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Abhainn

Episode 1: An Mhuaidhe - The Moy

Rising in the Ox Mountains of County Sligo - The Moy takes a circuitous route south through Co. Mayo before turning back northwards through Ballina to finally reach the sea at Killala bay. As it twists and turns, the waters of the Moy have etched their mark on the landscape and the history and culture of the region are clear to be seen along the banks.

If the Moy is about anything it's about the Salmon - a fish of folklore and myth - indeed the experts might well admit how little we know about the Salmon and how and why it does what it does. That's maybe the attraction of "An Bradán Feasa" and why the Anglers come from all over the world to pit their wits against the salmon on the banks of the Moy. Now that the drift netting has been stopped on the Moy the returning salmon numbers are improving and the one on one combat between the angler and the king of fish seems to be a fairer match of skill and cunning.

Ballina might style itself the "Salmon Capital of Ireland" but the Tiernan Brothers -Michael & PJ, are a legend in Foxford which they'd say is the real fishing capital on the Moy. Here's where everyone, from near and far, gathers to share a story - not just about the ones that got away - to browse or buy the best bait & tackle - to buy a licence and some salmon tags - if you're feeling lucky !

Foxford is synonymous with their Woolen Mill - founded by nuns in 1892 but today a local group headed up by Joe Queanan have taken over the mill and have turned it around - with a whole new modern stylish range with an emphasis on good design.

In their day, the Anglo-Irish appreciated the sport and riches that the Moy valley provided. Historically the Knox family would have been one of the big estate owners and several of their grand houses along the river are now fine hotels - Beleek Castle & Mount Falcon, in some way rehabilitating not just the fine cutstone work but giving new generations a fresh insight into a way of life, long gone.

"Connie Aldridge was 50 year ahead of her time. She was doing this when it wasn't even a thing. She was using the wild garlic in her soups, using the beef from the cattle on her land - using her own vegetables. She was the ultimate modern day chef - Zero kms, grow your own, organic! Before it was fashionable. An incredible woman - she lived to be 96 years of age ! " Shane Maloney, Mount Falcon

Episode 2: An Abhainn Mhór / Abhóca (Avonmore / Avoca River)

The River Avoca is one of Ireland's and Leinster's most picturesque and historic rivers. Rising in Lough Dan near the vilage of Roundwood in the Wicklow Mountains, it begins life as the Avonmore river before joining with the Avonbeg river at the Meeting of the Waters to form the Avoca and finally flows into the Irish Sea at Arklow.

ABHAINN: begins at the source in Lough Dan at the National Scout Centre with Garry Mac Donncha finding out about the scouting activities on site from some scouts going through their paces on the lake, as well as Scout Leader Séamus McGloughlin.

The area around nearby Laragh is a haven for walkers and we catch up with Emmet Gavin who loves rambling in the countryside by the river. He also has a keen interest in bird watching, especially the woodpecker which has recently returned to this area.

At home in Derrybawn, above the river valley, Garry meets Irish language nature poet Biddy Jenkinson. The beautiful surroundings are an inspiration for her work. The Vale of Clara is a stunning backdrop as the river heads towards Rathdrum and through the Avondale Estate, the birthplace of Charles Stewart Parnell. It is reputed that the man known as Ireland's National Poet, Thomas Moore, wrote his wonderful 'Meeting of the Waters' melody in Avondale House and soprano Katy Kelly and harpist Rosanna Caulfield perform an amazing version of the song.

"Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest

In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best"

Avondale House echoes still of that famously romantic love affair - not least in the ring that Parnell made for Catherine (Kitty) O'Shea, from gold he panned himself in the river!

There was a gold rush in Wicklow in 1795, we catch up with some people who are today still panning in some of the Avoca's tributaries for gold. The mark of history is clear in and around the village of Avoca. Garry hears about the local mining tradition going back generations from Tony Kelly, whose family own Fitzgerald's Pub, famous to fans of the television series Ballykissangel. Avoca Handweavers, now a very successful modern Irish business story, was established just outside the village way back in 1723. Mick Keogh who has been working in the mill for nearly 40 years is a master of the art and craft of weaving.

Episode 3: An Fheoir - The Nore

The majestic River Nore rises in the shadow of the Devil's Bit Mountain in north Tipperary. On his first voyage along this beautiful river, Pádraig O'Driscoll meets the people of the Nore as it meanders through counties Laois and Kilkenny before joining sister rivers The Suir and The Barrow to reach the sea. Discovering art, hurling, cricket, ancient monks brewing beer and even string quartets playing on the banks, it's a river journey not to be missed.

The Nore begins the 140km journey as a tiny stream. Passing through Clonakenny, the first village on its lengthy course, it flows through County Laois and the picturesque Castletown where the De La Salle Brothers are running their annual spiritual retreat for secondary school students.

When dinner is over and the washing-up done, we leave the students and head for the Fly-Fishing & Shooting Museum in Attanagh where Walter Phelan has assembled a collection of artefacts that reflect the pursuits of Ireland's nobility in days gone by. Among the more gruesome objects on display are the man-traps the landlords set to catch poachers on their land.

On we go to Kilkenny, a proud and bustling city which began life as an ecclesiastical centre in the 6th Century. Kilkenny is one of the finest Irish examples of a medieval town, but the traces of industry from later centuries also remain. At their height - over 3,000 people were employed in the old mills on the riverbank. Almost half of all the blankets for the British Army during the First World War were manufactured in Kilkenny.

Jerpoint Abbey which was built in the 12th century is the next stop. The carvings in the medieval cloisters of the Cistercian ruins evoke the life and work of the monks who lived and prayed there.

The River Nore flows on through Bennettsbridge, Thomastown and Inistioge, all of which provided famous hurlers for the all-conquering Cats. Everywhere you go in Kilkenny, they joke that you should check your change in case you've been given an All-Ireland medal by mistake!

Abhainn
  • RTÉ One, Monday, 7.30pm