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Kilmac for the craic stakes its claim in the heart of the Waterford Greenway

Kilmac for the craic stakes its claim in the heart of the Waterford Greenway

Spanning the ages, Kilmacthomas is at the heart of the Waterford Greenway

There is a cycle from San Francisco to Sausalito that makes you feel like Superman. Hell, it’s across the Golden Gate Bridge, where everything seems suspended, even belief, as you peddle in what somethimes seems like ET in the heavens.

The 46km Waterford Greenway too has its golden moments as it takes you from the city towards Dungarvan and the stunning Copper Coast.

Nestling in the middle of the route and with justifiable claims to its self-appointed appendage of, the heart of the greenway, is the picturesque and plucky village of Kilmacthomas, affectionately and colloquially known as Kilmac.

Thanks to a heads up and the wink and a nod of some local knowledge I managed to get a ringside seat and a wild camping berth to the  official opening of the much vaunted latest Irish greenway, and more on the way by all accounts.

It was excitement all round, as it was the inaugural trip in our brand new camper van – this time last year – and we have put the guts of 20,000km on the clock since then.

The lanky Main Street of Kilmac gives the distinct impression that its source is in the Comeragh Mountains as it crosses over the Mahon River towards the landmark former railway bridge at the other end. The public toilets it passes along the way were on their best behaviour for the fanfare and the visiting Minister and distinguished guests. And as if on cue the rabbits and the birds made the most of the unseasonal March sunshine and the furze planked in the centre of the village on the banks of its prized riverside walk. (A stark contrast with the harsh weather we had this Spring).

On the other side the awkward remains of a bygone era, the woollen mills and a fittingly modest memorial to Mary Foley who at 101 was its last surviving employee. Talk now of a new distillery taking up residence in the old mill, a stone’s throw from an ultra-modern apartment complex on the opposite side of the Mahon in an apparent Mexican stand-off between times past and future prospects.

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Local boy Ray Barron hurls out another classic in an eclectic set from Rory Gallagher to Rican Rafael Hernandez in a greatest hits designed to charm the hometown crowd from the one that made it out alive and lived to tell the tale of how to survive small town syndrome in the 60’s. His mandolin in perfect harmony with the magic of the moment as Two Time Polka hold that long street in the palm of their hand for an hour that felt like it should have gone on forever…

Meanwhile back at my riverbank mooring a virgin white cherry tree (Prunus Shirotae – Mount Fuji Cherry) a fitting monument to public health nurse, Alice Walsh, whose claim to fame is no mean feat to have never lost a baby in delivery. Even the noisy cacophony of a murder of crows who have wisely taken up roost in the hollowed out mill can’t spoil the sanctuary of my perch.

They are no threat to me or the tiny brown trout as they look down below, although I have a feeling there must be a kingfisher hold up somewhere on this stretch of water watched over by the viaduct, as Kilmac boasts and toasts itself, at the heart of the greenway.

Kilmac for the craic, well it is that day for sure as they dance on the tables in the town’s best tavern, Kierseys, and even butterflies are enticed to brazen outside as the sun shines on the village once more.

The morning after the night before some mother’s son brazens it out as he decides to ‘borrow’ a bunch of daffodils from the river bank for Mother’s Day, given the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t lifted from one of the nearby memorial…?

Under the bridge a gurgle of would be rapids, a rapid place this Kilmac, if it can keep it up at all and that it’s not all just show for the neighbours all festooned in balloons, as it dares to stick its chest out again and it only barely over the shock since the last train pulled outta town on March 25TH, 1968.

Could the glorious river walk and greenway restore Kilmac to past glories as even the seasons seem to compete for vantage just down the road from the snow speckled Comeraghs, not far from Kilmeaden, Dungarvan, Durrow, Stradbally and Tramore. That would lift the Déise blues. The Flahavans porridge factory peeps out through one eye of the viaduct arches as if to say, ‘This is the way to start your day…’

On the greenway you could get run over by bikes of all shapes and sizes, some with baby-buggy sidecars a new-fangled concept from the Continent. I guess if the Dutch can build dykes they can make contraptions that carry babies on bikes. Bike hire is brisk. Business is booming again for some in Kilmac.

At road junctions cyclists dismount, looking east and west, like desperadoes waiting for a train. Lots of bikes, lots of people, lots of dogs. Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Pugs, Golden Retrievers and every type of person in between. Lots of bikes, lots of spare tyres.

Further on up the former railway track old telegraph poles, the lines cut and dangling, as if in anticipation of a John Wayne, Lone Ranger or Alan Ladd to get in hot pursuit of some Jack Palance or other. Injuns too (not engines!!) it seems, as smoke signals billow across the Comeraghs. These gorse fires are no accident Tonto. Some cowboys in these parts for sure.

Like the ones who doused the wooden railing all along the greenway in creosote, its smell hanging heavy in the air, overwhelming nature with its toxic rush…the only blemish on an otherwise glorious day for Kilmac, at the heart of the  glorious Waterford Greenway.

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About The Author

John Whelan

John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics. He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at Safe travels...

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