THE LONG LEVEL - In this weeks episode of Waterways - Dick and the crew of Rambler enter the Long Level - the stretch of the Royal Canal between the seventeenth and eighteenth locks that's 32 kilometres long.
At Cloncurry, Dick disembarks to pay his respects to Teresa Brayton and stroll along the 'Old Bog Road' - the famous road that inspired her nostalgic poem of the same name. On a nearby commemoration sign, Dick notes that Teresa Brayton is buried in the Cloncurry Graveyard. President Eamon de Valera unveiled a memorial to her there in 1959. She was a strong Nationalist and this motivated her to do something quite unusual in the emigrant experience. After Independence she returned from America to support the new State and lived here for over twenty years until her death in 1943 at the age of 81.
In the graveyard Dick notices signs of unauthorised exhumation - rabbits have been excavating. The nearby Motte reminds Dick that rabbits were Norman animals. They were brought here by the invaders to provide them with food and fur - and then escaped into the Irish countryside. The men who looked after them were called warreners, after the rabbit warrens they were kept in. And Warrener became a surname and was shortened to Warner, so Dick ponders, the presence of wild rabbits in Ireland is the result of the inefficiency of his direct ancestors.
Back on Rambler Dick and the crew approach Enfield Harbour beneath a canopy of trees. Enfield Harbour is tucked into its own little world, quite separate from the village and the busy motorway. Dick meets Brian O'Donoghue active member of the Enfield Royal Canal Amenity Group. He tells Dick about this secret place that was created over many years by dedicated people from the local community. Ten year old Lea Sutton enlightens Dick about the competitive angling that takes place on the banks of Canal near Enfield.
Waterways Ireland engineer, John Mc Keown talks to Dick about how the original Royal Canal engineers, over two centuries ago, built some fine and beautiful structures. They also made a few mistakes. The Blackwater Aqueduct was one of them - it had to be completely reinforced to save the canal from bursting through its walls during the restoration.
Rambler moors safely at Furey's Pub in Moyvalley for the night. The next day, Dick and the crew glide smoothly under Ribbontail Bridge. Ribbontail was named after the Ribbon Men, a nineteenth century secret society of Catholic tenant farmers who banded together to fight extortionate Protestant landlords and the Orange Order. The footbridge was put in to accommodate a Mass Path for people on the south bank to walk into the Church in Longwood. Dick strolls along the picturesque path into Longwood to pick up supplies for the crew.
Back on board, Rambler takes to the air as she crosses the aqueduct over the River Boyne - a particularly spectacular feat of engineering. Kingfishers fly past as she moves quietly through this Special Area of Conservation and Laura Nutall from Birdwatch Ireland talks to Dick about the habitats of these iridescent birds.
At the Hill of Down a surprise awaits the crew - the whole community have come out with their barbeques to welcome Dick, the crew and Rambler's return to the newly restored Royal Canal. They enjoy the festive atmosphere, the carnivorous Irish barbeque, creamy pints of Guinness and the local banter.
A well fed and watered crew push on, there are botanical signs that they are making westerly progress and that there's bog-land close by, white water lilies appear among the yellow ones. Dr. Catherine Farrell from Bord na Móna passionately talks to Dick about the importance and incredible value in preserving and cherishing our bog habitats.
Rambler respectfully salutes the empty shells of the Leech Barges as she passes them. They are sunken on the banks of the canal like skeletons in a graveyard. In the old days there were two kinds of boats on the canal, ones owned by the canal company and ones owned by independent hauliers called 'bye-traders'. The last bye-traders on the Royal were the Leech family.
Dick disembarks at Thomastown to meet his old friend Stewart who has offered to take him to Drive In Bingo in Kinnegad in his three wheeled car.
It's an excellent car, even if it's a little on the small size, for two large men and maybe a little short on wheels. But Dick muses only fools and horses walk to Kinnegad! Just when they grasp the rules it's time to get back to Rambler and continue their journey west.
Episode Three is airing October 16th 2011 on RTE1 at 8.30pm