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.Β 

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 πŸ™‚

St. John’s river post #1

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


  1. 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.

  2. 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

  3. 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 πŸ™‚

  4. 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 πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

        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…

  5. 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. ❀

  6. Thanks for sharing your walk, Inese, and the bit of history. “One cannot become β€˜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. 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 πŸ™‚

    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 πŸ™‚

  7. Enjoyed your blog as usual! The Bullfinch pix were terrific – what beautiful creatures! And the Swans – sad they are swimming in such conditions.

    1. Thank you Syd! I adore the Bullfinches.
      This is a small tidal river, a pill of the River Suir. The river is relatively clean now… It has already been five years since the major cleaning works were performed by the City, and the community group The Friends of St. John’s River was organized. The Friends are litter picking every weekend, but it is a shame they have to do it at all…

  8. That is a bit sad to see polluted rivers or any places. I agreed with you the hard part to restore and maintain clean environment is people attitude. It seems to sound bad but with some birds in the water it suggests it is not so bad (I hope not).

    1. Thank you so much! No, it is not bad at all to compare with what the river looked like before. The mud you see in the picture is not a problem. It is a tidal river, and there will always be mud. The problem is the garbage and shopping trolleys dumped in the river. It is annoying that some people still do that after the recent works and renovations.
      Birds have to live somewhere. There are no crystal clean waters around. It is a city. xx

    1. Thank you so much, Derrick. Walking along the river stimulates thinking and reflection, triggers memories and sometimes provides with the new insights πŸ™‚ I think I have a spiritual connection with the water since I grew up at the lake πŸ™‚

  9. Amid your wonderful post these words will stay with me. ‘History repeats itself when people refuse to learn from it and admit their mistakes’. I despair for humanity when the extremes of the ‘left’ and/or ‘right’ overlook those lessons of history that only those of us on the quiet centre ground remain aware of yet never shout about from the roof tops. Nothing changes, sadly. Whatever, super photographs and words. Enjoy the holiday, Inese.

  10. Happy Easter, Inese! Your walk by the side of choking St John’s river usher in thoughts of the dying rivers of India. Once the mighty and plentiful rivers are now wisps of poisonous streams. As you have rightly said, change in conscience alone will help these vanishing treasures that have traditionally nurtured civilisation and life.

    1. It is heartbreaking, Uma. At least our river doesn’t carry any industrial chemicals.
      Change in conscience has to turn into action. Drastic action. Often sacrifice. People don’t want to sacrifice convenience. I am sick of listening to the ‘activists’ who don’t sacrifice their personal convenience. However, each of us is capable of taking an empty bottle, or dog’s poo to the bin. It is the matter of manners and inner culture, of course, but at the most basic level easy to understand for even a clueless person. Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

  11. It saddens me that people take such beauty for granted and even defile it. So wonderful that the volunteers are working to make the River beautiful again. And, what a terrifying story of the history of Russian ideology in Ireland. I had no idea!

    1. This happened in Limerick too. I think they established the Soviets in 15 locations, or may be more. Some of them lasted days, some – weeks. It is terrifying that the ideology is still alive and much supported in Western Europe.

  12. Happy Easter!
    This was a wonderful walk… except for the communism and destruction of history.
    LOVE the swans, the mouse and the Bullfinch couple. Thank you, Inese! xx

    1. Thank you! There is one more thing – the flat bridge is very low. At high tide or during a rainy weather, it is immersed in water and the birds cannot swim under it. And of course kayaking is impossible too.

  13. Hello dear Inese,
    Thank you for sharing more of your walk along St John’s River.
    It is saddening (and frustrating) to see rubbish dumped in rivers and places where they shouldn’t be. Alas, it seems to be an ongoing issue all over. As you say, it all begins with the attitude of humans. Wishing you a lovely weekend ❀

    1. Hello Takami ❀
      Glad you like our walk πŸ™‚ No Kingfishers this time … Isn't it sad that some people cannot take their litter to the garbage bin. They are concerned about climate change, but refuse to do their part. All local residents know that it is the volunteers who clean up the river, but they still have no respect. Isn't it so very sad.
      I talk to you in the end of May when I am back from my holidays. I will schedule two blog posts, but the comments will be closed. Enjoy your Spring, my Friend! ❀

      1. I can understand exactly what you say! It is sad that β€œhumanity” behaving such a manner. Here too, locals and volunteers do our best to care for the environment. But is does often become frustrating…

        Wishing you a wonderful Spring holidays!🌸🌷🌼

    1. Thank you Sue! No, it wasn’t a vole. Little house mouse, but apparently living outdoors as it was too far from any buildings. More wildlife in the following blogs πŸ™‚

  14. Your opening pic set the scene so well. Following on the whole set of pics proved, shot by shot what a major clean of a river can do. Things start to live there again. I was sorry to read about the effect of communism though. I hate anything that like that ~ George

    1. Thank you, George. Glad Communism hasn’t worked in Ireland.
      It is amazing what a tiny group of people can do. They returned the river to the city. That opening picture was taken when a major part of cleaning was already done. You wouldn’t want to see the ‘before’ pictures.

        1. I believe we can, if it hasn’t reached the no return threshold yet. I don’t know if it has 😦 But George, it is not that easy. Who is ready to sacrifice, to give up quite important things in their life? Who is going to quit some jobs? Stop buying new stuff? Foods? You see, they cannot even pick up their bloody crisp bags from the pavement. I am going to write a blog about this because I am fed up. Sad times.

          1. I heard somewhere that there is a whole bunch of new industry to come out of saving the planet. Perhaps if business leaders/government etc. told the public the full extent then the sacrifice wouldn’t be that bad. I walk instead of drive at lot; eat mainly vegan; recycle and things like that. Easy things that help. It can be done. ~ George

            1. Absolutely. I wish everyone did what you do. At least that much. Imagine billions of people doing the right thing? A little effort multiplied by billions is a force. However there is much more to think about. Almost everything we use in our daily life is a future litter. Also, people have to make a living, and they use resources in the process. It is all very complex.

    1. Happy Easter, DeBorah! Sweet girl, love your outfit! ❀ Hope you are having a wonderful weekend, even though it is 2019 πŸ˜‰ Why the time flies so fast?

      1. Thanks. Same to you. My Dad picked out all my clothes. I’m certain that this outfit came from Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan. Yes time truly does fly. However I’m grateful to God for allowing me to reach Sixty back in February. Thankful for life and good health.

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