An intrepid group of people on bikes were guided along the River Boyne back in time last Sunday with the help of local expert Dr. Robbie Meehan, as part of Water Heritage Day. Never heard of Water Heritage Day? Let’s dive in!
Water Heritage Day
You may have heard of National Heritage Week, held in August every year, which unveils the hidden history on our doorstep. But what is Water Heritage Day?
As it turns out, Navan has a long relationship with rivers and waterways, hidden right there under our noses, just waiting to be discovered!
Millions of Years of History in an Afternoon
Our time-travellers set off from the Ramparts car park, and headed off 100,000 years into the past, guided by someone who knows his way around the millennia. Doctor Who? No, Doctor Robbie Meehan, that’s who!
Our group was soon immersed in the history of the River Boyne. If we had been there 100,000 years ago, we’d have been immersed under fifteen metres of water, as river was more like the mighty Mississippi back in the days when scorpions the size of bloodhounds roamed the county.
Due to all the recent rain, the river was roaring along, at a rate of around 35,000 litres per second. Our group set a gentler pace however, taking in the fabulous summer views, with a few well-earned pit-stops along the way.
The Way of Water
The canal running alongside the river also has a hidden history. Because the Boyne is so fast-flowing, it wasn’t practical for the old boats to navigate. There just wasn’t enough horsepower – literally! So the canal was build, with seventeen locks between Navan and Oldbridge, so that goods such as grain and building materials could be efficiently transported. Canals were the motorways of the time, and were vital infrastructure supporting the local economy. Perhaps in future we’ll think about cycle lanes in the same way?
Sadly, this natural area is under threat. Back in the 1960s 13% of the 60,000km of rivers in Ireland were classified as “pristine”. In 2023 that’s now only 1%, and decreasing. The days of swimming in the River Boyne are long gone, and the effect on the creatures that live in this ecosystem is devastating.
Back to The Future – A Green Way
Thankfully the future isn’t entirely bleak! A growing movement is recognising the importance of these natural amenities. What would we have done with ourselves during COVID Lockdowns if it weren’t for these places to walk, jog, cycle or just chill?
Plans are afoot for a Greenway, following the River Boyne from Navan to Slane and on to Drogheda, where there’s already a 4km stretch built. The plans are sadly moving very slowly – here are the “route options” from the consultation in 2021 (and there’s more info in our Boyne Greenway article).
As the event this weekend has shown, there’s huge interest and support for this, and we’re hopeful that progress can be made.
What will You Discover?
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We’d like to thank our co-organisers and friends at Wild About Navan, an urban nature conservation project to protect, explore, improve, share and learn from the diverse environment and natural habitats that surround us.
And extra special thanks to Dr Robbie Meehan, consultant geologist, cyclist and author of The Making of Meath.
Photo credit: Barry Cronin. NO REPRO FEES. National Heritage week in Meath. Guided Cycle with Geologist, Robbie Meehan and Navan Cycling Initiative along the Boyne and Ardmulchan Cemetery, Navan. Dr Robert Meehan and participants photographed at Ardmulchan cemetery for the Meath Heritage division of Meath County Council. Photo: Barry Cronin/www.barrycronin.com