St. John’s River: Sneaking through town

After crossing the Hardy’s bridge we resume our walk. A few words about the Friends of St. John’s River. They are an enthusiastic community voluntary group founded in March 2014 with the mission to ‘return St. John’s River to its former glory’. Our walks along the river are pleasant thanks to them.

In the Integrated Water Quality Report 2011, St. John’s River was mentioned as the only “seriously polluted’ river in the whole county. And seriously polluted it was. It is obvious that the river has very little friends… Hope this will change thanks to the great example of the volunteers and support from the City. On my memory, St. John’s river has never looked as good as it looks now, but there is so much more to do, and first of all, people have to change their mentality, behaviour and habits.

We are approaching the Waterside. The bridge in the picture replaced the old Gasworks bridge. I don’t like the replacement because it is flat and has no character. The old bridge was a curved cast iron beauty built in the beginning of the 20th century. I also don’t like that the wall has been stripped of vegetation which was a habitat for many creatures.

The other Gasworks foot bridge built in 1870 has been beautifully restored and reinstalled.

The Gasworks were established in the 1820’s. A hundred years later, during the Irish Civil War, something extraordinary happened. I want to share this piece of history, because it seems important to me.

‘A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.’ Inspired by the example of the Russian proletariat, the Gasworks’ workers established a Soviet that lasted 6 weeks! More about the Soviets in Ireland in this article. When I came across the article, it brought back my Granddad’s stories. Both my maternal grandfather and paternal great grandfather were murdered by communists. The families had to hide; the names were changed; none of my parents spoke their mother tongues; generations were affected. But it is not only because of my family history I despise this ideology.

We will destroy this world of violence

Down to the foundations, and then

We will build our new world

He who was nothing will become everything.

Unfortunately, ‘destroying to the foundations’ was the only part of the plan that went ‘well’. Cultural vandalism that started in Russia, reached Ireland. More than 70 Big Houses were burned, many of them of historical importance. The blowing up of the Public Records office destroyed countless pages documenting Irish History. One cannot become ‘everything’ by violence, destruction and ignorance.

History repeats itself when people refuse to learn from it and admit their mistakes. 

We have reached the end of the Waterside. In the image below you see the oldest Waterford bridge – John’s Bridge that was originally built in the 1650’s and widened in 1765. On this side of the bridge both arches are round, but on the other side one arch is pointed.

When the water level is low, you might see unusual visitors, like this Common redshank, foraging in the mud.

St. John’s river is a home to a family of resident swans.

Swans under the pointed arch of John’s bridge.

Swans floating along the Railway Square. You can see a shopping trolley in the water.

The river flows under the Johnstown bridge, and we start a somewhat boring walk around Tesco car park – from Miller’s Marsh to Poleberry.

This is the most uneventful stretch of the river walk. Only once I have seen the ducks and swans, and the bird songs are scarce here.

Still, we can come across a mouse on the pavement ( this is the most littered part of the river walk). I spent at least half an hour watching this cute little fella who seems to be a House mouse living outdoors. He is just a little bigger than a bottle cap.

Tesco is the source of all the shopping trolleys littering the water. Friends of St. John’s River do regular clean ups in and around the river, but it is not a solution. Change in people’s attitude would be a solution.

We walk over the Wyse bridge – another flat bridge that replaced the old humpback bridge in 1980. The river makes its last bend at Poleberry before straightening. There is a group of old trees and shrubbery, a home to some birds. The trees don’t look presentable and I am afraid that some day they will be cut down. Hope not.

This cat didn’t look like hunting. He just sat there.

Crow family is well represented in this part of the river. It is still in the city boundaries, and only a handful of bird species visit this area.

Yet one day I was lucky to capture this cute Bullfinch couple feeding on nettle and butterfly bush seeds.

You will continue the walk towards the source in two weeks. I won’t be there in person, but I am sure you won’t get lost 🙂

St. John’s river post #1

Happy Easter! May your mind be happy, and your heart humble


  1. Such a terrible time with communist followers in Peru Too :S now I see why in part you are trying to get a record of what exists in Ireland. Me too because the link with our past has been, somehow, severed. I am always happy when there is maintenance of public works and care of rivers. Hoping all is well there, dear Inese. Always missing you ^_^

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Francis. These days I have only enough time to put up a blog and post it. The life is busier than I can take 🙂
      The communists have very ‘attractive’ ideas, like ‘you can get things for free; take everything from the rich and give it to the poor’ etc. The system itself is cruel and oppressing though, because the ‘free things’ idea doesn’t work in reality, and the stuff they take from the rich doesn’t last long and in fact goes straight to the certain pockets… The system is all lies; the lies that are covered by more lies. Then eventually you get a Soviet Union type country, and you are all doomed.
      How is everything? Was this year good for you?

