Bannfoot: Bridging the divide

Bridging the divide is a series of articles proposing three investments which can boost active travel by linking communities divided only by the cost of a bridge. As the River Bann flows into Lough Neagh, a former crossing point has fallen into memory – now a traffic-free bridge could link more than just two small settlements, it could complete a missing link in tourist trail surrounding Lough Neagh.

Bannfoot Bridge

Bannfoot is a small village situated by the point where the Upper Bann meets Lough Neagh. The sleepy scene which greets visitors today betrays the historic importance of this waterway to the economy of this part of Ireland.

Raymond Okonski [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Looking at the narrow gap across the Bann (photo by Raymond Okonski)
The Upper Bann was once a critical link from inland agriculture and production around Lough Neagh to the sea trade port at Newry. The Newry Canal which opened in 1742 supported barge traffic on the 30 mile trip.

“Before the modern improvements on roads and wheel carriages, this navigation was of more value than it appears at the present time.”
A Nimmo, Tidal Harbours Commission, Appendix, 1846

The canal (which has long fallen into disuse and disrepair, and is better known these days as a popular ‘greenway’ route) was for a time a key economic corridor in north-east Ireland.

By Albert Bridge (http://www.geograph.ie/photo/898688) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Geograph.ie
Cyclist passing under Steenson’s Bridge on the Newry Canal (photo by Albert Bridge)

“The Newry Canal, located in Northern Ireland, was built to link the Tyrone coalfields (via Lough Neagh and the River Bann) to the Irish Sea at Carlingford Lough near Newry. It was the first summit level canal to be built in Ireland or Great Britain, and pre-dated the more famous Bridgewater Canal by nearly thirty years and Sankey Brook by fifteen years.”
Inland Waterways Association of Ireland

The route from Lough Neagh through to Newry –  which links with the Ulster Canal through Coalisland into Armagh, and the Lagan Canal to Belfast – began at Bannfoot.

columbkille
The Bannfoot Ferry jetties still visible, looking here from the western Maghery side shore

Bannfoot (originally called Charlestown) has been a crossing point for centuries. A ferry is mentioned at least as far back as 1760 and a ferry service operated up until 1979 – that’s more than 200 years of recorded daily crossings.

The NI Screen Digital Film Archive has a delightful 8mm colour film by John Stevenson, a businessman from Portadown, showing how the ferry moved passengers and (very brave) car drivers between the banks.

However, today the Bannfoot Ferry’s jetties stand silent, and point to the anomaly of the Upper Bann – it’s the only river anywhere on the shores of Lough Neagh which isn’t immediately spanned. The river meanders for a good 9 miles through the County Armagh countryside until it encounters a pedestrian-friendly bridge in Portadown.

The anomaly is stark when you look at the disconnection between neighbouring communities. Maghery and Bannfoot lie just three miles apart along the line of the Columbkille Road. But to get from A to B requires a shocking round trip of 18 miles by bicycle, or 16 miles by car using the motorway.

UpperBannBridge.png

Public transport is an option between Maghery and Bannfoot, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Translink’s website gives only three journey options on a weekday, the quickest involving  an eye-watering four buses taking one hour and 58 minutes. That may be seven minutes shorter than the quickest Belfast to Dublin train service, but the Enterprise is travelling over 100 miles rather than our three miles in question.

A permanent Bannfoot crossing is unfinished business – the missing piece of the jigsaw in the (currently) 113 mile Loughshore Trail which uses mostly traffic-vacant country roads. A pointed reference is made on the Cycle NI website:

“This route does not follow along the Lough all the way, it veers off further away from the Lough passing through the town of Portadown, crosses the River Bann and back up again towards the Lough heading to Kinnego.”

A similar traffic-free bridge in Maghery was installed in 2007 which turned an eight mile diversion to Tamnamore and back into a joyous skip (or pedal) over the River Blackwater.

There is potential for modal shift – albeit very slight – but it does leave Lurgan, Lisburn, Belfast within striking distance from the south-west corner of Lough Neagh. The car trip from  Maghery to Lurgan using the motorway is about 20 minutes – the equivalent cycle over a Bannfoot Bridge would be just 50 minutes.

Stephen McNally, one of the organisers of the popular Lap the Lough event, thinks the bridge would be transformative for the area:

“It would be a much safer, quicker, quieter and picturesque crossing than navigating through Portadown town centre.

