Celebrating the opening to the public of the Kilmacthomas to Dungarvan section of the Waterford Greenway is Kevin Dwyer along with Grainne and Seán de Paor. For more on Waterford Greenway see www.visitwaterfordgreenway.com. (Picture: Patrick Browne)

In last week’s issue, we recalled a suggestion made by former UDC councillor John Dunlea (all of 23 years ago now), that the Fermoy to Clondulane railway line be reopened as a ‘vintage railway’ tourist attraction ‘as an investment in tourist infrastucture for Fermoy’. This writer happened to be present at that meeting when the suggestion was put forward, a suggestion that was met with complete apathy at the time.

We also read last week of the delay in releasing funds for the development of the viaduct walkway for which planning was granted in 2015. The walkway plan was mooted back in 2013, but hopefully, funds will be released later this year so that work can proceed on the amenity.

With the immense success of the Great Western Greenway (Westport to Achill) and now the Deise Greenway (Dungarvan to Waterford) which is already attracting huge interest, it would be a fair guess that had ‘the Dunlea idea’ in Fermoy become a reality all those years ago, the call to have the line from Fermoy/Ballyhooly/Castletownroche/Mallow line developed as a greenway might have come long before now.

We read this week of a developer having plans to construct a 100-bed hotel and an 80 unit holiday home development at Clonea Strand outside Dungarvan at an estimated cost of €27 million.

Permission was granted back in 2008 and renewed 2013 and with the increase in tourism in the area brought about in no small way by the new Deise Greenway coupled Ireland’s Ancient East initiative, this project will most likely go ahead at some stage soon.

The man behind the venture is Mayo native Martin Birrane who owns the Mondello Park race track and whose company Peer Group saw its assets boosted by €23.7m last year as was reported on last Sunday’s Sunday Independent’s property section.

In Co Limerick, infrastructure enhancement works beginning on the Great South Greenway Limerick (GSGL) from Rathkeale to the Kerry border, with the replacement of 20 farm crossing gate sets along the 39 kilometre route. This will allow cyclists to comfortably traverse the route without having to dismount the bike at each farm crossing, thus converting the trail to a greenway.

PROBLEMS

The Westport to Achill greenway covers 42km and cost €5.7 to put in place. It is estimated that 300 people per day use the facility. The railway line from Westport to Achill closed down in 1937.

The Dungarvan to Waterford line closed in 1967 at the same time that the Mallow-Fermoy line was abandoned. However, the Dungarvan section reopened for the transportation of magnesite ore from Ballinacourty up until 1982 and engineers ran the odd locomotive on the line up until 1990. The Deise Greenway covers 46km and was built in stages at a cost in the region of €15 million.

CHALLENGE

The Fermoy to Mallow line would be of shorter distance than either the Western or Deise projects, but throw in the Clondulane section and it probably would still be under 40km.

And sure, yes, there would be countless problems facing such a project from access rights to acquiring finance etc, but with a fair share of goodwill from landowners and a tremendous amount of determination on all sides, a greenway here in this area would be achievable.

Were it to happen, it could well be the catalyst for that long-awaited ‘new hotel for Fermoy’ and would prompt service providers such as B&Bs, hostels, bike rentals, cafes etc., to set up along the route, going on either of the above projects as a model.

From a tourism point of view, the general Fermoy area has always been the poor relation. The route from Clondulane to Mallow (or some might argue Fermoy to Lismore and on to Dungarvan – and sure why not?) has many many points of interest along the way. A greenway similar to those mentioned above would certainly work wonders for the area.

Now, where will we start? Fermoy to Ballyhooly. Or should it be Mallow to Castletownroche? No, perhaps Fermoy to Clondulane would be best?

There now, didn’t I tell you, problems already – and we haven’t even started!

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Liam Howard
Managing Director Liam founded The Avondhu in November 1978, and, from a humble 8-page newsletter, developed it to the 80 page tabloid and the leading local weekly newspaper that it is today. Along with his busy schedule as Editor and proprietor of The Avondhu Newspaper, he still finds time to host a variety of over fifty shows a year in The Village Arts Centre which he founded in his native Kilworth in 1994 as well as directing at least two full length plays there each year with The Palace Players which he founded in 1989.