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Tour 2007

Index

April 2007

Index

4 - Shannon Bridge to Croghan - Shannon Navigation and Grand Canal Shannon Line.

Tuesday 3rd April 2007

An earlyish start was made from Shannon Bridge at 08:00 as we could not wait to get onto the Grand Canal. We wanted to pass through Shannon Harbour around 09:00, so we could meet the locky, Jason Pender, to get our Grand Canal licence. Once we had left Shannon Bridge there is a sharp turn to the left (east) at this point the corner is cut off by an old navigation channel (now used as visitor moorings) and the River Suck enters the Shannon from the west. There used to be a canal to Ballinasloe, coming off the Shannon opposite the entrance to Shannon Harbour, but this abandoned navigation has been lost due to peat extraction. The recently completed proposal to bring back a navigation to Ballinasloe uses the improved River Suck.
Once round the corner the Shannon Bridge peat fired power station comes into view, followed by another narrow gauge railway Bord Na Mona bridge. we were lucky to look back and see a turf train heading across the bridge. The entrance to Shannon Harbour was soon upon us, we winded below as the flow was quite strong, then pulled in against it. The entrance to the Grand Canal is first by way of the River Brosna, which goes off to the left. On the opposite bank of the Shannon we could clearly see the chamber of the first lock of the Ballinasloe Canal. The short entrance cut takes the navigation up to the entrance Lock of the Grand Canal, No 36. The first two locks of the Grand Canal are longer and wider than the standard size of 61ft x 14ft. We had our Great Ouse shrouded windlasses with us, but although these fitted, we worked out that the shroud was not long enough and that we would have to buy some proper lock keys from the Waterways Ireland workshops at Tullamore.
One up through the quickly filling Shannon Harbour locks (all but a couple of the locks on the Grand have a full set of four bottom gate paddles and four top gate paddles with two top ground paddles) Neil went off to find Jason Pender. Jason was soon located and relieved us of 136 Euro for Grand Canal licence. The good thing about this licence was that it included all the charges needed to use and moor on the Grand Canal, Royal Canal and Barrow Navigation for a year. This rather tatty piece of paper is meant to last a year, so Neil has taken it home and done a pair of enhanced laminated scans / copies.
One we had past through the interesting range of moored craft at Shannon Harbour on tick over, we got underway on the Grand, finding it deep and weed free. Lock No 34 we did ourselves, but Alan Wynn was waiting at Belmont Double to see us through. It is normal practice to leave all Grand Canal locks empty, at Belmont is done extreme French style, with the top chamber completely empty and the centre gates open. Once we were in the bottom chamber Alan expertly let the water in until we could get over the centre cill and get into the top chamber, only then were the centre gates shut. Alan gave us bundles of guides and Waterways Ireland publications and gave us some navigation tips for the Grand.
The next lock at Glyn. No 32 is of the picture post card variety so common on the Grand, neatly painted with an intact lock cottage. To start with the Grand Canal follows the River Brosna valley, at Macartney Aqueduct the navigation passes over Silver River, a tributary of the Brosna. Soon the land to the south gives way to bog land and the first of the Bord Na Mona narrow gauge railway bridges is come across. This one is of the swing variety and was as advised, left in the open position. If the two operating Bord Na Mona bridges are found in a closed position they can be boater operated, using a code number to activate the control boxes.
Pollagh is the first canal side village we came across with a visitor mooring and the canal side Gallagher's Pull Inn pub. A lock free section continues until Cornalour Lock No 31, followed close by Lock No 30. From here on the Grand follows the Tullamore River. At Corcoran's Bridge two of Waterways Ireland's small work boats were tied up with signs of dredging going on. Just up from the bridge is a wharf to serve "The Thatch" pub, from here on there was signs of the canal being dredged by a bankside excavator, with the bank re-profiled, this continued up to beyond the site of the Rahan Footbridge.