“There are over 20 cycle clubs within 20 miles of the Bannfoot area and probably a further 50 clubs within regular striking distance but none venture this way because crossing isn’t an option… cyclists like a loop. Potentially that’s 5,000+ regular cyclists of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, including youth & families who could be crossing at the Bannfoot producing no emissions, no noise and no impact to the roads or the local community.

“I understand there may be concerns from local residents but they can look toward the bridge at Maghery, operating now for 10 years. It’s been transformative for the area with walkers, cyclists and anglers crossing daily and no negative impact whatsoever.

“A footbridge at Bannfoot would make the Loughshore Trail a much better proposition for tourists too – like many local cyclists they’ve had to deal with the incredulity of cycling to the Bannfoot expecting a bridge – there’s permanent proof with one sorry fellow on Google Maps shown turning back in dismay.

“It’s a time for building bridges and closing divisions both geographical and historical – I think the appetite is there.”

Enhancing a great local cycling network

While the Department for Infrastructure’s Greenway Network Plan only includes the main Coalisland – Dungannon – Portadown – Lurgan route (follow it in yellow in the picture below) the original NI Greenways vision map included consideration of opening up the historic canal routes closer to Lough Neagh.

The potential for cycling around this area is immense – linking quiet country roads to the existing Broad Water four mile path near Moira to the west, the existing Coalisland Canal Towpath to the east and perhaps a fully reopened Ulster Canal south towards the Fermanagh lakes and the island-wide inland waterway network.

greenway1
Original NI Greenways map considered these routes close to Lough Neagh

It’s also within the orbit of the best urban cycling network in Ireland – the Black Paths which weave their way through Portadown, Craigavon and Lurgan, giving area residents virtually traffic-free access to the Rushmere Centre and back.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FCapturingCraigavon%2Fvideos%2F1850488465228499%2F&show_text=0&width=560

There may be another way to look at the current mad diversion though Portadown – it brings cyclists into contact with heavy traffic on the congested Bann bridge. Outside of Belfast and Derry, the Portadown / Craigavon / Lurgan area has the most reported cycling collisions in Northern Ireland.

Connecting local rivals

Two GAA clubs play on either side of the Bannfoot crossing – 2016 Armagh Senior Football Champions Maghery Sean MacDermott’s and High Moss Sarsfields GFC in Derrytrasna. The direct road with the addition of the Bannfoot Bridge would put exactly 5 miles between the two clubs. But it takes a 16 mile trip through Portadown by car for the several age groups from the senior teams to the under 14s to play the fixture at either ground.

The bridge would enable players and families from the whole area to cycle and walk between the grounds for matches – saving a lot of petrol and adding the possibility of group cycles from one ground to the other. The bicycle trip between the grounds would actually be quicker than the car trip through Portadown – another example of why the bridge is a no-brainer?

Charlie Monaghan, Chairman of the Lough Neagh Partnership said of the bridge concept:

“We would very much welcome the development of the Bannfoot Bridge as it would lead to the linking of communities along the southern shore of lough Neagh”.

The Bannfoot bridge is an opportunity to celebrate our industrial heritage with a permanent crossing at this point of historic significance. It would restitch and strengthen natural links between the communities of the Loughshore in two artificially and unnecessarily remote area. A cycling cafe could do roaring trade with the potential passing pelotons, and tourists would find even more reasons to visit this beautiful area.


What do you think of the Bannfoot Bridge idea? Please take the time to leave your comments below and share through your social networks. Election season is a great time to contact your local MLA candidates to ask for their support!

(Note – many thanks to the organisers of The Fréd Festival for highlighting this particular idea!)

73 thoughts on “Bannfoot: Bridging the divide

  1. Great read and delighted you’re covering this missing link. The lack of a bridge here really closes off these two areas. I live in east Tyrone and often cycle across to Maghery and beyond where there are some lovely, quiet roads to the south of the lough. Another benefit of a bridge would be to open access to Oxford Island/Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. As it is, I’ve never cycled there from home as it’s too far there and back via Portadown (certainly on

    1. Just back from Westport at the weekend, having completed their Greenway between Westport-Newport-Mulranny-Achill. Great example of how a linked up cycle / walking route can promote an area. Bridge at Bann Foot much needed.

