Ploughing Championships: Mud and traffic . . . it takes more than that to sink our high spirits
Published 26/09/2012 | 05:00
DESPITE the mud and the traffic, the high spirits in the mire put Glastonbury in the ha'penny place.
It was a long, wet road to Heathpark, near New Ross, Co Wexford, and a slow one. If it wasn't for the promise of a very good day out, many families might well have turned around and gone home.
Traffic heading to the opening day of the National Ploughing Championships was "the worst it's ever been", according to some visitors. But it all depended on which direction you were coming from.
Things were worst on the Waterford road -- but bizarrely, traffic in Wexford town was actually quieter than on a normal Tuesday.
It seemed that driver error had something to do with the problem, with organisers saying that motorists coming from the midlands should have gone via Carlow, whereas many had continued on down the motorway, contributing to the bottlenecks.
"We set out at 7.50am and we got here at 12.30pm," said Garreth Byrne, who had travelled with his wife and their three children from Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The kids were acting up alright and some were looking for the loo but there wasn't much we could do about that," he said.
Una Kiernan, travelling with children Ines (4) and Freya (5), had left Clonmel at 9am and arrived at 1pm.
"Thank God for the DVD player and 'Monster's Inc'," she laughed.
Even locals found the journey far from easy. "We came from New Ross and were sitting half-an-hour in traffic," said Pat Kehoe, who, with his wife Teresa, had brought six of their seven children along for the experience.
But having finally arrived, spirits were high at the grounds, with everyone determined to enjoy themselves.
Three women approached a garda and said they had a very important question to ask -- where was the best place to have breakfast? His eyebrows shot up in surprise, before he suggested Rumbles.
Some 52,000 visitors were in attendance yesterday, with figures well down on last year's opening-day attendance.
Organisers blamed the weather but said they were expecting numbers to improve with the better forecasts for today and tomorrow.
But as President Michael D Higgins noted, everyone who turned up yesterday came well prepared for the rain with waterproof jackets, trousers and wellies.
He himself looked the very essence of a country gent, in a black waterproof coat, tweed cap and a jaunty red scarf and appeared to be enjoying himself greatly as he sang along in the rain to the national anthem.
No stranger to the National Ploughing Championships, it was his first visit in this official capacity. The President took a keen interest in the ploughing itself, meeting Sean Tracey (21), from Myshall, Co Carlow, who was competing in the under-21 contest. The soil in Co Wexford was "completely different" to what Sean was used to at home, but despite the downpours, the ground was actually very dry.
The President did a tour of the grounds, taking in Macra na Feirme and the Irish Farmers Association but you could tell that he would have liked to have stayed longer and maybe sampled some of the delights in the food tents or lingered to watch the Husqvarna 30-metre pole-climbing challenge.
"Dad, why don't you volunteer?" asked one child eagerly, as the appeal for climbers was made. The father -- a portly and middle-aged man -- just shook his head, too dumbstruck to reply.