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by | Aug 15, 2023 | CYCLIST.IE

Cyclist.ie members’ account of the trip to Waterford

Just a month after the inaugural Erasmus+ gathering in Corella on the Generations Pedaling for Inclusion and Climate Action project, the second “Learning, Teaching and Training” gathering took place from 22 to 27 June 2023. It was hosted by Newtown School in Waterford city, with Karen Keogh from their teaching staff curating a diverse and brilliantly organised programme of activities. 

In this article, four members of the Cyclist.ie team reflect on what was an action-packed trip spanning the themes of Social Inclusion, Climate Action, Intergenerational Relationships and Urban Cycling Promotion (and you can read more about the themes in our article from October 2022). Each of our four reporters – Denis, Allison, Jo and Hugh – cover one of the full days.

Just to note here that we were delighted that members of Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC) came into the city to meet with the Spanish delegation for a convivial evening the night before the group travelled to the south east. And the Spanish visitors also managed to squeeze in an expert walking tour of Dublin, led by Martin Quinn (a member of DCC himself), before hopping on the coach to Waterford. 

As we have said previously, Cyclist.ie is proud to be part of this Erasmus+ project and to be forging strong relationships with the other six partner organisations from four EU countries. 

Friday 23 June – Denis McAuliffe 
Many enjoyable events took place on the opening day, but what stands out to me was Keith Lemon, the Principal of Newtown School, welcoming us and officiating at the tree planting ceremony in the grounds of the school. Before planting the oak tree sapling, he said – “Wherever you may go and whatever you might do, remember that the mighty oak was once a nut too”, a saying that I have never heard before but worthy of recognition. 

This was followed by a walk from Newtown school to GROW HQ, an award-winning organic garden and working model of a sustainable food system – see here. While even though it rained on our way and on arrival, it was well worth the effort as we got to avail of an “all you can eat” in a three minute fresh organic strawberry picking and eating competition, a tour of the gardens, fresh scones, homemade red currant and strawberry jam, fennel and mint cordial and locally produced apple juice. Our tummies were well looked after and ready for our trip back to the school canteen where we were once again treated to lunch. 

After lunch we had many more fun filled and educational events which my wife and daughter participated in and we were getting to know our Erasmus friends from Poland, Spain, Portugal and of course Ireland with the interactive based ethos of the programme.

For me the highlight of the day was the transition from Picasso to Viking – our final workshop of the evening was with the amazing team from Deise Medieval. This comprised a fantastic blend of activities and information, and a living history workshop. It was particularly nice to see my daughter Danielle so engaged, who by now had become a Viking warrior and during a Viking battle she managed to fight her way through no less than three waves of opposing warriors! One of the trainers in battle later mentioned to me that he wouldn’t want to meet her on a dark night (or should that be knight!?). It was indeed such an interesting way to finish off the first day of a well enjoyed and educational Erasmus experience. My daughter Danielle made many new friends and it was somewhat of an achievement being the oldest person on the trip and my daughter being the youngest – you could say that we covered both sides of the aging spectrum. 

The following days were filled from beginning to end with multiple trips and events of which, no doubt, my Cyclist.ie partners do justice in their own recording of their most memorable moments of their time spent in Waterford. Hopefully our paths will cross once again at another Cyclist.ie Erasmus educational event.

Denis Mc Auliffe
Vice Chair of Ireland’s first planned Greenway, The Great Southern Trail
http://www.southerntrail.net/
Now known as The Limerick Greenway
https://www.limerick.ie/greenway 
On behalf of Catherine, Denis and Danielle McAuliffe.

Saturday 24 June – Allison Roberts
After breakfast everyone made their way into the city centre, and the students were divided into teams by country and given €50 per team to come up with outfits for an upcycling fashion show. Meanwhile the adults headed for the Waterford Medieval museum.