  2. (oops sent too soon)… a hybrid bike), but this return journey would be very doable with the bridge.

    Two points. The Blackwater cycle bridge was built in 2001 not 2007: http://www.maghery.com/archive/archiveitem.asp?id=17. The 2007 one is a different bridge at Maghery. Also I wouldn’t say the Coalisland canal path is very cycle friendly in its current state, due to the stony surface along much of it and the number of awkward gates. You don’t see many cyclists using it.

    Great post. I’ll sign the petition right now.

  3. So incredibly overdue and needed, cyclists having to negotiate Portadown to access the “other side” is a major stumbling block for a lot of riders, a bridge would open both sides to so many people with little or no downside.

  4. The loal residents are sick to the back teeth of this .in a vote 99% of the community said no to a bridge .we dont want through traffic in our village,we are the ones that have to travel the excess miles if we need to,and galdly do so.we have no crime,and are small roads are safe for dog walking and cyclists.a bridge would ruin our community.so stop pretending that you want a bridge to benefit the community,it would do completely the opposite.if a bridge is that important build it at the milk quay or irwins quay and leave the local residents alone to enjoy their country way of life……….from a resident …..sick of others thinking they know whats best for an area they know nothing about.!!!!!

    1. Roger, thanks for taking the time to comment. Like most articles on NI Greenways it’s an idea for discussion, and it’s important to get opposing views. Would like to know more about the 99% vote (couldn’t find anything online), about the crime a footbridge would create and what extra “traffic” would be generated? I’ll give you the intention is clear to help more people ramble and cycle through the area, to go from one side of the river to the other, but it’s definitely *not* a bridge for vehicles – that would absolutely cause an increase in vehicle traffic through the local area and would be awful, and opposed by all. Is it possible to expand on why a footbridge would “ruin our community”? Ta.

      1. This idea has been blocked by the derryinver community group various times and has been to the vote with counselors present.Carla Lockhart has already been spoken to about this new attempt.I think if 99%of the community don’t want it others should respect their decision and their way of life.i have spoken to around 20 local residents already today,all of whom are very angry about this matter.

      2. Thanks again Roger. Just some comments addressing the crime, traffic and “ruining our community” bits would help everyone to understand and respect the “very angry” reaction to a 30 metre footbridge, which would do the job of the ferry which operated here for over 200 years. Ta.

    2. Well said Roger! The people who petition for a bridge, or support the idea of a bridge have no respect for the Bannfoot community at all!

      1. Louise, many thanks for taking the time and effort to comment. It would really help everyone if you could list the main objections to a bridge. Roger mentioned crime, traffic and ruining the village, but didn’t actually put meat on those bones. Could you help us out – we’d really appreciate it. Ta.

      2. Louise – I don’t think it shows a lack of respect to have an open, grown-up debate about a topic that people have a strong opinion on. It’s would be good to hear both sides of the debate.

        There’s clearly a huge demand from the wider Bannfoot community to be able to cross the Bann at this point – on foot/cycle – with little or no impact. The wider community struggle to see why there is such strong resistance and it would be good if someone from the Derryinver Community Group could articulate their objections.

  5. This is my last comment as this matter as i and everyone else that lives here are sick of the idea.the mouth of the river bann is beautiful.many paintings and drawings of the area have been done.a gorgeous 50metre steel bridge would definitely enhance the ares natural beauty (it would have to be very be as large boats use the bann).so please respect the wishes and vote of the local residents and if you really want a bridge build it on up the river abit where it would not affect the area.

    1. Thanks Roger for your time and patience. Agreed that there may be a visual impact – this has to be considered and may warrant a bridge being ruled out should an environmental impact assessment not stack up. We’re on the same page there (I think). I’m still none the wiser about the crime, traffic and ruination bits which seemed to be causing the most anger. Just to confirm, is this 99% vote (and anger) representative of all residents in the local area on both sides of the river? Hope you can take the time to help us all understand the thinking behind your strongly held (but still not logically expressed) personal wishes. Ta.

