Ballingrane Lock on the River Barrow

After a very enjoyable experience leading a walk for the Carlow Autumn Walking Festival last year, I was delighted to be asked by Carlow Tourism to repeat the same walk along the River Barrow from Clashganny to Borris on October 4th.  This year, I also got to enjoy the festival from the other side as I brought my son along on a Sunday walk with Mary and Robert White of Blackstairs Eco Trails.

Planning and Preparation

For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of any walk is the preparation.  I always like to walk the route beforehand to see what’s fruiting, flowering and flying and to take a few (hundred) photographs.  I find that on the day, people will walk at different paces, so I like to provide a photographic guide to some of the trees and flowers to be found along the way and give everyone something to look out for on the route.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I love walking on my own and the Barrow towpath is one of the nicest places to do it. As I was setting off, I saw a couple of fishermen in the distance, I met a jogger on the path and spoke to a couple who were setting out on their walk when I was returning to the car park at Clashganny, but apart from that it was just me, the heron fishing on the weir, some Speckled Wood, Red Admiral and Comma butterflies, an assortment of bumble bees and a large dragonfly flying overhead.

Common Carder Bee on CloverClashganny to Borris

Saturday 5th October was another beautiful day, very similar to the previous Monday.  We gathered the group together in Borris before hopping on a bus to Clashganny Lock.  We had a lovely mixed group.  A lot of local people were taking the opportunity to walk on familiar ground with friends, some from surrounding counties had never walked the Barrow path and others wanted to join in the walking festival without taking on the challenges of a longer and more strenuous hill walk.  We also had the welcome addition of a camera crew who were filming the walking festival for Irish TV.

Walking the Barrow Path with Wildways Adventures

Thanks to the lovely extended summer, there was plenty to see along our walk.  Blackberries, Sloes, Haws, Guelder Rose and Bittersweet berries decked the branches of the trees and shrubs along with the beautiful pink 4 lobed berries of the Spindle tree which really comes into its own at this time of year.

Spindle Berries on the Barrow PathWild flowers were also still in evidence all along the path.  Although the vibrant purple flowers of the Great Willowherb had gone to seed, there were still plenty of plants still in flower and an abundance of bumble bees making the most of the opportunity to gather nectar.  There were still some meadowsweet flowers spreading their sweet perfume over the path, a few stray vetch flowers just hanging on until the last, some honeysuckle flowering in the hedgerows and one of my personal favourites, the white trumpet shaped bindweed flowers.

After about 4km, we left the river bank.  As part of the walking festival, we had been granted access to the magnificent grounds of Borris House, so we strolled up through their woods and back to O’Shea’s bar for tea and sandwiches.

Bindweed Flower on the Barrow Path

 

Walking in Kilbranish with Blackstairs Eco Trails

On Sunday, I became a participant in the festival, when I joined in a walk with Mary and Robert White of Blackstairs Eco Trails in Kilbrannish Wood.  I was a little bit nervous about bringing my 4 year old son on a 7.5 km walk, but the day turned out really well and he loved it.  The day was considerably wetter than the previous day and the initial part of the walk was all uphill so he struggled a bit in the early stages, but Mary and Robert were fantastic and kept checking that the youngest member of the party (by about 10 years) was doing OK.  A few stories kept him going in the difficult places, along with the praise of all the other walkers, many of whom had joined me on my walk the previous day.  Once we tuned onto a smaller woodland path to begin the homeward journey which was all downhill, he got a burst of energy and was at the head of the group all the way down.  The present of some pencils from Mary for his efforts and several of her delicious flapjacks helped to complete the experience. Overall we both really enjoyed the day and Michael was even able to tell Daddy all about the medicinal properties of Ribwort Plantain when he got home.

In Kilbrannish Wood at the Carlow Walking Festival

 

These were only two small parts of a festival that encompassed a whole variety of walks and additional activities. I was joined on my walk by some bloggers, including Dee Sewell, who along with her partner Susan in Green and Vibrant organised a bloggers tour of the festival. You can read Dee’s account of her hill walk in the Blackstairs on her blog and also an account of a family trip to the festival by Naomi of Dr How’s Science Wows.  The piece on the Carlow Walking Festival is due to be broadcast on Irish TV (Sky 191) tonight Wednesday 29th October at 8pm, but for those of you like myself, who don’t have Sky, it will be available to view on their website in about 2 weeks time.  I’ll post the link when it becomes available.

I’d love to hear your comments about walking alone or with kids, whether you participated in the Carlow Walking Festival or not.