NORTHERN IRELAND GREENWAYS
Started in 2012, the Northern Ireland Greenways project has raised awareness of former railways, inland waterway paths and new ideas to link the country in a new traffic-free network.
OUR NEW WEBSITE
We’ve given over 60 potential greenway projects, including those which made it into a £150m government strategy, individual pages. You can find progress updates, images of the disused railways, and where to get more information.
WHAT IS A GREENWAY?
“Greenways are traffic-free routes connecting communities to all kinds of destinations for commuting, everyday journeys or leisure and recreation.” Strategic Plan for Greenway, Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure, 2016
At the turn of the century, Northern Ireland didn’t have any “greenways”. We had some excellent traffic-free pathways such as the Lagan Towpath, Newry Canal Towpath and many more ancient green paths and rights of way. In 2008, Ireland’s first greenway was created between Belfast and Comber. It was a perfect mix of a former railway route, still owned by the government, which had been used as a series of informal walkways for decades, and a sewer project which meant investing in the route. Local campaigners, Sustrans and government authorites came together and made the Comber Greenway.
The Comber Greenway has been a template for greenway development across the island, visited by those creating projects such as the Great Western Greenway in Mayo. It is both an urban and rural greenway, starting deep in the dense population of East Belfast, linking community hubs, shopping centres, schools and even the seat of government at Stormont. It provides access to the countryside, a relaxing traffic-free start to longer journeys for intrepid cyclists, or a destination for a cup of tea and scone in the cafes of Comber.
It supports dog walking, jogging, leisure walks, cycle commuting, chatting, an escape for mindfulness, a trip to the playground – there’s even a cinema on the route. It creates space for people to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, or simply find a different way to navigate the city.
Greenways link towns with cities with villages with amazing places. We don’t have nearly enough of them. They benefit public health, they play their part in reducing congestion, they attract visitors from nearby or from abroad, they support local employment opportunities, they reduce rural isolation and can provide a focal point for community activity and development.
We think greenways are great. (But then, we would say that.)
1,000KM OF POSSIBILITIES
This project started small – a love of railways and abandoned places, and wondering why the Comber Greenway wasn’t copied elsewhere. After five years of blogging and research, the Northern Ireland Government recognised the potential of the vision, wrapped it in a 25 year strategy and put a £150 million price tag.
The journey of local communities realising the ambition of a 1,000km network of traffic-free pathways across the country has only begun.
FEATURED GREENWAY PROJECTS THIS MONTH
UPDATES AND ALERTS
13 March 2018: Ulster Farmers Union – “Farmers are not anti-greenways. We recognise the environmental benefits they can bring, such as helping to prevent soil erosion. We also understand the role they can play in developing tourism, and the economic benefits of increased visitors can make to rural areas. However, we are keen to ensure that all farmers affected by such projects are involved at an early stage and treated fairly throughout all stages of the planning, development and construction phases. With local authorities failing to engage effectively and collaborate with farmers, the UFU believes that the success of Greenway projects is limited.”
11 March 2018 1.25am: Compromises to get launched – image display details are sketchy site-wide (see gallery below), Strabane is missing a greenway to Letterkenny (sorry westies), Craigavon Black Paths aren’t properly mapped, hardly anything has been smell checked, broken linsk abound and the ‘Compromises to get launched‘ update isn’t even exhaustive.
10 March 2018: Alerted by @richardmoore127 on Twitter (thanks!) North Down and Ards Borough Council are holding a series of pre-application public events on greenway projects in their area. These are:
- Comber to Newtownards Greenway, Comber Leisure Centre, Tue 13 Mar 2018 (14:00–19:00)
- Newtownards to North Down Coastal Path Greenway, Londonderry Park, Thu 19 Apr 2018 (09:30-18:30)
- Holywood to Bangor Greenway and Bangor to Donaghadee Greenway, Aurora Complex, Wed 25 Apr 2018 (11:00-18:00)
10 March 2018: Hey, this new Northern Ireland Greenways site has only just launched, so we’re going to build this bit up slowly! In the meantime, there’s a big favour to ask. Most new websites have teething problems and there’s likely to be many mistakes, errors and things which have been missed in the the rush to get launched. If you notice any errors, or think there’s a good link or something which could be added to a project page, drop a line through the contact us page and we’ll get busy improving things!
One of the genuine pleasures of running this project is visiting the abandoned track beds of the former railways and photographing the scene. Some of these places are haunting, some are uniquely beautiful. Many local photographers have been there before, and we’ve leaned on their work to share some wonderful images of the former railways and potential future greenways. Each project page has photos relevant to that area, but here are some of the best to inspire you..