The Cavan & Leitrim (C & L ) Greenway project is a joint proposal from the five local development committees to open a quality greenway on the route of the disused narrow gauge railway between Mohill, Co Leitrim and Belturbet, Co Cavan. In addition to being a quality cycle route, it is also proposed as a recreational tourism project which meets the highest standards in safety and quality while giving access to the best of what the area has to offer.
The route is 41 kms (26 miles ) long and consists of three sections:
Almost the entire route remains intact and the ground is remarkably level due to a series of cuttings, embankments and bridges. It provides access to a rich variety of local landscapes including bogs, drumlins, woodland, lake and canal side views, working farms and the UN recognised Marble Arch Caves Geopark in Co Cavan. Much of the route is in the foothills of the Sliabh an Iarainn and Sliabh Rushen mountains.
The project is inspired by the significant increase in cycling and walking activity in recent years and the unsuitability of the local roads. Also, the opportunity to become a more attractive tourist destination. Similar initiatives in rural Ireland have transformed local economies by providing significant opportunities for area enterprises and employment.
Section 1. Mohill-Fenagh-Ballinamore
The southern terminus is at Mohill, Co Leitrim close to the former railway station. The Loc Rynn amenity is about 4 km away and has developed a variety of outdoor facilities in activity tourism along with formal gardens and woodland. Mohill station was an important station because in addition to the passenger traffic, the town hosted two great fairs on February 25th and October 19th annually. At its peak in 1945, 106 wagon loads of livestock were handled at Mohill. After leaving the town at 3.2 km distant is Gortfada Road, the first of eight level crossings before Ballinamore where the former stone built Victorian era station house is still in use. This is the case at almost all the level crossings. Adoon is over 7 km from Mohill, the site of a former 'Halt' and served Cloone village approx 4 kms away. The landscape is predominantly flat but the route follows a very slight uphill gradient which continues to Fenagh with several curves along the way to navigate the drumlin landscape. The landscape is very rural with a variety of pastureland, woodland, bogs, streams and lakes.
About 10 kms from Mohill is the former Fenagh station. Fenagh area has some of the most significant ecclesiastical heritage sites in the North West as well as Megalitic and pre Christian sites. It is well served with excellent social facilities including a recently refurbished Community Centre, Handball alley, Heritage Centre as well as primary schools. Fenagh is also a summit point on the Greenway in that the overall gradients start to fall towards Ballinamore. At Lauderdale, the gradient is falling at 1 :47 over almost a kilometre on the approach to the canal bridge, the Dromod bound coal trains would have been working near their limit getting to Fenagh !. Lauderdale crossing is approx 1 km from the newly refurbished Glenview Folk museum at Aughoo Bridge. Approaching Ballinamore, the canal bridge is now removed and the Greenway would follow the new canal side walk along the Shannon Erne Waterway for approx 3 kms before entering Ballinamore Marina at the south end of the town. Ballinamore is the location of the Leitrim County Library, an 18 hole golf course and hosts annual festivals in drama, music and family recreation. Also the newly opened Community School, Sports Hall and Scouting facilities.
Section 2. Ballinamore-Aughawillan-Templeport-Ballyconnell<
Section 2 starts at the former St Felims College and Railway station at the northern end of the town, now the subject of a discussion regarding its future. Ahead, there are numerous cuttings and embankments to overcome the challenges of the drumlin landscape with cut stone 3 arch masonry bridges at Drumcullion, Aughawillan and Killyran. The alignment has significant merit because it is shorter than the main road between Ballinamore and Ballyconnell and at least 6.5kms shorter than the canal route. The landscape would be charactised by many low lying small fields, woodland, bogland all in the shadow of Sliabh an Iarainn first and then Sliabh Rushen mountain in Co Cavan. At Kildorragh, 2 kms from the town is the site of an old water tank, still in place. Originally, Ballinamore station got its water from a local well which proved unreliable. The station needed about 15,000 gals of water per day and in 1908 a steam operated pumphouse was build at Lake Bolgonard which pumped to a large tank on the high ground at Kildorragh where it then gravity flowed to the tank at Ballinamore station until 1938. The expanded width of the old railway cutting at Kildorragh is a result of quarrying here in the early years to provide ballast for the railway track. Similarly at Ballyheady and Stradermott on the Drumshanbo branch line, a conspicuous open space is all that remains of former track side quarries which were used to providing rail ballast.
