By Sinéad Goldsboro
Walkers, as well as the rain, descended on the small village of Grange in the Slieveardagh Hills on Sunday to officially launch the Discover Ireland Tipperary 10 booklet.
The booklet contains information and maps of the top ten walks in Tipperary and with two of those walks in the Slieveardagh Hills, the Grange-Crag Loop/Overlooking Kilcooley walk and the Lough Doire Bhile Loop, Grange was the perfect location for the launch. Both of these walks have been developed with the help of Slieveardagh Rural Development. Plans for a new lookout tower along the Overlooking Kilcooley walk were also unveiled much to the delight of locals and walkers familiar with the route.
Grange was originally an out-farm of the nearby Kilcooley Abbey estate and along the Grange-Crag walk you will see the Ice House for Kilcooley which was used to store and preserve food for the estate. Also on the walk you will see the Wellington Monument which was erected in 1817 by Sir William Barker, the then landlord of Kilcooley Abbey estate in commemoration of the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The monument is actually a folly and it is within this folly that the new viewing tower will be built. Dublin based architects Howley-Hayes, who have successfully worked on similar projects, were present on the day with the plans to answer any questions and discuss the final drawings. Funding has been secured to bring the plans to this stage from South Tipperary Tourism and it is hoped further funding will become available to bring it to fruition. The Wellington Monument has been selected for the “Adopt a Monument” scheme which is designed to celebrate the symbiosis between the chosen monument and the community. Through the scheme longterm conservation is achieved and it encourages the community to be actively involved in raising awareness of what is in their area.
Declan Rice, CEO Kilkenny Leader Group, a Grange man, got proceedings under way by thanking everybody involved in the walks booklet and especially the people of Grange and Slieveardagh area for their commitment in looking after the walks. Tony Musiol, Chairperson of Tipperary Tourism, took the opportunity to acknowledge the great support given to the walk by Sliabh Ardagh Tourism and the local organisers who helped with publicity, refreshments, signage and financial help to make this day possible. Con Ryan, Rural Recreation Officer for North and South Tipperary, one of only 12 in the country, was on hand to encourage us all to get out and go walking. His role is to preserve and develop local amenities and also to develop them to attract tourism to the area. He spoke of the importance of a scheme involving farmers that allows walkers to have access to their lands while the farmers get a twice annual payment that helps them to maintain the walks, which are inspected annually, ensuring safety and enjoyment. Con is also employed by the North and South Tipperary Tourism Board. Manager for the South, Isobel Cambie was present on the day and donned her walking gear to brave the elements with Con and the others. They were all rewarded after the walk with refreshments in the local hall and the chance to win some prizes from a local enterprise a few miles down the road, Kilcooley Pottery (www.kilcooleypottery.com), whose inspiration for their beautiful products comes from the area they are based in.
Maura Barrett, manager of Slieveardagh Rural Development praised the work of two individuals in particular who look after the walks in the Slieveardagh area, Matt Alexander and Leslie Smyth. She said that their commitment to the maintenance of the walks is phenomenal as they go above the call of duty in their work. The headquarters of Slieveardagh Rural Development is in the old Church of Ireland building in Killenaule where there is a library, meeting and training rooms as well as an internet cafe. The group are currently working on refurbishing the Old School House in the Commons, Ballingarry where they will have mining heritage on display along with meeting rooms which will be available for meetings. The role of Slieveardagh Rural Development is to promote the heritage potential of the Slieveardagh area and they certainly seem to have achieved this. You can find them on facebook, contact them by phone (052) 9156165 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on courses, walks and events in the locality.
Data shown at the Glen of Aherlow Walking conference in December 2009 showed that the number of visitors coming to Ireland for hiking and walking was over 800,000 and exceeded the combined total of those who visit for golf, angling, cycling and water-based activiities. According to a report from the Sports Council every €1 the Government spend on promoting walks saves them €3 on health expenses.
With this new booklet available at STDC Offices, Clogheen Road, Cahir and Heritage Centre, Killenaule as well as all Tourist offices and attractions there can be no excuses for not getting out and about. The next walk is planned for August 21st meeting in Carrick-on-Suir and then travelling to Kilsheelan to walk the old towpath. More details available on www.discoverireland.ie/thetipperary10. So get on your walking boots and hit the trails on your doorstep.