In this exciting new 6-part series of Waterways, Dick Warner returns to the inland waterways of Ireland, this time to the newly restored Royal Canal. He will be taking 'e', an original 70ft Royal Canal tug barge built in 1878, from Dublin to Lough Ree. The last time 'Rambler' travelled the Royal Canal was 1923. On this epic journey, Dick meets both experts and ordinary people who live along the banks, learning from them about its heritage, history and wildlife.
The series celebrates the final re-opening of the entire Royal Canal to navigation this year after more than half a century of dereliction. Rambler started life, in 1878, as a steam tug on the Royal Canal. The closure of the canal effectively marooned her because the other route west, the Grand Canal, has smaller locks and she won't fit into them. But now, at last, she has a chance to escape and to meet up with her long-lost sister, Chang Sha, and the other heritage boats on the Shannon. Rambler is searching for missing relatives.
Dick Warner says of 'Waterways': "The Royal Canal traverses a fascinating and beautiful part of this country which few people have seen. Our journey along it, although it was eventful at times, was filled with amazing discoveries. I was so taken by it that when the filming ended I immediately repeated the journey in another boat."
Episode One - 'The Auld Triangle'
Dick Warner meets the crew of 'Rambler' - the 70ft barge he will travel the Royal Canal on. In this first episode he and the crew travel through the Liffey Sea Lock up through Sheriff Street.
On the banks of the Royal Canal at Mountjoy Prison, Dick meets Ulick O'Connor. Ulick vividly recounts Brendan Behan's notorious antics and humorous escapades.
In Glasnevin cemetery Dick pays his respects to one of Ireland's greatest heroes Michael Collins and his darling fiancée Kitty Kiernan.
His friend Ken Whelan takes him fly fishing in Finglas and after a long days' travelling, he and the Rambler crew make it over the intricate M50 interchange and on to the 12th Lock at Blanchardstown.
Episode Two - 'The Deep Sinking'
Dick and the crew of 'Rambler' struggle through the Deep Sinking from Blanchardstown to Coolmine. This is a fearsome section of the Royal Canal haunted by the lives of the sixteen crewmen who lost their lives when the Dublin Longford Evening Passenger barge capsized in 1845. Dick worries over Rambler's hull as the crew winch and haul her under Louisa Bridge. Dick visits the splendid environs of the Duke of Leinster's former residence - Carton House and does some white cray fishing. Travelling on, at the 14th Lock he meets some real canal life, the charismatic musician Jenny Wren invites him to visit her barge and serenades him with a song she has written for him.
Episode Three - 'The Long Level'
Dick and the crew of Rambler enter the Long Level and 32km stretch of Canal without Locks to slow them down. At Cloncurry, Dick disembarks to explore the 'Old Bog Road' - a peaceful country boreen that inspired writer and nationalist Teresa Brayton to write the song of the same name in Boston in the 1920s.
In the wonderfully restored harbour at Enfield, Dick meets 11 year old Lea Sutton who's busy winning an angling competition on the banks of the canal.
As Rambler pulls into the Hill of Down the crew are rapturously greeted by the locals with bbq's and pints from the local pub. Dick examines the habitats of some stunning Kingfishers along the banks of the canal.
And in a nearby bog he finds bog plants that resemble sea coral. When Rambler pulls into Thomastown Dicks friend is ready with his Reliant Regal to take whisk him off to Drive in Bingo in Kinnegad!
Episode Four - 'Reaching the Summit'
Dick leaves Rambler and the crew to explore Riverstown and he wanders through the ghost station of Killucan. Wind whistles through the empty engine sheds - trains go thundering past and sadly none have stopped here for 47 years.
Rambler makes slow progress through the 'Sinking' and eerie deep stretch of canal in the heart of Westmeath. Finally the 'Sinking' spits them out and they glide into the finest harbour on the canal - Mullingar - they have finally reached their half way mark.
Dick takes his canoe up the very picturesque Lough Owel feeder and stops off to visit Cullion Fish Farm. Back in his canoe Dick travels further on and discovers a deslote sluice house on the shores of Lough Owel.
Back on Rambler, the crew pull into Belmont Harbour where Louis Peppard cooks them some traditional boxty on an open fire. Dick explores the lovingly restored and very quaint harbour of Coolnahay. He meets Claire the lock keepers daughter. And Rambler pushes on towards the Shannon.
Episode Five - Journey's End
In this final episode of 'Waterways: The Royal Canal', Dick and the crew of Rambler have almost reached their journey's end, the great River Shannon. Dick takes a break from the 70ft barge and heads off in his 8ft canoe for a relaxing morning's fishing. Dick visits an ancient wooden roadway built in 148 BC at the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre and investigates fascinating bog plants including some carnivores.
In Longford, he strolls along the neglected and wildly overgrown Longford feeder canal into Longford, passing a rusting hull lying in the reeds like the ancient carcass of a beached whale. In Kilashee Dick stops in Magan's Pub and learns of it's fascinating connection to the Royal Canal and to Samuel Beckett. In Clondara Harbour, New Zealande Donna Pryde invites Dick on board her barge 'The Countess Rose', for breakfast and talks to him about her love of canal life.
The following day Dick and the crew of Rambler make their way down the picturesque River Camlin into the wide open waters of the River Shannon.
Chang Sha, Rambler's, long lost sister, is hurrying up to welcome her back to the Shannon. This is the moment Dick and the crew have been striving for. Chang Sha and Rambler worked together in the 1920s. Then Rambler became isolated in Dublin, unable to get back to the Shannon because she was too long to fit into a Grand Canal lock, waiting year upon year for the Royal Canal to re-open.
Other large heritage boats have come to add their welcomes. The well-wishers raft up and a party atmosphere develops. The 45M, the hero of the first Waterways series in 1992 joins them. Dick is overwhelmed and can't really believe it's all over, he and the crew of Rambler have successfully made it to the Shannon.