The next structure is the Charleville Aqueduct over the Clodiagh River, just beyond this we were surprised to see the first craft we had seen moving on the Grand, a local farmer and sheepdog had pushed his small ferry punt across in front of us, his farmstead was like something out of another age! Another aqueduct follows in quick succession, Huband Aqueduct taking the the canal over the Tullamore River. Tucked behind the aqueduct and in the middle of a small farmyard are the massive remains of Ballycowan Castle, dating back to 1626.
The next lock follows on shortly, as time was marching on Neil decided to get out the trusty Brompton folding bike and get up to the W.I. depot at Tullamore, as it was unlikely we would get there before they knocked off at 17:00. The next item of interest up the towpath was the remains of yet another castle, Shra Castle, by the mainline railway bridge. Neil got to the depot at 16:45, just as they were packing up. Having called at the office Neil obtained an order to get two out from the stores, here the storeman soon came back with the rather heavy Grand lock keys. After paying the 50 Euros for the pair Neil wobbled back on the Brompton to locate Earnest.
Earnest and crew had got up to Lock No 27 and was being worked through by the lock keeper, this was just as well as Waterways Ireland had just fitted the anti-vandal shrouds to the paddle gear. Tullamore is the biggest town that the main Shannon Line of the Grand passes through, the old wharf building, site of the original Tullamore Dew whiskey distillery has been turned into a heritage centre, sadly Tullamore Dew is now produced in Co. Cork at the Middleton Distillery. The main bridge in Tullamore is a fine slender concrete affair, not far beyond this is the side overbridge marking the entrance to the Tullamore Basin, site of the W.I. workshops.
Coming out of Tullamore the next lock has a very large prominent cottage beside it, now preserved as a heritage centre. The locks keep on coming (by Irish Standards) 25 and 24 following at a walkable distance. Just above Lock No 24 are the sad remains of Celtic Cruisers, the only hire boat base on the main line of the Grand, that closed a few years ago, four English style narrowboats remain here unsold.
We got out of the last lock in the flight, No 21 at 19:20, just beyond the lock an overbridge, marks the dammed off Kilbeggan Branch. Owing to recent rains this had a fair amount of water in it. This 8 mile branch is lock free but suffers bad leakage, it is hoped that one day it can be restored, as there are not any obstructions and the fine harbour and associated buildings have been restored. Close to the junction is the village of Ballycommon, with a small old wharf and pub.
We decided to push on that night out into the wilds of the bogs as we were going to eat on board. Half way along the next section is the new Bord Na Mona railway bridge. We passed through the next village of Daingean, with a Centra supermarket, couple of pubs and a fine restored canal side warehouse in the dusk, now determined to get through the Bord Na Mona lifting bridge that night. Disaster struck at the lift bridge it was DOWN! We moored up thinking that we could operate the bridge ourselves, as we knew the code for the control boxes situated by the barriers protecting the track / bog railway. I say barriers, because one was missing, the post having been driven into by a truck. It was a no go situation. After we found that the control cabin was open we went inside, but the controls inside were locked up. We thought that due to the electric fire still being on, it was obvious that the bridge was rather knackered and had to be operated by a keeper, who had not bothered to leave it in the normal open to canal mode. So in the increasing coldness we packed up and locked our selves up in the warm boat to commiserate our first problem, with a rather large spag bol and bottle of red.


