Human Environment

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Introduction
In 1755 the commissioners of Ireland Navigation delegated their engineer Thomas Omer to make the Shannon navigable and due to this the bridge at Shannonbridge was constructed. But by 1835 many of the old masonry and timber bridges on the Shannon caused obstruction to the flow of the river. Thomas Rhodes, the principle engineer to the Shannon commissioners in 1839, removed Omers canal and lock. He also installed a new cast iron swivel span. Rhodes bridge was completed and re-opened to traffic in early 1845. Increased weight of vehicles from the 1950's onwards placed a severe strain on the bridge and it was considered unsafe. The commissioner of Public Works in 1962 constructed a Bailey bridge above the swivel span. The Bailey bridge remained in position until 1983 when the entire bridge was reconstructed again with the intention of improving its structural performance, durability and appearance, at a cost of about £650,000. When the Rhodes designed swing span was removed ( with difficulty 0 the crane removing the bridge was nearly pulled into the Shannon) it was re-erected on Shannonbridge quay. The most interesting attraction in Shannonbridge are the fortifications located on the Roscommon side of the bridge. The Shannon has always been considered as a natural line of defence and it had been an important feature of the wars of the 18th century in Ireland. After the outbreak of hostilities with the French Republic in 1793 it was believed that the Shannon could be used again as a line of defence, provided the crossing places were better fortified. This led to fortifications being built around the coast, the Shannon estuary and the upper reaches of the river between Lough Derg and Lough Ree, particularly during the Napolionic period of 1803-14 and these were intended to protect Ireland against a French landing. In 1803 it was decided to establish defences along the mid-Shannon at Atthlone, Shannonbridge, Banagher, Keelogue and Meelick. Artillery batteries encased in earthen fieldworks were set at these places. By the summer of 1840 two fieldworks had been constructed on the Roscommon side of the bridge with a battery on Lamb Island and two further batteries located downstream from the bridge on the Leinster side. According to Paul M Kerrigan, who is the acknowledged expert on Shannon fortifications, the present extensive masonry fortifications on the Roscommon side which replaced the earlier fieldworks, were probably constructed in around 1811012. Also during the construction period, a barracks for a company of soldiers was built on the south side of the main street (the barrack was demolished by the Office of Public Works I August 1974 and replaced by a prefabricated garda station), a powder magazine was built some distance further south also. The cost of all this work at the time was about £30,000. Today, the fortifications are privately owned.

What is the average population of Shannonbridge?  Top
There is an average population of 400 in the village itself, but if you include Clonmacnoise the other half of our parish the average increases to 700.

Is the population young or old? Top
Shannonbridge has a very mixed population - in the 1850's Shannonbridge was a quiet village, but with the introduction of E.S.B and Bord na Mona, a new young population evolved. Many of the current workers are not originally from the area but moved here after gaining employment with the E.S.B and Bord na Mona.

Is Shannonbridge located near any major towns and if so what are they and how far? Top
The nearest town Ballinasloe is eight miles away, Followed by Athlone (16) and Tullamore (26).

Do these towns have much to offer the tourist in Shannonbridge? Top
Ballinasloe has a fantastic golf course and offers banking facilities. Athlone is considered an excellent shopping area. The town has been improved further by the construction of a new shopping center and cinema complex.

Is there any public transport facilities in the village? Top
Transport routes are non-existent. There is no bus service and no public transport from the village. There is one minibus service, which is the local school bus. This bus is used in the tourist season to get people travelling by boat on the Shannon to the various spots of interest. There is a fantastic bus service in Ballinasloe, eight miles away but living in Shannonbridge a car is essential There are a number of cab companies in Ballinasloe and it also has a railway station that offers direct links to two other major cities (Dublin and Galway)

What are recent figures for tourists to the area-is it a purely seasonal activity? Top
Tourism activity in Shannonbridge is seasonal from April to October, but the season appears to be getting longer each year with people taking early spring and late autumn breaks. The old monastic site of Clonmacnoise gets one hundred thousand visitors per year and this figure is increasing steadily. The Bog rail tours get an average of 32,000 tourists per year, Other attractions in the area such as An Dun transport museum 10,000 per year, Birr castle £30,000 and Cloghan castle 6,000. All figures are rising each year. The number of tourists passing through Shannonbridge has been rising steadily with between 8,000 and 10,000 passing through in 1999. Some of these tourists are on day trips to partake in fishing activities while others stay longer to explore the area.

Does it benefit the local community in any way? Top
Tourism in Shannonbridge has a very positive effect on the local community. As a result of tourism the pier has been developed with excellent shower and toilet facilities. There are green areas, which can now be used as picnic spots for tourists. All approaches to the village have flowerbeds. The local shops, pubs and takeaway cater for all the tourist trade passing through. Tourism also benefits the youth of the community with many obtaining jobs in the various local businesses for the summer months.

