I had my first outing of 2022 with an An Taisce colleague to visit the Deep Sinking along the Royal Canal in Dublin. We both travelled on our electric bikes which are a great way to get around the city in a timely, sustainable and healthy manner. Dr. Damien Ó’Tuama, who works in An Taisce in association with Cyclist.ie, recently spoke to an Oireachtas committee about not forgetting about e-bikes when discussing e-mobility, which generally means electric cars.

The Deep Sinking is a wonderful wild space beyond Castleknock where the canal was engineered through old quarries - the only other example of this, on the Royal Canal, is outside Mullingar. The canal is well below the towpath. The tree canopy, which meets overhead - adds to the beauty of the area. There are examples of built heritage, which can be seen along the route. A Calcareous Spring - rare in Ireland - is found along the banks, created when the canal was constructed. The high, shady banks have created a haven for mosses.

It is not really possible to cycle at present, and thus it is planned to have a cycle Greenway here, as part of the long-distance Royal Canal Greenway from Dublin to Galway. There is a great debate locally about the merits and de-merits of putting a cycleway along this stretch of waterway. As a keen cyclist and nature lover, I feel that any half-decent cycle way would spoil what we go there to enjoy, and therefore should be routed away from the canal for the length of the Deep Sinking. Part of the 3km. stretch will leave the canal which is good.

Along with other environment and cycling organisations, An Taisce have supported the option to route the greenway on the north bank, which will have less impact on the canal. Housing development plans in the Castleknock area could impact negatively on the unspoilt nature of the Deep Sinking if not scaled back and placed away from the canal. We met Áine Libreri on her house boat which is the central sorting office for lots of the rubbish on the Royal Canal – well done Áine! She is a member of the Friends of the Deep Sinking, who promote the heritage and nature of this place

To get our fix of coffee, we left for civilisation in the north-west Dublin suburbs. We were disappointed at the single-use coffee cup culture we encountered. With COVID, coffee-shops had completely moved to single-use cups, which cannot be recycled. Some are compostable but must be placed in brown bins and they also use earth’s finite resources. With restrictions being eased, the use of them seems to be embedded in society. We had no trouble in getting ceramic mugs. Most customers seem oblivious to the need to minimise their usage. On leaving the big car park, we encouraged a young driver to turn off their idling engine for 4 reasons – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, noise levels and air pollution and to reduce their energy costs!

It was good to get back into the labyrinth of the Deep Sinking and away from the noisy traffic, of which nearly 50% is made up of SUV’s – Sports Utility Vehicles. On this occasion we did not see much wildlife – the local fox must have been having a lie-in! Otters, bats, kingfisher, songbirds, perch and roach have all been recorded in the Deep Sinking. All-on-all, it’s a great oasis from the bustle of the city and well worth a visit.

Eric Conroy