  6. It should be left to the local community to decide. Anyone who knows this area will know what a beautiful little village Charlestown is, and also that a route of any kind at this point, will go directly through their main street. Northern Ireland is fortunate in having some of the best and most picturesque areas of the UK for cycling and walking. In fact Oxford Island nature Reserve is only a couple of mile down the road and in my opinion it is vastly underused by the great facilities it has. Perhaps if you want a bridge you could look at another area further down the Bann and leave the people of Charleston to decide how their own area should be.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Any idea like this is always down to local support (or not). There’s clearly very strong opposition to a bridge (is it only from Charlestown residents?) but what’s tough to nail down is the actual reason. It would really help everyone understand if someone would lay it out straight. Would a ferry be okay? Someone else referenced crime. And traffic. And it would ruin the community. Also the look of the area. I get the last one, I can’t for the life of me understand the others, but I want to. Ta.

    2. The route doesn’t necessarily have to go through the main street – there are ways around that. Everyone simply wants some way of crossing the river – the way the did back in the 1700s.
      If the residents of Charlestown don’t want them coming through the main street then I’m sure an alternative route could be found for them – they don’t need 2 lanes of tarmac with street lights and road signs, a simple stone path would do the job just as well.

  7. Good to hear both sides of the argument – most people (locals included) weren’t aware what the specific concerns of the Charlestown residents were – so it’s good to see that crime, road safety and maintaining the aesthetic qualities of the area are important. I think they are all reasonable concerns but not insurmountable.

    The communities beyond Charlestown are open to the discussion and most communities on the Columbkille side are as well.

    Perhaps there’s some middle ground with regards to the location?
    There’s also history of hand operated ferries – would this be an option worth looking in to?

    Surely these are discussions worth having?

  8. Do we know if the opening of the Blackwater bridge at Maghery in 2001 has seen an increase in crime/anti-social activity? I’m reasonably local to it and am not aware of this (but willing to be corrected). It’s very well used by the local community e.g. to avail of the playpark facilities at Maghery Country Park.

  9. Judging by the comments here the bannfoot residents will be demonised for objecting to a bridge, we shouldn’t have to justify our position.
    The article didn’t mention that there was another crossing point years ago, some 3 miles from the Bannfoot, would this not be a suitable alternative?

    1. Thanks for the comment Neill. The bridge is an idea. Ideas are debated. Debate helps people weigh the pros and cons of ideas to decide if they’re worth pursuing. The article puts forward a lot of potential benefits. Criticism of the bridge is greatly welcomed. It’ll help to explore the issues. Can you help with this debate by setting out the reasons why you object to it? Would a ferry work better? A bridge elsewhere? What is the big issue with this bridge? There’s no demonisation (wouldn’t be allowed here) nor anyone forcing you to justify anything – it would be great if you could help me and others to understand what the actual problem is. Ta.

      1. I live in the area and am also a frustrated cyclist. A link along the southern shore is a must to enable cycle tourists to enjoy the area. Is thee an open discussion on this topic

  10. A bridge is a means to accessing other communities and many years ago when Willie Stevenson operated the ferry at the Bannfoot, people used it to socialise with their neighbours in the wider community and indeed many folk met their life partners and many friendships were created which are still evident to this day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this could be used as a positive exercise to unite communities from both traditions

  11. I live in Charlestown Village, it’s quiet, it’s trustworthy and it’s a great place to raise my kids. I’ve lived here my whole life and the idea of a bridge has come up time and time again. This idea is always brought up by associations that have nothing to do with the local community and by local I mean immediate, as in on our doorstep. I bring my kids down there for nature walks, now imagine increased traffic turning up leaving cyclists and other people off to cross the bridge and meet up with others on the other side, essentially a drop off point that won’t just bring cyclists (as you seem to think) but anyone that wants a quicker crossing. These visitors will also increase problems like litter in an area that deserves respect as a beauty spot. The local council also recently spent a considerable amount of money cleaning up and adding picnic areas, interpretive panels etc to enhance the area, any footbridge would require this to be bulldozed, wasting the money, time and effort invested. You mentioned crime, currently the village is accessible from one road and the river forms a cul desac, limiting the options for criminals and vandals to act unobserved. If you add in a bridge you increase the number of places where these people can access and target the village and surrounding area. Not to mention that a footbridge is only a staging point for a traffic bridge. Now ask yourself, would you endorse any measure that’s only outcome is to increase traffic around your home? No! I know the residents here, we are not being difficult, we’re just acting in the best interests of our community! You probably wouldn’t want me campaigning for this on your doorstep either, best wishes Rebecca Dickson

