Let’s get Walking

  • What with all the negative news around these days, we thought that maybe a topic on a lighter subject might be appropriate, something that’s fun, inexpensive, good for you, and an emerging tourism product of note.  Ambulation!
  • Yes that’s correct, it is the main form of human locomotion without a vehicle or riding an animal.  It is distinguished from running in that only one foot at a time leaves contact with the ground. (Ever see one of those competitive walkers disqualified?  It usually happens when an eagle-eyed judge spots both feet off the ground at the same time.)
  • Health experts agree that 30 minutes brisk walking on most days is sufficient to improve fitness, control your weight, improve your health and help you live longer.  The scenery, the light, the fresh air and the freedom, the sensation of feeling the landscape through the soles of your feet, combine to ensure that walking is an increasingly popular pastime each year for both natives and visitors.
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  • Fáilte Ireland estimates that somewhat in excess of 300,000 overseas visitors actively participated in walking holidays here last year.  And the potential is great for much larger numbers.
  • There have been access issues in recent years, but the good news is that agreement was finally reached between Eamonn Ó Cuív, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the farming community, which involves the development, enhancement and maintenance of national marked ways and priority walks.
  • The Walks Scheme launched by the Minister represents an important milestone in ensuring the Irish walking product can compare favourably with the best in Europe.  The Minister has emphasised the benefits to all communities, both rural and urban, local farmers and walkers, and the scheme was agreed on a partnership basis with the various interests involved.
  • The agreement was brokered through Comhairle na Tuaithe.  This body, which comprises representatives of farming organisations, recreational users of the countryside and state bodies with an interest in the countryside, was set up by Minister Ó Cuív in early 2007 to address access to the countryside, formulate a countryside code, and a countryside recreational strategy.
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  • The Walks Scheme will see farmers paid up to €2,900 a year for maintaining paths for walkers to an agreed standard for a five year period.  Up to €4m has been set aside this year for the scheme.
  • Initially the scheme is being piloted in the Sheepshead Way, Bluestack Way, Suck Valley Way and the Eamonn a Chnoic Loop walk in Tipperary.  This is to be followed by a further eight routes later in the year.
  • Speaking of of aid to farmers, it is good to see that 30 farmers in Kerry have signed up to a scheme with the National Parks and Wildlife Service which will help with re-instating our old threatened friend, the natterjack toad.  The farmers will be paid €1000 for digging 2 ponds and maintaining them over a 5 year period, which will, it is expected, grow the toad population again.  This little amplibian creature is distinguished from your regular kermit-like frog in that it has yellow stripes, and it runs rather than hops.  Now you know, remember where you read it first!
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  • It is encouraging to note that the recruitment of eleven Rural Recreational Officers has been agreed with Fáilte Ireland and amongst their tasks will be to promote walking tourism in areas where there are clusters of suitable, accessible walks.
  • Fáilte Ireland has an excellent site that gives detailed information on walking possibilities.  Go to www.discoverireland.ie/walking.  It has got everything from easy treks for beginners to some that are more challenging.
  • In conjunction with Coillte and the Irish Sports Council, a national Trails day is planned for the autumn to highlight the abundance of walks throughout the country.
  • So get out there this year and start walking, it will refresh and rejuvenate your spirit, and get your mind off expensive oil.
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