For many generations of Wicklow people, the coastal walk out to Wicklow Head Lighthouse has been a source of exercise, pleasure and previously, for the light keepers, their pathway to work. The path skirts Wicklow Golf Club and the latter part, farmland. It is beautiful and has many features to attract sightseers, nature lovers, walkers and romantics of all ages. However, in the recent past this path has been blocked, which has created problems for people searching the coast for a probable drowned loved one.
There is a long established right of way along the path, which has been used on a daily basis, weather permitting. A number of years ago, the local council erected signs and a barrier at the Glen Turn (about half way along the path) to warn walkers that the cliff was dangerous and prevent access. This was soon dismantled by locals who were very upset at the intervention of their councillors in restricting acess to their cherished walkway. It has remained down ever since.
In the last few months, another barrier suddenly appeared out near the end of the walk, where it joins the Lighthouse access road. A crude barbed wire fence was erected on an old stone wall where walkers exited the coastal path. In addition to the wire, a dense mix of oils and animal fats was applied to the posts to upset unwary walkers who might touch same. This was again dismantled and access re-established.
More recently, as in the last week or so, a more comprehensive set of barriers has been erected at the same exit area, which all but makes it impossible for walkers to get through. The farmer in question is also apparently taking photographs of “trespassers” and notifying the Gardai. With a long established right of way, he surely cannot have any legal right to deny any walkers access to this area.
As a compromise, surely it would be feasible for him to consider erecting a suitable stile at the wall, to allow access to all who wish to enjoy the area. It might even be possible to get a group of those who are regular users to build one, at no cost to the farmer in question.
This matter has taken a serious turn this week. An unfortunate incident involving a missing person, believed drowned in Wicklow Harbour, has necessitated a lot of search activity along the local coastline. This barrier has proved to be a major impediment to allowing concerned searchers follow the coast out as far as Wicklow Head. Those concerned are very upset at this obstruction to their efforts, necessitating a long detour to complete their regular sweeps as they keep a vigilant lookout.
The County Council have today by-passed this barrier by creating a new opening a short distance from the offending structure. The question now is – will it be allowed to remain in place without interference from the landowner? Fingers crossed, our pathway will remain open for all concerned and allow the joy of the Wicklow Head coastal walk to be available to locals and tourists alike.
Our beautiful coastline should be available to all to enjoy. Farmers and landowners are entitled to respect for their property and livestock but should also have consideration for the rights of others. Live and let live.