  12. I totally agree with Rebecca… I, myself grew up in the Bannfoot and my Dad still lives there. There is only one road there and back which means that crime is very low. Add in an alternative route and I can only imagine the result. There was an earlier reference to GAA. Clubs on both sides of the river… well anyone who knows this area definitely knows that walking to the one near Derrytrasna wouldn’t be for the faint hearted…. it’s not a five minute walk from the river…. the suggestion of walking to it is quite ludicrous. Outsiders seem to want a short cut with no regard for the residents. As for cyclists they are the scourge of the roads. They have no regard or consideration for other road users. Leave the Bannfoot alone… I remember the ferry well and it didn’t ‘ferry’ that many cars across as there were far less cars on the roads back then. The road to the Bannfoot isn’t the best…. it’s classified as a ‘C’ road and gets little maintenance. I use it regularly to visit my Dad and I can’t see the DoE making funds available to maintain it if there was more traffic. Surely there are better locations for a bridge along the river rather than at the Bannfoot. It’s a lovely unspoiled beauty spot that I love to go ‘home’ to. Surely it’s up to the residents to decide what happens. Outsiders don’t have to live we new developments but the residents do.

    1. All really good points and great to see the community getting involved in the debate.

      RE: GAA I think the suggestion here was cycling as a possibility.
      Cyclists being the ‘scourge of the road’ is probably a personal opinion and possibly a debate for another time.

      I’m failing to see why the number of cars visiting the area would increase if there was a footbridge? The bridge at Maghery attracts no cars at all – fishermen being the exception. Walkers and cyclists account for all the crossings. The only cars visiting are anglers, who would be visiting regardless. Any fear that people would be dropping off/picking up never materialised. You might see 1-2 cyclists every hour. That’s about it. There’s been no increase in litter either. No pollution, no noise.

      The crime figures show that both sides of the Bann have roughly the same crime rate – very low. I don’t think a crossing will result in a crimewave coming over from the Maghrey side.
      Crime rates didn’t rise when the Blackwater crossing opened – if anything they dropped.
      https://www.police.uk/northern-ireland/Lurgan/crime/2013-07/violent-crime/

      I’m sure a crossing could be gated and locked at night if that were a fear.
      There are sensible, common sense solutions that could be explored.

      As for it being the thin end of a wedge resulting in a car crossing – there’s simply no desire/interest for that at the Blackwater crossing and would never be an option. It’s been oped for 16 years and this has never been proposed. The costs would be astronomical.

      There’s no question that the residents on both sides of the river should have an input and the residents at Charlestown should have their concerns addressed – position of crossing, style of crossing, alternative routes for cyclists, guarantees about no future car crossing etc.

      1. Great points made Stephen. I also don’t see why traffic would greatly increase from the introduction of a foot/cycle bridge. It hasn’t done at the Blackwater bridge. Logically those calling for a bridge are cycling from a further distance and just don’t want to have to go through Portadown to enjoy the lough area. They wouldn’t be coming by car anyway.
        One issue would be the state of the road on the Columkille side, it is terrible due to it not actually going anywhere so it probably wouldn’t be safe for cyclists at the minute (the Charlestown side is very nice). But if a bridge was built I am sure the road could be improved.
        I am certain the residents on both sides (of which I am one) cannot object to a footbridge that brings visitors to our lovely part of the world. It wouldn’t be an invasion. I agree with Marie, united both sides wouldn’t be the end of the world in this day and age.

  13. According to Google maps, the distance between GAA clubs, by road is 15 miles, roughly a twenty minute drive by car . Assuming that Chris Froome doesn’t sign for either club, the 5 mile journey via a bridge would take 30 minutes, so an extra 10 minutes each way, plus you have to play a game of football in between?

  14. From the N.I – Wild website, discussing Bushcraft course ran by Craigavon Council:

    “The only snag is that it is not safe to leave cars at Maghery as there has been a lot of vandalism by the locals, apparently a few years ago there was a thriving caravan site which was abandoned after threats from the locals”

    1. Hi Neill – to keep both you and this site correct, the quote above isn’t the view of either the NI Wild website or Craigavon Council (or it’s successor ABC) – the quote is a personal opinion from a single poster called “Nightjar”. Ta.