      1. I was eager to come but also my time seems a loan to myself n_n
        Communists here gave us a hard time in 80’s when they tried to get the power. It was tragic, while speaking that all was done for the poor and unprivileged they were killing those same persons if they would not adopt their ideology. Since then I never trust a person that puts an ideology over any human life, it doesn’t matter how sweet are their words.
        This year is improving bit by bit over the former ones, but still I have some privations in order to make ends, not only for the month, but many times for the week. But well, I will continue with a smile.
        I hope you can have a time for yourself, dear Inese. Or a helpful hand. Wishing you all the best from far away. ^_^

        1. You are right, Francis. Ideology is like a sweet poison, but in fact a human life is only used and then discarded.
          Hope you stay afloat and the things get better. Wishing you best of luck in everything,

  2. A change in people’s attitude is needed all around the world in order to save it! There’s nothing more difficult than this, I fear.
    Love that pic of the mouse! xxxxxxxxx

    1. This change was always needed. Most of people think that someone has to clean their mess. Government, etc. Personal responsibility is not a popular thing.

  3. Thanks for a great post, Inese. I agree that people can do much to change things, especially if they take ownership of places and facilities, rather than seeing them as something that does not belong to them and it’s there for them to destroy, but it’s difficult to change people’s mindsets. If we can get to children when they are young… I agree with your comment about learning from the past. I was talking to a friend of mine about this a few days back and she was adamant we should just forget the past and move on. We had to agreed to disagree. We should not forget what got us where we are, both the good and the bad, especially if we wish to make sure not to repeat the same mistakes again. Have a beautiful week.

    1. Thank you so much, Olga! I like your point about ‘what got us where we are’ – and who we are, for that matter. But I know we also have to move on – I wouldn’t carry out a vendetta against the descendants of those who murdered my ancestors in the 1920. I only hope this sort of things won’t happen ever again. And you are so right about the younger generation. Wish we put in their mind that the earth is theirs to keep.
      Enjoy your week! xx

    1. Thank you so much, Teagan! The mouse won my heart 🙂 He didn’t mind me and was going about his business occasionally stopping and napping for a minute in the sun. We don’t have much of wildlife wandering around, so this was enough to feel good 🙂

  4. Beautiful pictures Inese, and thank you for the history. I had no idea about communism and Ireland. I agree that history does repeat itself when people refuse to learn.

  5. I do hope it gets cleaned up. It’s amazing anyone wouldn’t be concerned about the wildlife. Well, maybe not so amazing, considering the mess San Francisco has become for humans.

    1. Thank you Jacqui! The walkway gets cleaned up by volunteers every weekend, but I wish it wasn’t getting littered…
      What is the problem in San Francisco? It looks grand from the airplane 🙂

  6. Such a lovely walk! I love how there’s almost this entire community of nature within the city along this river. A pity about the vegetation. Was any of it diseased? I ask because they cut down a HUGE portion of trees in my town because of an invasive bug, the ashborough (think I spelled that right). Redoing bridges would have been a great opportunity to encourage local art and design, or at the very least promote city flavor. Milwaukee redid a number of bridges, and while they’re all very “meh” they at least display outlines of activities near those bridges: animals on the bridge near the zoo, graduation caps for the bridge near a high school, and so on.

    Loved this walk. Makes me want to visit the river walk of my childhood in Watertown. x

    1. Thank you so much for walking with me! That vegetation was an ivy jungle on the wall… I don’t know how it bothered anyone. Was sad to see it go…
      All the renovations started because of the floods and construction of a huge car park on the other side of the river. Very little aesthetic incentive, as you see. All business 🙂 The flood alleviation works were worth the money though. In my next blog we will walk out of town – a cycling/walking path was constructed along the river as a part of the flood alleviation scheme, and it is a fantastic opportunity for those who like to walk or cycle to work.
      So sad to hear about the tree cutting. Do the trees look healthy? Here in Ireland something crazy is going on. Ancient, but perfectly healthy looking trees have been cut down, which continues even now when the birds are already nesting. Not a word of explanation from the local governments. If it is a bug they should have told us… xx

      1. Oh no! I hope they eventually send something out. They sent out notice about the bugs TWO MONTHS after they did the cutting, so who knows? I’m looking forward to your bike path–Madison’s got quite a few, and the city’s does its best to take care of them. 🙂

        1. What I see is perfectly good trees being felled 😦 I come to a town and cannot recognize it as the beautiful mature trees are gone…

  7. This post is amazing. It reminds me of the movie, ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’. Beauty is captured through birds and animals that enjoy the calm river. The ugliness of pollution and how we’re killing our environment. And the bitterness of hate — chequered past history. I’ve seen so many countries where people have stopped speaking their own language and adopted an alien one for a variety of reasons. I think it’s painful. We can only hope to learn and change for the future. Thank you for starting the change with your thoughtful posts. ❤

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, there is a lot of bitterness. My parents went through hell. They didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve it too.

  8. Thanks for sharing your walk, Inese, and the bit of history. “One cannot become ‘everything’ by violence, destruction and ignorance.” Alas, a truth that many somehow forget. I love your bird pictures as always, especially those cute little finches. ❤

    1. Thank you Diana! I too love bullfinches. They look like Christmas tree decorations, especially if it is snowing ❤

        1. I once met a bullfinch breeder. He told me there are also yellow and orange mutations. I think the wild one is the most beautiful, and a great choice for your Christmas tree 🙂

    1. Thank you, Nilla! Yes, when the city built the flood defense in 2014 they also cleaned up the river bed. Before that we used to have floods all over the place. I remember walking ankle-deep to get to my car 🙂

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