9 January 2011

Ulster Canals

Back in August 2008 I wrote about walking along the abandoned Ulster Canal where it constitutes the border between northern and southern Ireland. Some day I might need a boat to repeat the journey. This canal was abandoned in 1931 but now there is increasing interest, both north and south, in re-opening the waterway. If the aspiration of this Belfast City Council map comes true, you will be able to boat from Coleraine to Waterford.

Map taken from Belfast City Council’s Lagan Gateway report, published lately.

But the Lagan Canal will be first to get attention. This canal is actually a set of canals creating a straighter and traversable route along side the meandering Lagan. This infrastructure was also called the Lagan Navigation and it was created in the 18th Century. Records show that in 1838 about 45,000 tonnes of coal, tiles, flour, wheat, manure and turf came to Belfast this way. The rise of motorised transportation eventually brought an end to this form of haulage. The canal was closed in 1956. It is perhaps not so much ironic as grimly logical that the M1 motorway now covers a stretch of the original Lagan Canal. However some of the basic infrastructure of the canal remains in other sections, waiting. A 2006 reported highlighted many possible benefits of refurbishment and now Belfast City Council plans that around 17 kilometres of the Lagan Navigation, from Belfast to Lisburn, be reopened. Hopefully that will just be the beginning.

The Lagan Canal once upon a time.

There’s information about the project on Belfast City Council’s site.

2 January 2011

Belfast Facilities

Lately I partook in a C.R.O.W. walk through the centre of Belfast. The name stands of City Wight Of Way and the project aims to bring some insights into ignored or unseen parts of Belfast. On the day I joined them we did a walking tour of Belfast public toilets, examining the facilities.

Beginning with St Anne’s Cathedral and ending at Shaftsbury Square.

A tour of toilets may seem an odd way to spend an afternoon but, in the end, it was a surprisingly interesting and even refreshing way of looking at the city. It brought us all places we had never been before. For example, some of our party had never previously entered St Anne’s Cathedral. Spend a consistent few hours comparing toilets, or perhaps any other thing, and a sense of mild connoisseurship can develop in you. By the end of the walk I thought I had developed a bit of an eye for loos. I wrote a few words about the walk and posted some photos on C.R.O.W.’s own blog. Click here to visit.

We finished the tour at this mysterious manhole Shaftsbury Square. Actually, a manhole is a good description for it. During the busiest drinking hours of Friday and Saturday night it rises, revealing a men-only open urinal.