Limerick Greenway – Kerry Section

The Limerick Greenway, also known as the Great Southern Trail Greenway has been open now for a few years, and the route now extends to Listowel, Kerry, since October 2022.

A previous post, commemorates the long years of campaigning that it took to bring this project to fruition.

This is a more personal account of the Kerry Section only, from Abbeyfeale to Listowel, which we walked, there one day, back the next, rather than cycled.

Abbeyfeale is in Co. Limerick, and the first 3km of the route is officially the Limerick Greenway and rest, ~12km, is in Kerry. It seems slightly absurd that the Greenway is so divided, reminiscent of the roads around the border with Northern Ireland, although the differences are slight.

The route is generally very good quality, laid in tarmac, with gravel edges, for better drainage. Signage is also good quality (differing slightly between the Limerick & Kerry Sections, as mentioned), although a bit more of it e.g. local information (e.g. wildlife, farming, railway history), distance information etc. would be good to see. This section, at 15km, is the longest section on the entire Greenway, and although there are a sprinkling of seats along the way, there are few houses, no villages and definitely no water or refreshments.

One welcome feature, shown above, are the tool stations, two along this section. It’s clear that the actual tools will have a pretty short working life as they are already quite badly corroded. The pump seemed in good order.

Apparently, when the railway closed in the 1970s, although the Local Authorities had first refusal of ownership, they declined, seeing it as of little value at the time. This was, in retrospect, regrettable, as it made wresting use of the route back from landowners a long and fraught process.

Part of this dynamic is evidently the construction of the many crossing points, which are mostly agricultural; in some places, bridges were constructed, the route dipped to allow headroom, thereby breaking the level way established by the railway engineers, as seen above.

In other places there are gates, suggesting infrequent agricultural use; some gates featured smaller by-pass gates, that would allow Greenway Users to pass, with caution. This is preferable to the constant opening and closing of gates, experienced by both walkers and cyclists elsewhere. At the infrequent road crossings, all minor roads, there are dog-leg barriers, which don’t enforce dismount, but prevent careless passage.

In the cuttings there are few original bridges, as above. These stretches, mostly damp, feature the richest plant growth. The route could generally be called a “wildlife corridor”, presumably as the verges are free of the chemicals that have destroyed much of the flora in the countryside generally. This is apparently true of many transport corridors, although some may unfortunately still be sprayed.

One – completely unnecessary and preventable – confusion arises as to which side of the road to walk and ride; see Code of Conduct. This enjoins walkers to “Keep left and pass on right” without specifying what cyclists should do, although implicitly the same. In contrast – hence the confusion – the Highway Code Standard Practice is for pedestrians is walk on the right, to face oncoming traffic; this is particularly necessary for a Greenway, as bicycles, even electric ones, are very quiet, and not all remember to use a bell, or even have one.

We did this route over a weekend, and saw a fair few other users, almost all cyclists, but nowhere near as many as the better-known Mayo or Waterford Greenways. This seems a pity as the route is attractive, with pleasant towns along the way. It is evident that more promotion and more facilities will be needed to change this.

At the other end of the Greenway, which currently reaches Rathkeale, there are hopes of a extension into Limerick City; it is evident this will be both more valuable, particularly to locals, but also more difficult, as the space is correspondingly more contested.

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