Into the West...On a Greenway With COVID behind us (sort of), I ventured on holidays with my e-bike on the train to take in the newLimerick Greenway and other parts in the county and in Kerry. Bringing your bike on the trains to Corkand Belfast is straightforward as there is plenty of room in the guards’ van. Changing to other inter-citytrains can be an issue as there are only 2 slots on the train and some cyclists do not book their bike in. Ihad no trouble getting to Limerick city, but there the fun started. Rain was forecast all over Ireland, like the snow forecast in Joyce’s short story The Dead! I had to put onfull rain gear leaving the station, including plastic bags over my feet! I looked like a space person. Itrained constantly while using back roads until I hit Rathkeale, the gateway to the Limerick greenway.However, it did not stop my enjoyment of Ireland’s countryside. I did not appreciate the size of the one-off houses I passed. What in the past were bungalows, are now substantial 2-story detached houseswith additional buildings alongside. Lots of hedgerows have perished to make way for green & lifelesslawns. An Taisce has received a lot of criticism over the years for its stance on one-off houses.Rathkeale is the centre of the Palatine migration to Ireland in 1709 and boasts a fine museum beside thegreenway in the old station house. My mother (maiden name Sparling, originally Sperling in German)was a Palatine who grew up near Rathkeale. I spent many summer holidays there in my childhood.However, I was shocked to see the dereliction of the main street and surrounds. Many shops and houseswere closed and there were few shops or cafes operational. An Taisce has campaigned a lot on ruraldecay in towns and villages. The Limerick greenway travels along the old Limerick to Tralee railway. It has fine hedgerows andwildflowers in bloom along its length of 40km. It ends at Abbeyfeale and it is planned to extend it inKerry to Listowel. Being based on a railway line built in the 19th century and long since abandoned, itmakes for a wonderful experience away from roads and houses. There is an interesting viaduct to crossand a tunnel to explore. The farming I observed is mainly beef and dairy. I saw some cereals but very little forestry andhorticulture. In my childhood apple trees were plentiful in the countryside. It is depressing to see largefields of fertilised rye grass to feed cattle with little biodiversity in evidence. Hedgerows have beenremoved to produce large “green” deserts. I met very few people walking or cycling in the countryside.Everybody appears to travel around by car, and many go too fast on the winding secondary roadsfavoured by cyclists. This is not conducive to active travel safety. Here’s hoping there will be moregreenways before long. In towns & villages, I was struck by the number of cars (and the size of them) clogging up the mainthoroughfare and very few bikes in evidence. Idling engines seems to be a particular issue. I’m told thatpublic transport is poor. However, the pub scene was lively with plenty of live music. The heritage andculture trail in Listowel, revolving around John B. Keane was very interesting. If one really goes into the West, you have to end up at the Atlantic ocean, and ideally get into it! I was atBanna strand, famous for its association with Roger Casement. Although it is a Blue Flag beach, I spotteda couple of dogs there with no intervention, making me wonder about how this rule will be enforced. AnTaisce have had to address criticism that dogs should be allowed on such beaches.With the high waves and low pressure, I ventured into the surf and had a great swim in theAtlantic breakers. All in all, it was great to get out of the capital and into rural Ireland on a staycation.