No Right to Roam

March 21, 2010

Crafthole has lived in Carrigtohill in County Cork since December last year and I have to be content with visiting as often as we can afford. This is such a visit, and it is also the first official day of Spring and a beautifully bright and sunny day. Having no spare money for petrol but eager for the outdoors, we set off walking.

Carrigtohil is surrounded by countryside and we have not waited until now to try to get into it; this has been a source of general irritation to us, and Crafthole especially, for some time: there are NO footpaths. Today we were restricted to walking along the sides of roads for the whole time we were out and the only time our feet left tarmac was on the odd grass verge.

This was the closest we came to countryside all day: a sort of feeling of walking past it rather than through it. No chance of wandering through the fields that we could tantalizingly see, over stiles and into woods and leaving roads and telegraph wires and cars behind.

This left us with the unsatisfying feeling of seeing a prize and being unable to touch it.

(this razorwire was about head-height for a small child!)

We returned home feeling like we’d had exercise, but without actually having enjoyed it. Crafthole explained to me some possible reasons why Ireland doesn’t have an open countryside culture (Anglo-Irish aristocratic landowners having had more of a free reign with their control of land access than their English counterparts, possibly?) which is as unsatisfying as any other explanation I can think of.

It is possibly a country-wide issue as sites like Keep Ireland Open testify.

Designated footpaths do exist and can be found, like this one in Blarney:

Crafthole & I went for this walk on a previous visit full of expectation. What we got was so rubbish and comical we had to take photographs, and here are our highlights. We started at the right side of the map on the main, straight section of the walk:

This was separated from the road we’d just driven up only by a little fence. All the way (it took about ten minutes) we were eagerly anticipating great things from The Gothic Bridge and The Children’s Woodland Park. The former we almost missed: it was slightly off the main run down a little track where the main road crossed a tiny little stream:

Bad camera angle? This was the only other view:

We almost missed the latter too, not because it was out of sight, but because it  was very well hidden in plain view. We were about to walk straight past when one of us looked down at this sign:

‘Oh’ we thought, and looking up, saw a bit of grass with a bench bounded on one side with a tall fence and on the other three by a busy road.

The Children’s Woodland Park!

At the end of this walk was Blarney Castle so a splendid day was had, but we were amazed by what counted as a walk worth advertising. Very Father Ted.

I’m not making fun of Ireland, but bemoaning the fact that the (beautiful) countryside is closed to a lot of casual walkers. We certainly do take an easy country ramble so much for granted in England. “We are SO lucky” says Crafthole.


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