After the marshes, and their inevitable mournful, sunken boat, the original rails ran out fairly quickly. I was then on a path, then a winding track, then the usual bog and briar. One section ran alongside the sea, and I diverted onto the beach for a few moments. Sometimes I had to follow the fox tracks alongside the line, where it was too overgrown with brambles and trees. Found a lovely skylark nest, and managed to photograph the eggs without touching it.
One section in the middle was really pleasant, like a wander down an English country lane. But it didn't last. After a bitter battle with a small forest plantation, I emerged next to the final stop but one, Blackweir Halt, now I suspect privately owned. It was still possible to see the old platform and what was once the line sunken next to it. There were still more obstacles to overcome in that last mile or two, including a missing bridge and a third cutting, which I ventured directly through this time. The deep green of its base should give a clue as to what was there…water, lots of water. Above the knee. How they could ever have drained these cuttings I do not know.
My journey ended at Kilkee, with its beautiful semi-circular harbour. My target was the last stop on the line until 1961: Kilkee station. The station itself is still standing, with its original canopy, though looking somewhat forlorn. At least it’s a protected building. The rest of the sidings and buildings have been supplanted by the "Percy French" housing estate. There’s talk of reopening the line from Moyasta to here, though having walked it, I do have my doubts….especially about drainage.
Met international rescue there and had beer and seafood chowder. Not a bad end to a journey which started almost casually seven weekends ago.
There were a few more animals on the fields now. I had to cross a large field with four cows in it - midway across I realised they were bullocks. Just inquisitive, but the four of them trotting towards me quickened my heart for a moment. I also had to pass through a dark, silent half-mature pine forest, bent double to avoid my face being whipped, tracing along in parallel to the old line's route. Then a 10-foot drop on the other side into a drainage ditch. At times, the track was completely ploughed and invisible except for the slight reduction in rushes indicating the land was marginally drier. Saw another pheasant, and the prints of another fox.
The big surprise was the last half-mile. Coming up to Moyasta junction. I had heard that some restoration had been done, but to emerge literally crawling through a bank of briars under an electric fence to find a clear, clean strait railway was a real and pleasant surprise. I walked the rest of the way along the tracks. And in between them, some tiny new violets. The station itself was closed (and it looks like it has been that way since last year), but it was still fun to wander round and take photos of what they have collected and restored.
Just as interesting was the discovery that after the museum and restored track, there was a junkyard full of trainy things: old locomotives which had crept away to die, a partially-dismantled iron bridge, and some carriages partially cleaned out, one also used as an occasional drinking den.
The biggest surprise though was that behind the junkyard, the line still had track on it, heading off into the distance over the marshlands towards Kilkee. There were shotgun cartridge scattered on the line, suggesting someone had been wildfowling from up there over the winter. I've no idea how far the track goes. Only one way to find out.
He also warned me about a large drainage ditch up ahead, with good reason. It took me ages to find a climbing place where my feet had any purchase, trying to climb six feet of sheer mud using brambles to pull myself up (aged 56 and a quarter).
Some parts of the line were entirely gone, not a trace remaining; others still showed their origins:
There were also several obstacles on the line, including horses, houses and (potential) hearses. The latter diversion was large and clearly not in a good mood, but having got round it, I soon found two intact bridges of the same red-sprayed iron girder style, which showed I was still on track.
I was now deep in rural West Clare, with few people and numerous abandoned and collapsing buildings, some of which you would truly not wish to enter. One section has become part of a forest scheme, which made a change from the bog.
'My journey ended at a place called Ballinacourty, next door to the imposing but desolate Tullabrack windfarm.
Having called for international rescue, I - of course - got put on hold and ended up walking for another 45 minutes before we finally rendezvoused at West Clare Equestrian.
And then home for a sad but effective 'Skype-wake' for an old friend Andrew Langdon, who died suddenly last summer without any of us knowing. We had a drink and a talk and exchanged old pictures of 1980s parties and more recent beer festivals.
No expedition this weekend, as everything got delayed by various events including trying to buy a house (still), trying to get to contract on a job (still) and the departure of our car “Tengele”, which had an accident involving a burst tyre and not being the right way up. It was put to sleep by our car-vet on Thursday. Until next weekend !