  15. From the Canoe N.I. website

    “On day two you can either choose to explore the shores of Lough Neagh or simply return to your car at Maghery. Unfortunately due to anti-social behaviour in the area it is not advisable to leave your car overnight at Maghery Country Park,”

    1. Hi Neill – thanks for taking the time to comment. Are you saying the anti-social behaviour in the Maghery area is something which has been caused by a bridge there, or something you’re saying will definitely spread to Bannfoot if a bridge is installed there? Making your comments clear for other readers would be more useful than dog whistling. Ta.

    2. Hi Neill,

      CanoeNI confirmed that the “anti-social behaviour” quoted on their site dated from 2008.
      They “still feel a word of warning is prudent” for visiting canoeists.

  16. My point is that anti-social behaviour is just one of my concerns. No one is suggesting that cyclists would be involved in such activities, but it has been clearly demonstrated that these facilities can become a focal point for vandalism and other illegal activities and once the bridge is built it would be very difficult for it to be removed

    1. Declan McAlinden clarifies the above statement – now on record as saying:

      ” I’m in favour of a foot/cycle bridge, I was referring to gates being closed at night not park!
      …I think it would be great for whole/wider community, tourism, health/wellbeing etc”

      via @Declan_McA on twitter.

  17. Councillor Declan McAlinden highlighted the incident.

    He said: “[I’m] disgusted at the abuse of a local amenity. Evidence of drug taking and anti social behaviour have been found at the Bayshore picnic site in Derrytrasna.

    “I have also found a wallet which I will be passing onto the PSNI,”

    He added: “This site is used on a daily basis and many young children play here. If this continues I’m afraid the council will have no other option than to close it

    1. Hi Neill – good to see you contributing to the discussion.

      Are you saying that we should close all public parks and amenity sites, including the new park at the Charlestown side of the Bannfoot – which has apparently been vandalised recently? The vandals no doubt used a car rather than foot/cycle? Also they didn’t use a bridge to get there.
      Should we give into vandals and anti social behaviour?

      Each and every public space/building suffers some some form of vandalism at some point – including schools and churches – no one advocates closing these down.
      The Council threatening to close public spaces because of vandalism is as much of a concern to be honest – surely they should be trying to root out the problem rather than punish the local community with closure?

      The bridge at Maghery was not the cause of vandalism/crime in that area. It’s not a focal point for vandalism or crime in that area. Crime if anything has gone down since the bridge was built.

      I’m trying to get some clarity on the CanoeNI website as to when this was published and when it was last updated – I’ll post it as soon as I have it.

  18. Strange, when I enter Maghery and Bannfoot into Google maps I get a distance of 16 not 18 miles, looks like we’ve knocked 2 miles off your journey already!

    1. As referenced in article, 16 miles is the most suitable route by car (using the motorway) while the 18 mile route is the most suitable by bicycle or on foot (given neither of those options is allowed to use the motorway)

  19. For anyone entering this years lap of the lough and worried about the extra mileage, the distance from Greenisland Road to Lurgan is 13.7 miles per google maps, if there was a bridge the distance from Bannfoot to Lurgan would be 9.5 miles. That’s right, an extra 4.2 miles

  20. are you using the same google maps as I am?
    In the from section type in Greenisland Road, in the to section type in Bannfoot, then hit the little bicycle symbol, ( its the one beside the aeroplane)

    1. Click on Maghery, click on Bannfoot, click on the bicycle – I’ve kindly rounded down from 18.4 miles. It’s 17.1 using the direct Dungannon Road, but the calmer back roads are far more appropriate for cycling in this lovely area. Next.

  21. oh and buy the way, “the sorry fellow on Google Maps”? I recognise him, used to meet the guy 2-3 times a week on the road down to the Bannfoot, I can only assume that from being there so often he knew there wasn’t a bridge

    1. I don’t think so – just a simple text comments section AFAIK. I think what you might be building up to is a blog post setting out the case against the bridge. That would be most welcome and helpful – I fear the comments here are just rerunning the back and forth on Twitter, which didn’t really clarify the reasons for your objections. I’d be very happy to link to any blog you write from this page, to help readers see both sides and make up their minds. Ta.

