder of our hidden outdoors. I wasn't disappointed.
The trail leading from Limerick City starts just after the Kemmy Bridge. There is a non descript entrance to the path just behind the petrol station on Clare St. The start of the trail is marked by a couple of old ruined cottages that until recently had got a name for their use by drug addicts and the homeless. This ‘problem’ now seems under control. Once you pass through the gates you really do enter a hidden natural Aladdin's Cave in Limerick City. For the next hour and a half you will wander along the shores of the River Shannon. You will look around and ask yourself if you really are only a few hundred metres from Clare St, Dublin Road, Parkway, Rhebogue and Castletroy. It is a secluded pathway full of beautiful vistas, narrow treelined pathways, riverbanks boasting flowering foliage, calm waters reflecting a landscape that suggests nothing of the urban. This is pure escapism. Once on the path you will not turn back.
At certain points of the trail you look forward, then back, along an almost endless stretch of path that seems to be enveloped completely by hanging branches. Any gaps are filled in by the river's glassy water. You wander past the point where the river and canal meet. You realise this is the point where the waters take an almost 90 degree turn up around Kings Island. You encounter little footbridges. The path is only disturbed momentarily as you approach the Park Road bridge after which the canal bank continues taking a sharp turn right as you once again meet the banks of the River Shannon and head on your way to the UL campus and beyond.
I was struck by the number of people using the trail this afternoon. Walkers, joggers, cyclists. Every now and again I passed the odd solitary fisherman as oblivious to the suburbs beyond as myself. Unlike the dusty noise-polluted footpaths of the Dublin Road, people acknowledge you on this trail. A smile and a hello seem to be order of the day. Despite the relative solitude of the place, it is homely. It is peaceful. It is Limerick.
I passed the wonderful new bridge linking the Clare campus of the University of Limerick and was proud to see the magnificence of our 21st Century university campus. Walking the path I realised just how close we both are. We can moan and argue about its lack of connection to the city. The Lough Derg Way puts me in no doubt about this link. In fact it must be one of the most wonderful connecting routes from any university campus to any city. I wanted to keep it a secret but it should be used.
My newest Limerick experience came to an end at the university. As I left the path I came across a young tree still with its summer dressing. Around the tree was a pretty circular wooden bench. On the bench was an inscription dedicated to a young student who tragically lost his life a number of years ago. He was a 19 year old woodwork student. The inscription read:
He lived. He loved. He laughed. He left.
We are not given much time on this earth. Enjoy it.