First up we were given headsets and got a bit of a history lesson via virtual reality. The VR program was called ‘King of the Vikings’ and I think everyone enjoyed the novelty of VR and graphics, but it may have been a bit hard to follow as it wasn’t available in Spanish or Polish or Portuguese, but I think we all got the gist! Much better was the tour that followed of the ‘Viking Triangle’ which is a very small block in the centre of Waterford.

A few facts that have stayed with me – Waterford is a very Georgian style city with a history of famous architects, the theatre being an example that has tall and wide doors to allow for top hats & hoop dresses. Reginald’s tower on the main waterfront was used as a cell for the drunk & disorderly. The large Viking sword sculpture crafted with a chainsaw was actually made in another county from a tree fallen in one of the big storms, and the sword is complete with tree roots. 

After the tour we had a coffee and the first annual Brompton unfolding competition – Dave Tobin was pronounced winner with his double-handed flip being the move that clinched it.

After lunch at the school everyone boarded the bus for Kilmurrin beach for beach clean up except Mary, Jo, Damien and I who wanted to get the bikes out for a spin. Mary led the way with her electric cargo bike (with dog Teddy along for the ride) followed by the three of us on our beloved Bromptons. It took a fair few hills to get out of Waterford and then we followed what would have been some lovely tree-lined narrow, windy country roads if it hadn’t been for the amount and speed of the motor traffic. Unfortunately a van decided to overtake us on a blind bend just as a car was coming from the opposite direction. The van swerved back in front of us as the car slammed on its brakes and swerved towards the ditch only to be rear-ended by another car behind it which was traveling at speed. Thankfully everyone was OK (the cars weren’t).

We set off again but Teddy (the dog) was itching to stretch his legs so we took a long-cut and walked our bikes through a lovely new park just outside of Dunhill. The Anne Valley Walk was developed as part of a plan to deal with wastewater from the town. It’s a beautiful walk through trees flanked by reed-bed ponds that are filtering the town’s wastewater. 

When we finally made it to Kilmurrin Beach the sand circle art session was already underway, the plan being to recreate the Erasmus+ logo on the beach. The man running it was great and got everyone involved, making lines, tracing each other on the sand, doing slow-mo actions to be captured on the time-lapsed video. We also took a chance to have a dip and eat our packed dinners.

You can watch the time-lapsed sand art video here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1329984940468995/permalink/2819490974851710/ 

Around 7pm we all boarded the bus to head back to town where Pride celebrations were in full swing. Most of us adults stopped in at a patio for some drinks and food and the students had some free time in town before we all made our way slowly back to school for the night. All in all, a great day, weather and activity-wise, with the few of us who had witnessed (and been a bit too close to) the crash being reminded of why so many people don’t feel safe cycling on the roads in Ireland. Thankfully the next day we got to enjoy some much better infrastructure on the greenway.

Allison Roberts
Clonakilty Bike Festival
https://clonakiltybicyclefestival.org/ 

Sunday 25 June – Jo Sachs Eldridge
I loved the eclectic collection of activities that were put on for us. My main motivation for taking part was the opportunity to spend some time with the cycling crew – to have conversations in-person rather than online – but I wasn’t expecting to have so many new and wonderful experiences along the way.

The card workshop in the morning had some brilliant elements – it used plastic and other matter found on the beach and on completion the students all sat in rows facing each other where they ‘speed dated’ while describing their beautiful work of art. As the facilitator explained – often when we create something we don’t get a chance to really look at it or talk about it. Simple but brilliant. 

The Charity Shop Fashion Show was also more impressive and entertaining than I expected. The students put huge effort into their themes and outfits. And the calibre of the judge – a sustainable fashion designer – added another level of appreciation to it all.

I had heard great reports of the Waterford Greenway over the years so I was really looking forward to this activity. And it didn’t disappoint. Kilometres of beautiful scenery – long, majestic coastal sections, acres of farmland and rich hedgerows – all with a smooth surface, plenty of width to chat and overtake and chicanes that would allow any (?) bike to navigate.

