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. 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…

  2. 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

  3. So many beautiful photographs here, Inese, demonstrating that the river’s history is also your own. You know the changes and the angles on which to focus.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. Wonderful images … the wild life along the river keep it alive and viable. Very powerful captures. Thank you for my morning smile. Happy Easter. g

  9. I see what you mean about the gasworks bridges. The picture with the old bridge is so pretty and the other looks dull in comparison – yet the surrounding buildings are just as nice. The bridge makes all the difference.

    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.

  10. 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 🙂 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 “humanity” 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!🌸🌷🌼

  11. A most informative post, Inese! Thanks for the Virtual walk, I loved seeing the bird life and the little mouse (vole?)

    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 🙂

  12. 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. It’s little things – relatively – like this that prove that we can reverse climate changing if we want it enough.

        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 😉 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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