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 🙂