01 Jul 2022

Epic Laois paddle ends in brilliant sunshine on the River Erkina

Erkina Blueway fundraiser

An epic two-month Laois canoeing challenge came to an end last weekend in glorious sunshine on the River Erkina at Woodenbridge over the last weekend in May.

Michael G Phelan and Alison Bailey completed their 60-day tour of Laois on the river as part of a fundraising effort for the Erkina Blueway.

The Woodenbridge Paddlers launch what was initially a 30 Day Paddle Challenge to support the Erkina Blueway Project during lockdown.

Michael and Alison teamed up with the aim of completing a course on the south Laois river each day of April.

The Paddlers say the Erkina Blueway will connect the towns of Rathdowney and Durrow (14km) making it usable for small boats and canoes with associated walking and cycling trails.

The challenge came to an end on Sunday, May 30 with a fun day in the sun on the river for canoe enthusiasts and supporters.
Mr Phelan explained what happened on Sunday.

“We were joined by a number of our sponsors for our grand finale paddle at the Woodenbridge in brilliant sunshine from where we took a trip downriver to Bob’s Bar where on the picnic benches outside refreshments were waiting,” he said.

He was grateful for the support shown for the challenge.

We would like to thank all our sponsors and supporters who made this fundraiser such a huge success in bringing the current total to north of a five-figure sum,” he said.

He looks back with fondness on the last two months and recalled some of the highlights.

“There were many outstanding memories during the challenge. From day one April 1st when we had Paddy Carroll our first wheelchair user on board An Feadán and his fishing story of the one that got away.

“To that great Sunday morning April 11th in the Brewery pond in Rathdowney where historians there say it was a first for canoeing.

“We had the Laois hurlers and County board officials who came along on Sunday 18th April to lend their support.

“On Sunday, April 25th we were delighted to welcome Laois Tourism chairperson Caragh Burns who dropped by to say hello while the following evening Ann Marie Maher LCC and Valerie Case came to the Woodenbridge with a group from Laois Water Safety.

“On May 14th it was off to Wexford and the excitement of meeting the tidal waters of the River Slaney thanks to my good friend from the model county Alex Kelly.

“May 16th saw the renewal of the old Goul Challenge due to the prompting of Laura Mahony. And what an evening that turned out to be.

“Then on Sunday, May 23rd there was the surprise at finding the deep water of the Glosha on the road to Galmoy with Martin McCormack.

“Or an evening spent tracing the source of the Erkina back to Rathpatrick Forest in Co. Kilkenny.

“Then on the final Saturday, I journeyed to Vicarstown with Willie Hyland (Midland Escape) to paddle the canal and view progress on the Barrow Blueway.

“And there were the many who came along to experience paddling for their first time during those 60 days. All in all, it was a truly fantastic experience.

“We now look forward to working with all of the relevant authorities to deliver this exciting project in the coming years,” concluded Mr Phelan.

Scroll through the pictures above taken by Alf Harvey.

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