JOURNEY'S END - In this week's episode of Waterways Dick takes a break from Rambler and its crew and heads off in his canoe to enjoy a spot of fishing. He catches some perch and roach and carefully returns his prey to the canal. Back on Rambler he takes the wheel and guides the hull through green countryside on a ribbon of brown water like a spaceship on a long interplanetary mission. At Mosstown Harbour Dick disembarks to visit the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre. He visits the preserved eighteen metre tocher, a section of the massive wooden roadway built across the bog in the year 148 BC. Noel Carberry shows Dick the fascinating bog vegetation surrounding the centre including some carnivorous pitcher plants whose prey-trapping mechanism features a deep cavity filled with liquid known as a pitfall trap.
Rambler arrives at a junction, the first since they've left Dublin. It's the junction with the branch line of the canal that serves Longford town, or it used to. The line is still un-restored, blocked by a fresh dam of earth. Dick clambers down to investigate and begins the eight and half kilometre walk into Longford on the bank of the disused canal. He passes a hull like the ancient carcase of a beached whale, the bones exposed as the flesh is pecked off by the beak of time. Even without restoration the branch line is rather attractive, with a wealth of wild flowers and water-hens croaking away in the sedgy pools that remain.
Eventually Dick ends up in the streets of Longford, standing in a car park that was once Longford Harbour. Back on Rambler sheâ€™s going better and seems impatient to shoulder her way out of locks, to get each bridge behind her, straining to make ground under the wide midland skies. At Kilashee Dick decides to pay a visit to Magan's pub for a pint. He meets brothers Dan and Mike Magan who's family own the pub and house. This is half pub and half museum and amongst the fascinating Guinness log books is collection is a pile of letters and postcards from an unexpected source, Samuel Beckett, a family relation.
Rambler pushes on from the mature eighteenth century canal landscape into a more futuristic one. Dick and the crew wait for a road bridge to be manually lifted before passing under a Bord na Mona light railway line bridge. Just before pulling into Clondara Harbour, Rambler meets the Countess Rose and Dick meets its owner, New Zealander Donna Pryde, who talks to him about her love of the waterways and life on her boat.
Dick and the crew spend the final night of their Royal Canal journey in the calm waters of Clondara harbour. The next day Rambler travels on the Camlin river, and then onto their last short stretch of canal, under the last canal bridge, and one more lock before theyâ€™re on the great river Shannon. Spotting the first of the Shannon channel markers is an exciting moment. There's a real sense of achievement. And a sense of freedom as Rambler hits the River Shannon. Then below Lanesborough the river becomes a lake and Rambler gets her first taste of open water for a very long time. Chang Sha, her 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, the purpose of the whole journey. Chang Sha and Rambler worked together in the 1920s. Then Rambler became isolated in Dublin, unable to get back 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. The two estranged sister greet each other in the middle of Lough Ree. And seven other heritage barges raft up beside them to welcome Rambler back to the Shannon - the Bona Spes, 1B, 76M, 45M 41M, Ebenhaezer and 4E.
Skippers and crew members mingle. There's a babble of chat as the waterways community celebrates. Dick is a little stunned and can't actually believe the journey is now over - he and the crew of Rambler have finally made it from the Liffey Sea Lock in Dublin, through 46 locks and along the 145 kilometres of the Royal Canal to the mighty River Shannon.
Episode Six is airing November 6th 2011 on RTE1 at 8.30pm