(Looking across at Mulranny strand from the Achill to Westport Greenway)
What have goats got to do with a Greenway I hear you ask.
Well not a lot! They sort of meandered into this story uninvited.
It’s early morning. I am off to cycle the western Greenway.
I leave Dublin at cockcrow, my yellow bike in the back of my old car and drive speedily along the motor way which heads to Galway (Ireland has only four of these mindless roads but they ARE handy when you are in a hurry )
After 60 kms or so I leave it to cut cross country in a north westerly direction.
Though now on a ordinary road it is too early for traffic and I still manage to zip along making good time until finally I reach the town of Ballina (in the process of creating its own greenway).
Next I pass through Crossmalina and then hit that lovely web of small roads, more often than not unsignposted.
But I continue on confidently knowing that if I keep Nephin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephin on my left and head southwest I will end up at my destination.
Around a corner, a brown OPW signpost points to a small road indicating the whereabouts of St Patricks well. (Did I mention that I am fascinated by holy wells)
Too late! before I even make the decision to indicate, I am gone past the sign.
If I was on my bicycle I would have been up that boreen without hesitation.
But a car is a different matter. too often you have flown by a place of interest before you can stop.
Then, maybe a car on your tail forces you onward as there is nowhere to let it pass or you have to drive some distance before you find somewhere to turn and by then the curiosity has left you.
I am tempted to say ‘feck the Greenway’ and park and pull out my bike and explore this area but my friend Penny (Not her real name) will be waiting for me. (Did I mention that when I cycle greenways I do so with a friend and when I cycle boithrins I like to do so alone).
And finally I am sitting outside the Grainne Uaile pub in Newport Co Mayo.
But still I don’t take out my bicycle.
One of my gripes with Greenways is they do not form a circular route.
If you don’t want to cycle back the way you have come, here is a solution.
I call it the ‘TWO CAR THINGY’
But you need a companion.
This is how it works
- You meet your companion at the end of the journey. Which could be called the beginning
- Of course she must also have a car with her bike in it (or on it) or it doesn’t work.
- You then decide which car will go and which will stay.
- You then load the bike from the vehicle staying into the vehicle going. (size of bike and car and lack of bike carrier may be the deciding factor here)
- You leave the now empty vehicle and drive the now full vehicle to the start.
- You park
- You unload the two bikes.
- You cycle the greenway to the end.
- If both bikes don’t fit in the returning car, you look for something to lock the bikes to, preferable a railing outside the pub (Interestingly you have spotted other cyclists downing delicious looking glasses of Guinness)
- You drive back to fetch the other car.
- Disappointingly, you realize how short the distance is when driven (30 mins) as opposed to the length of time cycling it (4/5 hours)thus minimizing the whole cycling experience.
- You get into your own car.
- You drive back to pick your waiting bicycle parked at the pub only to remember you cannot drink and drive
- You settle for a cup of tea instead.
I don’t blame you. I’m confused myself, and disgruntled too.
But here comes Penny.
Penny is neither disgruntled nor muddled. She is organized and jolly and knows exactly what she is doing
You see Penny is a teacher and after years of organizing unruly children, nothing confuses her.
Not least which car goes where with who or what on-board.
Before I know it, she has cheerfully squeezed her white bike in on top of my yellow one and off we go to the starting point of the Greenway at Achill Sound.
An addendum: As more greenways are created (there are a good few in the pipeline) they will hopefully link up and then we wont have to do the two car thingy anymore.
(The white bicycle and the yellow bicycle enjoying a break on the Achill to westport Greenway)
Friendship and Introducing those goats!
Before I go any further I would like tell you about my good friend Penny so you will understand why she is one of the few people I cycle with.
(Anyone who has no interest in goats may wish to leave now)
Penny and I met over the back of a goat.
Literally! A questionable British Saanen to be exact and about thirty two years ago.
Back then I was mad for a pair of milking goats. I dreamt of rearing my children on goats milk for and making cheese.
Over that summer I read up on goats avidly and studied the pros and cons of the different breeds.
My favorite were the Toggenburgs.
The Anglo Nubians, with their long noses and floppy ears came a close second.
But, having read about the ability of the former to escape and the delicate nature of the latter, I settled more sensibly on the docile Saanen.
I read up on what to look for. I studied photos of the supreme champions.
I noted the sleek coat, the gentle slope from hip to tail, the back legs set apart allowing for good udder capacity.
It seemed I would have to travel far, possibly as far as Northern Ireland, to obtain such creatures.
Then one day in early autumn my sister rang me in excitement. A couple she knew had just the pair and they were willing to part with them FOR FREE.
Was I interested?
Warning bells should have rung.
Instead I said that I would come and view them.
But before I had time to put on my coat, a battered estate car pulled up in my driveway (it must have been literally waiting around the corner)and the driver leapt from it and opened the boot.
Two goats jumped out, shot off into the orchard and with the agility of a pair of chimpanzees, scaled the nearest apple trees and began nibbling the branches and eating whatever apples remained unpicked.
Politeness prevailed. There was a human to be seen to first, and I turned to the owner of these tree climbing beasts.
But no! he wouldn’t stay for a cup of tea thank you all the same… he had a lot of things to attend to…he was in an awful hurry!! (The marks his tyres left on my driveway attested to this).
To cut a long story short, when I finally managed to coax the goats down from the tree with a bucket of beet pulp and get near enough to them to examine them and ensure they were indeed goats (and not some variety of four legged monkey)I was left in no doubt of their questionable pedigree.
Disappointingly there was no similarity to those I had seen in my book. No sleek coat or the gentle tapering from hip to tail, nor could I catch sight, due to the length of their rough coats, of an udder, smooth or otherwise.
After finally enticing them further into their shed with the intention of bundling them into the boot of my own car and returning them, they looked at me with such love in their eyes (Its amazing the effect a bucket of beet-pulp can have) I gave in (I didn’t even know where this ‘friend’ lived).
The wonderful thing about animals is if you are kind to them they will love you and won’t give a fig for your obvious disappointment in them.
But just feeding my goats well will not make them pregnant and if I wanted to have kids (and therefore milk) in the spring I needed to work fast.
And that is how I met my now good friend Penny, the owner of a handsome Saanen pedigree buck.
I was first drawn to her kindness and inevitable friendship (We discovered more than just goats in common)by the fact that she didn’t laugh at my unkempt ladies (honestly all the brushing in the world did nothing to improve those rough long coats)but allowed a romance between them and himself to take place.
Then as if by magic in the late bloom of their ensuing pregnancy, the pair lost their rough coats and indeed began to look something like the goats I had dreamed of owning.
And though my ‘goat days’ are long gone, our friendship remains and she is there when I need a bicycling companion who is willing to put up with my cycling idiosyncrasies and keep me on the straight and narrow.
(The start of my herd)
And now, due to those meandering goats, I have reached a word count of One thousand five hundred and ninty something and have probably lost most of my readers after eight hundred! So I will draw a halt to my ramblings as I have other things to do on this spring Sunday (cycling my bike for example).
Coming soon: When Penny and I actually cycle the Greenway and I promise to not to step off the beaten track …..