  22. Neill, from your posts you seem to be suggesting that there is only anti-social behaviour on one side of the river and if a bridge was built then it would spread to the other side? I don’t know whether you live on the Charlestown side or the Columcille side but suggesting that the building of a bridge would create vandalism out of thin air on one side is not helpful to the debate. As regards whether cyclists would be saving 12, 15 or 100 miles on their journey is neither here nor there.

  23. im not suggesting this behaviour is exclusive to one side, I have given examples occurring in Maghery and Derrytrasna.
    My point is that council facilities can become focal points for illegal and anti-social activities and I don’t want my kids coming across what was found at the picnic area.

  24. I appreciate that Neill and I get your worry living so close to the river. But drinkers and druggies do their thing at either side of the river as it is. Having a bridge won’t stop that happening. If anything if the council had a bridge to maintain they may pay more attention to the area.

  25. It’s a no brainer to build the bridge and help keep the ‘scourge of the roads’ (as a previous poster referred to cyclists) off the main roads.

    Is it just my reading of things, or are all the NO BRIDGE HERE posters from Banfoot/Charlestown? I haven’t read any NO comments from anyone saying they are from the Columbkille side of the river.

    The bridge at Maghery into Tyrone is an absolute joy for cyclists and walkers and as someone who cycles over it regularly throughout the year the only other people in the vicinity of it are anglers who might wander over to the other side if their luck isn’t so good at their ‘own side’.

    I’ve never seen any delinquents or other unsavoury characters at the Maghery bridge and that includes even late at night during the summer months when I could be out cycling, and even in the winter months when I might be out late in the evenings with lights on my bike.

    If there are no delinquents at Bannfoot today then this bridge will not bring any that way. It has already been mentioned that its tranquillity is in part due to its remoteness and I have no doubt it would stay that way. I have cycled to both sides of the crossing site many times over the years and thought to myself “if only there was a bridge here to link these 2 communities…”. I’ve also cycled in the last 8 Lap The Lough events and thought wouldn’t it be great if an army engineer corps or some similar group could build a temporary bridge or pontoon for 1 day only wouldn’t it be a great thing and mean 2000 cyclists on that day don’t have to cycle through Portadown.

    Charlestown is an absolute hidden treasure and the people in that area are rightly proud of how clean & tidy it is, and they should be ‘showing it off to the world’, even if that world is 10,20,100 cyclists per day.

    I have vague memories of taking the ferry as a child at the end of the 70s, probably as a novelty ride before it closed and wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a permanent link there again for cyclists and walkers.

    Remember, nobody is campaigning for a road bridge – all they are asking for is a pedestrian/cyclist bridge like there is between Maghery and Tyrone, and I bet that if you ask the households in Maghery & Tyrone has the bridge attracted any delinquents or crime into their areas I would say the answer is no.

    Discussion is the way forward and good to see all opinions here.

  26. What about a crossing near (just slightly north of) the M1 motorway bridge (or actually bolted along the north side of it)? Still better than a detour into Portadown .

      1. I don’t know, there just seemed convenient small roads either side of Bann north of the motorway and tacking/bolting a cycleway on side of the motorway bridge might possibly be lower cost than a separate cycle brige and avoid land purchase issues?

  27. I recently visited the bannfoot river picnic area. The weather was fine and As I passed through the village I noticed the Village welcome banner with its proud proclamation of its tidy village status. This Welcome statement would appear to be in Stark contrast to the current village mindset laid bare in these comments.
    At the river there was no one making use of the picnic area but at the other side of the river, The Maghery side. A young couple sat talking and enjoying the early spring sunshine. I wondered to myself that if there was a bridge in place.. That same young couple might well take advantage of the easy access to the sleepy village, steal across and wreck the place. Then I thought what a totally rediculous situation this is. I live at the Trasna crossroads and many times I witness cycling groups having to turn left and head for Portadown instead of crossing the river Bann and the Blackwater to explore the Southern lough shore and the Sperrin region Their access denied due to the lack of a bridge at Bannfoot. A few years ago the Giro d Italia started out in Belfast and galvanised the country in support of cycling. I followed the event on my bike and there were many great sights witnessed. One great memory is the PSNI motorcycle outriders leading the event ‘high fiving’ the large crowd of supporters in Keady. That’s what cycling can do for the country. Build the bridge

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