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Health, heritage, & tourism

21 December 2011

A couple of recent TV programmes gently jogged my memory about the value of walking, for our health and general quality of life. RTE’s Tracks & Trails was the first, with Senator Feargul Quinn “bumping into” my friends Eamon and Christine O’Daly as he ambled in conversation around Howth Head. “The Hill of Howth for heath and heather” went the tourist advertising of the Great Northern Railway seeking to sell their train and tram (1901-1941) services. And was also the title of my first article about walking in Howth back in 1992  I recall the GNR even created the footpath around Howth Head to encourage heathy exercise amid the heather, though its rumoured that more than a few would take the tram from Howth village up to the Baily; take a turn around the Green; and find their way back to the village on a vis-a-vis shrewdly operated by local farmer John O’Brien who lived on East Mountain.  It’s still an urban adventure, ripe for a family ramble at weekends.

The second TV programme was in the UK  when a close member of my family, and walking guide living in Snowdonia, was recently interviewed on national UK TV about walking and it’s health benefits. Apparently this followed a UK heath report that said regular walkers were likely to live fifteen years longer than the average potato slouch.  I didn’t see the interview, but other family and friends were telling me how informative it was. This relative is also a good friend and we’ve backpacked more than a few thousand miles together, in everything from trainers to crampons. So I thought I probably knew pretty much anything she would have to say. Besides we have our own excellent series of Slí na Sláinte  here in Ireland, so what could the Welsh have to say.  Quite a lot it seems; in particular she pointed me toward the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Prestatyn and Meliden “You’ll Never Walk Alone” programme dedicated to engaging their local population into frequent walking to enhance the quality of their lives and sustain their health. So not just slí but a whole programme of organized walks following preset routes like our own Slí.

And cleverly these programmes seem to successfully combine health and heritage: Prestatyn & District has an Annual Festival of Walking.  Not only is this one of the most popular walking festivals in Wales it successfully combines health and heritage with themed festivals, such as the 2008, Romans in North East Wales,  with each trek focussing on some aspect of Roman occupation of the local landscape.  Of course it’s also provided a valuable boost to local tourism.  So more on all of this from me during  2012.

David Marshall

And for those living in Fingal, (North County Dublin), you might be interested in this initiative: SKERRIES HERITAGE WALK v1.1

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