A Weekend Of Dodder Walking


I was out walking along the River Dodder on two separate occasions last weekend, enjoying the lovely sunny weather. At times, it was just like summer; on reflection, it was probably better. On Saturday I took part in the Dodder Heritage Walk, organised the Dodder Action Group, joining forces with the Dodder Let’s Walk and Talk group. I wasn’t counting heads, but according to Dodder Action’s Facebook page, around a hundred people turned out to support the event. Architectural historian Rob Goodbody led the Heritage Walk with Tim Clabon from the Irish Wildlife Trust, strolling from Rathfarnham Bridge down towards the Packhorse Bridge in Miltown.

Most days find me walking either along or near the Dodder but there is still much that I don’t know about the river’s life and history. Thanks to Tim Clabon, I now know the name of the pink flowering plant proliferating along the riverbank as well as learning something about identifying otter hangouts. The flower by the way is a Himalayan Balsam and is actually an invasive species, although a very pretty one. Tim explained about otter slides, where otters gained access to the water and showed us one. You have to be up very early to catch your otter, and probably very quiet too so we didn’t stand much chance of seeing one on Saturday afternoon. It would however be worth getting up early to spot one, now that I have some idea of where to look.

The Dodder’s history is very industrial, something that isn’t immediately apparent when you pass along the leafy ways. Rob Goodbody told us about the many watermills that thrived along the river, of which there are very few physical remains. The mills had a variety of purposes such as corn milling, powering ironworks, laundries, fabric printing and dyeing. Almost all that exists are the weirs and traces of millstreams. The most significant built remains of industry are the red brick premises that once housed the Dartry Dye Works. The former Dye Works now houses a crèche and Montessori school. Farther along the river at Milltown, the only trace left of the Dublin Laundry Co. is a chimney that now hides radio masts and provides a nesting spot for cormorants.

On Sunday, a foraging walk with OWLS Children’s Nature Club (run by Andrew Fleming AKA ‘Mouse’) took me through Bushy Park and along a short stretch of the Dodder. We were supposed to be gathering blackberries but the younger children were, perhaps not surprisingly more interested in conkers and acorns. I was pleased to be able to gather some elderberries for the first time as well as a few blackberries. There are rich pickings of blackberries to be had along the Dodder park route, if you don’t mind a few scratches and stings. The size and quality of fruit is variable but you’re sure to find plenty for pie and jam making. Mouse also pointed out to us sweet chestnut and walnut trees in Bushy park, for those quick enough to gather the ripening nuts before the park’s bird and animal population.

Across both of these events, it was nice to see people of all ages getting active and making the most of the wonderful amenities on their doorstep. Dodder Action, Let’s Walk and Talk and OWLS encourage appreciation, knowledge and care for the natural world around us. All of these groups are reliant on volunteers to make everything function, so it’s great that enthusiastic people are prepared to give of their time and effort. If you’re interested in finding out more about these groups, follow the links in this article and explore the great outdoors!

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