Woke to bright sunshine, first I had seen, up to then it was varieties of “Irish Mist”, never really raining but never sunny. I had been warned by Irish friends there would be plenty of days of this. I could now see the estuary properly. I looked around the small harbour and then followed the estuary until I reached the vehicle and foot ferry to Passage East. It was followed by a long climb over the hill to Waterford, made memorable by seeing my first pot hole.
Waterford is a busy city and once an important shipbuilding port. The quays are now deserted with some used as car parks, but behind the Quay there were bustling little lanes.
Its origins go back to the early tenth century when the Vikings built a settlement there and controlled much of that part of Ireland. It had city walls but most had been demolished, the Clifford Tower remains with a Viking boat displayed in front of it.
I sat down at a pavement cafe in the sun, had a snack and coffee and watched the congregation leave the cathedral, standing in groups chatting amiably, and tourists wandering by, a happy scene.
Waterford Crystal was founded in 1783 and has helped to create the town’s prosperity producing 45,000 pieces a year and I cycled by the recently built, and much larger, shop, easily accessible by coaches. The shop has beautiful displays of their crystal and the popular tours of the factory itself start from there.
I was heading for the Waterford Greenway, a 46k cycle and walking trail opened last year between Waterford and my ultimate destination for the day of Dungarvan. There had once been a railway line which had closed and the area left derelict until a railway preservation company had opened about 7k of the route again. The trail was being heavily promoted by the Tourist Board as being spectacular and beautiful. Already, when mentioning my route, I had been told several times that I must take the trail. My host of the previous night had been one of these and she explained that not everyone had been in favour but it had been a great success. Along the way, access points had been created with car parks, and cafes had sprung up with activity areas and cycle hire.
The trail was very carefully designed with a tarmac surface wide enough for emergency vehicles. At first there were mainly a few walkers but the access points were very popular and the closer you approached one, the more cycling family parties there were. Near the access I would usually come across several groups with very young children learning how to cycle on the traffic-free way. There were many leisure cyclists and a few fast club cyclists but the family cyclists had claimed the territory for themselves. The families were arriving at the junction station from the small train running a shuttle service up and down the line. The platforms had displays and extra facilities for the families and walkers. I stopped and had a coffee and a couple of cereal bars, more sensible than the inviting ice cream.
The fields I came across were now mainly used for gazing. Many cattle were Friesians but there were Herefords, cross-breeds and a I saw a huge Charolais bull stalking round a field full of cows. Took a picture of yellow flowers which had been brightening up the verges, with a butterfly taking up the nectar.
The landscape forms changed and the Greenway plunged downwards crossing increasingly steep valleys, eventually using viaducts. One is really impressive and much featured in the advertising. It seemed a long way down to the valley floor on the viaducts, which were matched by a couple of short tunnels and then a long lighted one. Through and outside this tunnel along the walls were colourful decorated stones and small slabs, each bearing a child’s name as part of the design. I was told that they had been put there by children from the local school.
For some time there had been an Irish mist and I was getting used to it; a sort of not quite rain with brighter intervals. I had started the day with it and it had cleared by the time I had reached Waterford Bay, which was a brilliant blue, but it returned about 10 miles along the route and then annoyingly turned into real rain and I put on my rain jacket. Just before the long tunnel it started coming down heavily and I waited for a couple of minutes on the exit for the heavy rain to clear. I then remembered a lesson my grandson Mikey, then aged 14, had taught me that for a few minutes heavy rain seems unpleasant but then you stop noticing it as it becomes the norm, so I set off again down increasingly steep slopes. The rain eased, I shot round a corner and there was Dungarvan Bay with the rain clouds retreating.
After another 42 mile day I checked into a top quality hotel with another small, but cheap, room and, on advice, set off down to the quay to find a restaurant. The best seemed to be an Indian so I had a big meal, went back to the hotel and straight to sleep.