Leaving Shannon Bridge. Shannon Navigation.


The River Suck (navigable to Ballinasloe) comes out ahead, the Shannon carries on down to the left. Shannon Navigation.


Looking back at the River Suck entrance. Shannon Navigation.


Looking back at the old navigation cut below Shannon Bridge - now visitor moorings. Shannon Navigation.


Shannon Bridge power station. Shannon Navigation.


The Bord Na Mona narrow gauge railway bridge below Shannon Bridge. Shannon Navigation.


Looking back at the Bord Na Mona narrow gauge railway bridge and Shannon Bridge power station. Shannon Navigation.


Narrow gauge turf train on the bridge. Shannon Navigation.


Looking back at Shannon Bridge power station. Shannon Navigation.


Opposite the entrance to the Grand Canal is the derelict Fannings Lock of the Ballinasloe Canal, now obliterated by peat extraction. Shannon Navigation.


We have winded and are pulling over to the River Brosna, the entrance to the Grand Canal. Shannon Harbour. Shannon Navigation.


The River Brosna continues to the left, Grand Canal straight on. Shannon Harbour.


Grand Canal Lock entrance lock No 36 at Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Earnest approaches the Grand Canal entrance Lock No 36. Grand Canal.


Earnest approaches the Grand Canal entrance Lock No 36. Grand Canal.


Grand Canal entrance Lock No 36. Grand Canal.


Grand Canal entrance Lock No 36. Grand Canal.


Grand Canal Lock No 35 up into Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Grand Canal Lock No 35 up into Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


The dry docks at Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Griffith Bridge. Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Looking back at Griffith Bridge and Shannon Harbour. Grand Canal.


Clononey Bridge and Lock No 34. Grand Canal.


Clononey Bridge and Lock No 34. Grand Canal.


Clononey Bridge and Lock No 34. Grand Canal.


Looking back at Shannon Harbour from Clononey Bridge and Lock No 34. Grand Canal.


Looking back at Lock No 34. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Earnest approaches Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Irish double locks are left empty and they fill them the French way! Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Alan Wynne the locky for locks 32-34 gives a load of guides and advice to Martin Clark. Belmont Bridge and Double Lock No 33. Grand Canal.


Leaving Belmont Bridge. Grand Canal.


Grand Canal.


Looking back at Judge's Bridge. Grand Canal.


Glyn Lock No 32. Grand Canal.


Looking back at Glyn Lock No 32. Grand Canal.


Noggus Bridge. Grand Canal.


Armstrong Bridge. Grand Canal.


Armstrong Bridge. Grand Canal.


Grand Canal.


Grand Canal.


Mcartney Aqueduct over Silver River. Grand Canal.


Mcartney Aqueduct over Silver River. Grand Canal.


Derry Bridge. Grand Canal.


Looking back at Derry Bridge. Grand Canal.


The Bord Na Mona swing bridge. Grand Canal.


Looking off into the bogs from the Bord Na Mona swing bridge. Grand Canal.


Looking back at the Bord Na Mona swing bridge. Grand Canal.


Pollagh. Grand Canal.


Looking back at Plunkett Bridge. Pollagh. Grand Canal.


Cornalour Bridge and Lock No 31. Grand Canal.


Cornalour Bridge and Lock No 31. Grand Canal.


Looking back at Cornalour Bridge and Lock No 31. Grand Canal.


Ballincloughin Bridge and Lock No 30. Grand Canal.


Leaving Ballincloughin Bridge and Lock No 30. Grand Canal.


Henesey's Bridge. Grand Canal.


Becan's Bridge. Grand Canal.


Corcoran's Bridge. Grand Canal.


Corcoran's Bridge. Grand Canal.


The Thatch pub at Corcoran's Bridge, Killina. Grand Canal.


Evidence of  excavator dredging at the old Rathan Footbridge. Grand Canal.


Charleville Aqueduct. Grand Canal.


Traditional farmer ferry. Grand Canal.


Traditional farm. Grand Canal.


Huband Aqueduct and Ballycowan Castle. Grand Canal.


Lock No 29. Grand Canal.


Ballycowan Castle. Grand Canal.


Shra Castle and railway bridge, entering Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 28 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 28 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 27 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Cox's Bridge and Lock No 27 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 27 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Kilbeggan Bridge, Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Tullamore basin, under Bury Bridge, Waterways Ireland main depot. Grand Canal.


Boland's Lock No 26 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 26 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 25 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 25 Tullamore. Grand Canal.


Lock No 24, site of the moribund Celtic Cruisers base. Grand Canal.


Lock No 24, site of the moribund Celtic Cruisers base. Grand Canal.


Lock No 23. Grand Canal.


Lock No 22. Grand Canal.


 Grand Canal.


 Lock No 21. Grand Canal.


 Lock No 21. Grand Canal.


Junction with the drained Kilbeggan Branch. Grand Canal.


Looking down at Campbell's Bridge and the drained Kilbeggan Branch. Grand Canal.


Ballycommon Bridge and wharf. Grand Canal.


Ballycommon Bridge and wharf. Grand Canal.


The new Bord Na Mona bridge. Grand Canal.

The Tour Continues...


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