Calm by the Canal: walking guide

CALM BY THE CANAL, A walking guide to Ardclough by Ardclough Guild ICA 1989

13th lock

13th lock

Ardclough Guild of the ICA invite you to take a stroll with us on one of our favourite local walks. The distance is a little more than three miles, short enough for all ages, and suitable for a family with young children.

It is rich in delights for the nature lover, painter or sketcher, or local history enthusiast and provides sights and sounds to enthral child and adult at all times of the year.

We will begin our walk outside the new church of St Anne at Ardclough, and go along the road towards the grand Canal in a south easterly direction. On our left is Ardclough National School and the Ardclough GAA playing field and club, side by side. The GAA club was formed in 1937, and through the interest of this small community has thrived, and today has a leisure centre with indoor games and dressing rooms and a hall for entertainment and meetings.

On crossing Henry Bridge on the canal we take a left turn on to the tow-path by the canal. We can run our fingers along the roap marks left on the bridge by two centuries of heaving horse-drawn canal-boats. At this point we can pause to look towards the top of Oughterard Hill on our right, with its graveyard and ruins of an old round tower and church.

In early Christian times there was a nunnery and later a parish church, as the centre of a large parish, now part of the parish of Kill. In the graveyard there Arthur Guinness, the founder of the famous brewery, is buried. It is near here, too, that Daniel O’Connell fought the duel with John D’Esterre in 1815 in which the latter was killed. Our walk by the tow-path from Henry Bridge to Aylmer’s Bridge is only one mile. This part of the canal is closed to motor traffic, but the tranquillity of the water on our left and the sights and sounds of nature warrant that we linger.

Watch out for the swans, their cygnets, or just a lonely pair, depending on the season, the water hens and mallard, the reflection of the tall trees of ash, oaks and sycamore in the water in the sunshine, the sights and sounds of the many birds. One heart-broken male swan still swims these waters, having lost his partner to a fallen tree after a storm. The fish: pike, perch, roach and an occasional disorientated trout, periodically break the surface.

Sometimes a boat passes at a leisurely pace, close and slow enough to pass the time of day with the occupants. We may come upon a fisherman, still and calm, but willing to chat. Here you can use your sketch-pad and camera, bring along your books for identification of the numerous wild flowers, plants, sedges and rushes, trees, garden shrubs that have become naturalised, and climbers rampant and showey through the ivy, elder and willow.

The high stone wall on our right, practically extending the length of our canal walk, is that which encloses Lyons Estate. A good view of the house can be had through some rear gate entrances. originally owned by the Aylmer family in Norman times, Lyons passed to the Lawless (Cloncurry) family around 1790. Valentine Lawless, the second Lord Cloncurry, a man whose United Irish reputation earned him two years in the tower of London and who once shot his wife’s lover in a duel, completed the building of Lyons House as it is today. The architect was Richard Morrison. The estate was sold to UCD by the Lawless family in 1960, and subsequently Lyons House and roughly half the lands were sold to the Smurfit corporation in 1990.

Immediately on our right as we proceed from Henry Bridge is one rear entrance to the estate. Here were two large stone quarries, the stone from which was sent to Naas gaol, and was also transported to Dublin via the canal.

As we continue we pass by the ruins of a row of cottages, which housed the workers in Lyons estate in the era of the Cloncurry ownership. We pass by the ruins of an old canal stores, relic of the age of water transport, at the 13th lock. Later the store was used as a workshop by a member of the local Treacy family.

The 13th lock was engineered by Thomas Omar around 1760. It is a double lock, and the rise of this lock is 16 feet, which prompted the building of a corn mill. A mill race was made at this site by diverting water from the high point of the canal, through the race to work the mill, and then the water flowed into the canal lower down. The mill was later acquired by the Shackleton family, who also owned a mill in Lucan, Co Dublin. It was accidentally destroyed by fire early this century. Some ruins remain near the Mill house, which was occupied up to eight years ago.

Further along, and off the avenue to Lyons House, is the old graveyard of Clonaglis, where once there was also a church as it was a small parish of three townslands. Headstones of local family names can be found there still.

As we come to Aylmer’s Bridge we have time to admire the fine band of mature trees across the water. At this bridge we may also find members of the Temple Mills canoe club launching on a practice run or watch intrepid youngsters swimming in summer. From the bridge there is a view of the Canal right down to Hazelhatch bridge.

Now we can make a choice of retracing our steps or turning left over the bridge and continuing on the tarmac road through the townland of Kearneystown to join the Celbridge-Ardclough road. This is an opportunity to take a brisk and invigorating walk by road back to Ardclough.

Children will have the opportunity of seeing sheep, lambs, cattle, and a flock of geese in the adjoining fields. On our left is Kearneystown Lodge, with fine samples of trees over 200 years old. We cross the Railway Bridge at Kearneystown, which crosses the main Cork-Dublin railway line, and on reaching the T-junction turn left and are now approaching the next railway bridge, and to our right we can see Reeve’s Castle, which is still in a reasonable state of repair.

To our right the outline of Lyons Hill is now more clear. From the eight to the tenth centuries it was capital of Leinster, ruled by the Ui Dunchada sept of the Ui Dunlainge.

We now come upon ribbon development of some nice modern bungalows some of which are occupied by long-standing families in the neighbourhood and some by newcomers. We are nearing the end of our walk, past the housing estate at Ardclough, and facing us St Anne’s church where we started.

At a very leisurely pace we have spent two delightful hours. We are aware of some regrettable eyesores alas. The ruins of a group of cottages have the window and door areas built up with concrete blocks, trying depsrately to blend with the high stone walls of the estate.

The canal and railway bridges have been capped and repaired with brick, and might have been limestone faced to blend with the adjoining walls. In front of Ardclough church, a piece of land of about half an acre at the crossroads is waste ground. This is council property – locally known as the diamond. Part of this could be tarmacked as a car-park for an overflow of cars from the churchhe remainder would be picturesque and restful if landscaped with low shrubs and flowers and some rustic seating. It could thus be transformed into a simple amenity for the pleasure of the local community.

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