The preferred route for the River Suir walkway has been unveiled and welcomed.
The 29.3km route involved a loop at Thurles and another one at Cabragh Wetlands
The preferred option for the proposed pilgrim walkway from Loughmore through Thurles and onto Holycross Abbey has been revealed this week to members of the Templemore Thurles Municipal District Council amid great excitement amongst members.
The Thurles Lions Club led project was welcomed broadly by the elected representatives and was described as the kind of project which could be a game changer for the greater Thurles area in terms of tourist potential.
And, while it was acknowledged that that there will be many challenges and obstancles to be overcome before any walkway becomes a reality, Thurles Lions Club is very happy with the general level of positivity surrounding the project, having met with many of the landowners affected.
Lions Club President Gary Roche and John McCormack, who is spearheading the project attended the meeting along with Lions Club member Anne-Marie Brophy and they presented the findings of the feasibility study on the 29.3km route which inludes loop walks at Thurles town and at Cabragh Wetlands. There are three stages associated with the proposal -(A) The Loughmore - Thurles stage which is an 11.5km route from Loughmore village right into Thurles town where the river has to be left for a section and picked up again at Thurles Town Park. The recommended option is to travel the river bank to the rear of the Presentation primary school, exit through Butler Court, along Mitchel Street, Cathedral Street and back to the Suir at Thurles Town Park.
The walkway would link Loughmore to Holycross village where the famous Abbey and thatched cottages form the backdrop to a very picturesque village.
(B) Thurles Town Loop stage has just one option and this 3.5km loop involves multi-trail access from Thurles town to Turtulla Bridge along the right hand bank, before crossing over to the opposite bank and returning to the park again. A new pedestrian bridge approximately 6-8 meters would be required over the Drish River for this loop.
(C) Turtulla Bridge - Holycross is an 8.3km trail with the recommended route along the right hand bank from Turtulla Bridge to Cabragh Bridge, crossing the road at Cabragh and using the disused rail bridge to cross the Suir and then the left hand bank as far as Holycross. There is also a very strong recommendation that a Cabragh Wetlands Loop be incorporated here and this would take in a further 6km.
The feasibility study was funded through a grant from Leader and John McCormack described the report as being a small step but a major one in terms of moving on to the next stage. Describing the meetings with stakeholders as being very constructive, he welcomed the very positive engagement of the general public before outlining the major areas of concerns including public liability, fencing, flood relief measures, access to the river etc.
The presentation was welcomed by members with Chairman, Cllr Seamis Hanafin describing it as a template, or starting point on the journey. Cllr Jim Ryan said that it was one of the most positive and exciting proposals to come before the council, while Cllr Sean Ryan pointed out that there is great interest in pilgrim paths at the present time.
Cllr David Doran pledged the support of the Municipal District to the project and said that the council should take a lead, while Cllr Micheal Lowry alluded to the huge potential which could be unleashed.
Cllr John Hogan referred to the huge challenges there would be with many individual landowners likely to have a variety of different difficulties. However, he added that through proper consultation these could be overcome, while Cllrs Eddie Moran and Joe Bourke were also positive about the proposal.
Clr Hanafin requested the consultant who drew up the proposal to attend a meeting of the Municipal District to discuss the matter further before lauding the work of Thurles Lions Club, not just for this project, but for the whole community leadership shown over the last 52 years.
District Manager Mr Matt Shortt was also lavish in his praise for the proposal and said that having a plan of paper makes this proposal a very real one.
Pictured above: The River Suir at Holycross.