The route also includes a number of viaducts and a magical fairy tunnel. Although my favourite bit was through the section of what felt like a tropical forest – shown here.

Even the thunder and lightning storms and heavy showers didn’t take away from the fabulous ride. Karen, the amazing coordinator, had also cleverly arranged for the last torrential downpour to happen while we stopped for lunch. Brilliant!

I did get a puncture along the way but luckily I had just passed the support van when it happened and later Damien patched it up for me – turns out he knows a thing or two about bikes! Thanks Damien!

We finished the day again with some good food and conversation.

All in all, it was a great opportunity to spend time with the gang, meet the other partners, explore Waterford and enjoy lots of Brompton nerdery.

Jo Sachs Eldridge
Leitrim Cycling Festival
https://leitrimcyclingfestival.com/

Monday 26 June – Hugh Raftery
After the workout on the Greenway cycle, we were delighted to have a relatively easy day on Monday. It started with a coach journey to Shanagarry, County Cork where we could rest and enjoy the scenery passing the window. Our destination was Ballymaloe.

First stop was Ballymaloe House. The hotel and farm have been operating using sustainable methods since the 1960s. The head groundskeeper, Tobias (pictured below), gave us a tour of the gardens and he explained how even small changes at home can make a big difference. We should all make some space in our gardens for nature, just leave it alone.

Next stop was Ballymaloe Cookery School. Our host was Lydia Allen. In the kitchens, we were shown how nothing goes to waste – all the ingredients are used to their fullest, an important lesson for home too.

Lydia brought us around the gardens to see where they have corridors for pollinators, and to see the veg growing in the greenhouses. 

After Ballymaloe, we were back on the bus as there was a ceilí mór planned for the evening. We were not disappointed. To start us off, we had some interactive fun with the drama teacher. We were swapping chairs and testing our numeracy; a challenge and good fun at the same time. A surprise on the night was a quick lesson in sign language.  We learnt to sign Somewhere Only We Know, with some help from Danielle for the lyrics. Danielle (age 10) was the youngest participant in the project, accompanied by her dad Denis, the most senior of the Cyclist.ie crew. 

We were then treated to some Irish dancing, performed by four local stars. The talent on display was a super finale. The dancers then lead us all on a few reels, showing us the steps, which we tried to follow. I was certainly out of my comfort zone but gave it a go anyway.

These four days have been a wonderful experience. I learned some tips for social media, shared some of my knowledge, and made some great friends. The activities were great fun, and informative too. I will be using some of the ideas learnt in the future.  

A final reflection for me was that the availability of e-bikes for those less fit or experienced participants for the (40km+) greenway cycle was a real boon – it enabled delegates with different fitness levels to cycle alongside each other and chat and enjoy the amenity together.

Hugh Raftery
Dublin Cycling Campaign
https://www.dublincycling.com/

Some Final Remarks – Damien Ó Tuama
The Waterford leg of the Erasmus+ Generations Pedaling for Inclusion and Climate Action project was a wonderful success. The Cyclist.ie delegates got to spend some quality time with our Continental counterparts, but also with ourselves – a nice contrast from all of the Zoom meetings over the last few years. You can’t beat meeting up in person for plotting and scheming!  

We wish to pay a special thanks again to Karen Keogh and all of the staff from Newtown School for the warm welcome and the fine programme of activities laid on for us. 

We hope that Cristina (from Biciclistas de Corella) and Libia (from IES Estella) are back on track after their respective leg and ankle sprains incurred on the first day of the trip. We look forward to spending time with them and all of our new colleagues at the next Erasmus+ gathering which will take place in Azambuja in Portugal in October 2023. 

Note that you can find more photos from the trip here https://www.facebook.com/BiciclistasdeCorella – a big thanks to Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella for all the great pics.

Finally, we wish to acknowledge the funding support of the European Union without which this Erasmus+ project would not happen.

 

 

Written by Damien Otuama

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