The Vartry Reservoir loop walks, as outlined above were completed in June 2018 and officially opened by An Taoiseach Leo Varadar on a fantastic day for the village of Roundwood. There is now almost 20km of walks available to the community of Roundwood and to visitors to the area to enjoy as outlined on the map boards on site and above.
The Vartry Reservoirs in Roundwood are owned and managed by Dublin City Council/Irish Water for the provision of potable water to South Dublin and North Wicklow. As well as their scenic beauty the Vartry Reservoirs have an interesting cultural, historical and functional value and are an important recreational resource for locals and visitors to the area. The potential of the area was totally underutilised. From consultation with the local community and tourism industry in the area the enhancement of the walks in the Vartry Reservoir area was high on the agenda.
In 2014, following his election to Wicklow County Council, Wicklow Municipal Area, Roundwood local, Shay Cullen FG approached the then Chairperson of the RDCC, Terry Kavanagh with his vision for the Vartry Reservoirs. Terry, having lived beside the Reservoirs all his life was only delighted to row in behind Shay. With the support of the Community Council and the approval from landowners, Dublin City Council/Irish Water and the Co Wicklow Angler’s Association the project of developing 15km of trails, enhancing the woodland and providing interpretation on the various heritage aspects of the Vartry Reservoirs began.
The beginnings were very modest with a handful of volunteers resurfacing 1km of track in December 2014. Since then work has progressed with gusto through securing funding of over €250,000 from various sources.
Wicklow County Council came on board from the start awarding the group €20,000 from their Tourism Enhancement Fund and a further €5,500 in the annual Merit Awards towards trail restoration on the Lower Reservoir and trail development on one side of the Upper Reservoir. The then Rural Recreation Officer, Pat Mellon of County Wicklow Partnership, Wicklow’s rural development company assisted greatly with negotiating a way leave over private lands and also supporting the project financially to the tune of just under €7,000. The next port of call was the IPB Community Engagement Programme who awarded the group a €20,000 grant following a hugely competitive application process followed by a presentation in the company’s offices in Dublin. These funds were specifically used for trail development of the Upper Vartry loop walk. In tandem with this, and supported by the management of the Vartry Waterworks, the RDCC succeeded in their NeighbourWood Scheme 2014 -2020 application to the Forest Service of the Dept of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. The maximum grant available to the group is €136,000 which is providing funding towards the management of the woodland area, trail development, way marking and the provision of interpretative map boards and information signage in the Upper Reservoir Dam area. With professional assistance from a qualified forester, Paddy Purser and ecologist, Faith Wilson the work included exotic species removal, tree planting, tree surgery to ensure safety, permanent forest cover and habitat improvement which will greatly enhance biodiversity of a proposed Natural Heritage Area. Bat and bird boxes were erected. The area is already a haven for birdlife including great crested grebes, little grebes, teal and more recently home to the less common Little Egret, which resembles a medium sized white heron, often seen foraging for small fish, frogs, snails and insects in the wetlands of the Reservoirs.
Securing the funding for the restoration of 3km of trails and the construction of three bridges was the last hurdle for the group. Walker safety is a huge concern for the committee which is why one bridge at Mullinaveige on the busy R755 road to Glendalough required 200m of boardwalk to get pedestrians off road. This necessitated an application to the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Funding Scheme for Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure 2017 through Wicklow County Council. Approval for a grant of €76,000 was received which has provided the funds to complete the last vital pieces of infrastructure to complete the loop of the Upper Reservoir and brings to a total of 20km of safe way marked trails to the area.
The sustainable nature of the trails makes them relatively easy to maintain by a dedicated team of Rural Social Scheme and Tús participants assigned to the project through Co Wicklow Partnership. The participants are doing Trojan work throughout the trail network exposing the fantastic bridges and stone walls, maintaining the trails and keeping control of litter.
The development and upgrade of the walks around the Vartry Reservoirs provides the community and visitors with safe access to areas which was previously unpassable.
This amenity is now more accessible to the village of Roundwood through successful appeals to Wicklow Co Council for footpaths from the village to the main access points on the busy R755 and the R765 roads.
A walking group, the Roundwood Whizzers was set up to encourage use of the trails for all fitness levels. The walks have no severe gradients and are therefore accessible to all levels of ability.
The walks are bringing economic benefit to Roundwood village and local tourism providers as they provide an additional eco-tourism product to the area. The presence of these sustainable trails provides walkers of the Wicklow Way and day trippers to the area with more walking options resulting in additional overnight stays in the area and increased footfall in local shops and food outlets with the associated economic benefits.
The provision of these walks ties in well with many local and national strategies including the Action Plan for Rural Communities, the Wicklow Outdoor Recreational Strategy, the Co Wicklow Development Plan, Bord Failte’s Ireland’s Ancient East and the HSE’s Get Ireland Active initiatives.
The success of this project is down to the excellent working relationship fostered between the landowners Dublin City Council/Irish Water local management particularly, Ned Fleming and the Roundwood & District Community Council. Constant consultation with various state agencies including Wicklow County Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Inland Fisheries Ireland, Co Wicklow Partnership and the local community ensured that the project ran smoothly.
The community of Roundwood have continually supported the Community Council, currently chaired by Sean Pierce in getting behind the efforts to raise match funding by helping out with work days, participating in or marshalling events like the Moonlight Walk, the Roundwood Festivals and other fundraising activities. Their support coupled with the fantastic work of the Community Council in the last 4 years has really paid off. There may not be a playground in Roundwood yet, but the development of the Vartry Reservoir walks definitely provides an excellent natural playgroup to the community of Roundwood and beyond.
So there’s a lot going on and plenty to see in and around the Vartry Reservoirs so why not take a walk on the trails. Access the walks from the parking area developed at Knockraheen on the Newtown Road.
Please respect the area by bringing home any litter especially if you are walking your dog. Wicklow Co Council have installed a device on a trial basis reminding dog owners to clean up after their pets. Please note that some people are afraid of dogs no matter how small or friendly they are!
The job is not yet finished! Negotiations to link the Vartry Walks with the Bray Head -Sugarloaf Way, the Wicklow Way, the Avonmore Way and other proposed coastal walking routes is well advanced but that’s another project altogether – watch this space!If you would like further information on the Vartry Reservoir Walks project or the Roundwood & District Community Council (RDCC) please email firstname.lastname@example.org