What kind of accommodation is available in the village for visitors? Top
Shannonbridge offers excellent accommodation for the tourist and caters for all needs. There are several excellent B&B's quiet close to the village, check out the accomadation section for more information. There are a couple of self catering houses with one being awarded four stars and several self catering flats above the local take away. The owners of all B&B's in the area have developed an excellent host-guest relationship with many of their visitors. Quite frequently many of those who return to the area end up staying in the same guesthouse

Has the development of tourism caused any major physical changes to the area? Top
There has been an increase in the amount of traffic passing through Shannonbridge. July and August see a lot of busses pass through the village. Because of the increasing flow of traffic to Clonmacnoise the main Shannonbridge to Clonmacnoise road was improved immensely in 1998. The major physical change to the area would have to be the pier, which was developed in 1994. This has brought on a massive increase in the number of boats mooring at the jetty overnight. So much so that there has been talk of extending the pier to accommodate the extra movement of boats through the area. In the last few summers cruisers have been docked three deep along the pier. Excellent toilet and shower facilities have been built to facilitate the increasing number of boats

What kind of activities can tourists participate in? Top
Tourists can participate in a wide variety of activities. Fishing is a major draw to the area with hundreds of English fishermen visiting each year. These fishermen tend to return on an annual basis. Walking is popular but very difficult with no rights of way but we are working on this one. As I said before visitors can go golfing in Ballinasloe, can go bowling or go to the cinema in Athlone. An equestrian center is located six miles from the village. They offer excellent guided tours along the banks of the The nightlife in the area is exceptional. Pubs are packed every night during the summer and music of some kind is on seven nights a week. A lot of tourists get to know and love the local 'craic'. Almost all those visiting the area take a day trip to Clonmacnoise. There are links to tourists activities on the left

Are there any businesses/families who depend solely on tourism as a source of income? Top
No business is dependent solely on the tourist trade but without it their incomes would be far less.

Has the government or any tourism agencies given any aid to tourist development in area? Top
Offaly county council developed the pier in 1994 Duchas developed Clonmacnoise The local development group developed the tourist office with funding from Leader and the EEC.

Are there any village festivals which would attract visitors? Top
The Midsummers Music festival has been running since 2006, follow the link on the left for more information. St. Kierans pattern day in September attracts a good crowd. A number of fishing competitions are held during the year.

Are agriculture or forestry dominant forms of land use in the area? Top
Agriculture is the main land use. There is not much forestry in the area. The whole area is bog land and is mostly used by Bord na Mona.

Are most businesses family run/owned? Top
All business in the village are privately owned. This results in a more cultural and family orientated atmosphere as opposed to most other countries where business are generally company owned and run

How is the area sold to tourists? Top
The area is sold mostly as a spin off of Clonmacnoise. The boat companies such as Carrick Craft Promote the village to increase the appeal of a river cruise. The new tourist office has made a great difference, giving a source of information and a stopping point that was not available before. In three months we had 4,500 inquiries the results of which will appear over the next season. This year we persuaded a Dutch travel company to bring 400 fishermen to this area - spread between Portumna and Shannonbridge. This is a first and a big boost to the local businesses.

What is the target market? Top
River traffic and boat hire is the main market. However the tourist that comes by boat generally only stays one or two days as they are under pressure for time to return the boat. Road traffic is also very important. The casual tourist by car is the one most likely to stay in the area longer term. Fishermen are a large market for the area with most returning on an annual or bi-annual basis. The bus tours, which come from Clonmacnoise, are not great, as they don't stop for long in the village. Except for lunch at Killeens pub they are not inclined to spend much.

Have any efforts been made to preserve the natural environment? Top
Yes, the Irish wildbird conservancy has spearheaded conservation efforts with assistance from local volunteers. This was set up to ensure the survival of the corncrake. The number of corncrakes has been declining rapidly from 1300 pairs in 1979 to 94 pairs in 1996. This decline is due to increased mechanising of farming and earlier cutting of the hay crop. Grants are been given to farmers to try to encourage them to cut their crop in such a way that will ensure the survival of the corncrake, and so far the farmers approached have been co operative.

Does the presence of a power station in the village have an adverse effect on tourism? Top
Once the visitor establishes that it is not a nuclear power plant they become quite fascinated, especially by the fact that it burns peat. Shannonbridge power station is the largest peat burning station in the country. There is great interest in the station and lots of people ask for tours of the power station. However these are not available for safety reasons. The tourist office does hold information on the E.S.B and we have good display boards and leaflets. Because of the power stations importance to the economy and its connection to Bord na Mona and both being a great source of employment the social history is fascinating to foreigners

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