The Greenway crosses the river Blackwater just inside the Cavan County boundary on a fine cut stone arch bridge with a second smaller arch presumably to accommodate a local landowner. All of the route (16 kms ) within County Cavan is in the UNESCO recognised Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. A Geopark is an area with outstanding geological, archaeological, ecological and cultural heritage. Further ahead is approx 1.5km of asphale paved public road which serves as a qwuiet access road approaching the former Templeport Railway station. The former station house is now refurbished and extended serving as a Resource Centre. The adjacent stone build goods store is intact and the outline of a large land take around the station can be observed. This accommodated sidings used primarily for the Ballymagovern Fair. In the early years, livestock and coal destined for Belfast were the main traffic commodities on the line. Ballymagovern Fair, like Mohill was a major event and occurred on May 23rd and Nov 23rd annually. Up to 100 wagon loads of livestock were traded at each fair and a cattle bank for unloading special trains was provided at the station for this purpose. The Fair declined rapidly in the 1920's following the political division of the state in 1922. Bawnboy village is situated approx 4 kms from Templeport. This is the location of the Bawnboy Workshouse, a large Victorian structure dating from 1852. Recent studies have been undertaken to identify a viable future for this large building as a local amenity.
Leaving Templeport, approx 3 kms ahead is Ballyheady and the Greenway then follows the Shannon Erne Waterway canal bank for approx 5 km into Ballyconnell marina. Ballyconnell is on the border with Co Fermanagh.
Section 3. Ballyconnell-Belturbet
Beyond Ballyconnell, the Greenway would seek to avoid crossing the N87 national route and would probably join the old track west of Killywilly Lough. The route to Belturbet is very flat with a lot of gentle curves and skirts three large lakes over this 10 km section. There are some metal bridges on stone abutments where the line crossed several small rivers. Tomkin Road was the most significant station on this section partly due to additional traffic associated with the Tomkin Road creamery which had its own railway siding. The Erne Bridge at Turbett Island is at the approach to the refurbished Belturbet railway station site. There would be considerable merit in extending the greenway for approx 4 km along the Erne to the international scouting site at Castle Saunderson.
The line was constructed in the late 1880's and finally closed in 1959. A tramway section linked Balinamore to Drumshanbo and the Arigna Valley coal mines. However, much of this line was incorporated into a road widening scheme over the years. A significant amount of the original heritage buildings still remain. There are four cut limestone masonry bridges between Ballinamore and Ballyconnell and an impressive three arch bridge over the Erne at Belturbet There are station buildings at Mohill, Templeport and Belturbet which are in public ownership and are well located to service greenway tourism. Ballinamore station buildings are currently subject to discussions regarding their future. All engine sheds and store buildings were constructed in cut limestone masonry and remain in good structural condition.
The preliminary design and environmental screening was carried out by Cavan & Leitrim Co Councils in 2015. In 2016, it became clear that large funding for the entire project was unlikely and it was more appropriate to select a short ‘Demonstration Stretch’ which may be completed with smaller amounts of grant funding and progressed as permissions and finance allowed. The first Demonstration Stretch selected was the 2.5km route from the former Ballinamore station ( formerly St Felims College) to Corgar Halt on the Ballyconnell route. The National Trails Office awarded a grant of €190K to Leitrim Co Co in October 2016 and detailed discussion with landowners, planning and design are currently underway. A fundraising committee in Ballinamore has now been set up to provide a community fund to support the Ballinamore Area greenways between Aughawillan and Fenagh. The major event in this fundraising campaign is a family night at Longford Greyhound Stadium on Friday, April 28th . This will include the William Winters Memorial Sweepstake Final.
The route of the proposed greenway is protected in the County Development Plans for Co Cavan and Co Leitrim. The project is recommended in the Leitrim Development Company recently published 'Recreational Strategy for County Leitrim'. The local Development Committees carried out six landowner consultation meetings in the early part of 2014 and the level of engagement from landowners was high and very positive.
Ballinamore Area Greenway Fund 2017
The Ballinamore Area Greenway Fund is being set up to facilitate development of three possible stretches of greenway in the area:
The Greenway Fund shall be split three ways between each greenway stretch and act as the seed funding to match fund future grant aid applications when required or to improve the quality of the particular stretch.
The development of any section can only proceed with a Permitted Access agreement from each landowner. Also, Planning Permission and significant grant aid is needed.
Ballinamore Community Council are the trustees of the fund, held in the Credit Union and will have regard to the objectives of the fund. If after a period of at least 7 years ( April 2024) , a balance remains in the fund, the Community Council may, in consultation with the local greenway committee, decide to use the fund to upgrade existing greenways in their area first or secondly allocate that balance to an alternative tourism related project in the Ballinamore area. In each case to be used as match funding for grant aid.
The site will be updated as further developments arise. Meanwhile, for information on the progress of the C & L Greenway project you may contact any member of the local development committees along the route (Mohill, Fenagh, Ballinamore, Templeport, Ballyconnell & Belturbet) who will endeavour to answer your queries, you will find some of their contact details on the contacts page.