As delays in repairing a damaged section of the Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk continue to render the route unsafe, north Wicklow’s increasingly impatient coastal community have been counting the cost of its closure.
A section of the Cliff Walk, on the Greystones side, has been deemed unsafe by Wicklow County Council since March 2021, after several landslides left the area unstable. While some of the landslides are visible from the walk, others are not, and pose a considerable threat to public safety.
While the Cliff Walk is still officially closed, people are continuing to use the route. Attempts to close the walk have been problematic, with walkers ignoring the notices and barriers that have been erected by the Council. While commuters from Bray may walk as far as the Windgates steps, where they can then take the alternative Bray Head loop, according to local resident Tadhg O’Brien, the public will continue to use the walk, regardless of health and safety concerns.
“As long as I’ve been here in Bray there’s always been landslides in that area, but that won’t deter people entirely, they’ll still find a way,” he said. “In the long term, the Council are going to have to reinforce and shore up the defences around the cliff walk. But, until they do, we’re missing out on a really important public amenity.
“We would’ve walked a lot there with my parents when I was a kid. Now that I have children I want to be able to do the same, but I can’t pass that down to them at the moment. I do a lot of running in that area too, and I’d love to be able to run the route uninterrupted. It has certainly curtailed the natural course that a lot of runners would have taken.
“What I’d like to know, indeed what the community would like to know, is: When will have it back and why is it taking so long?”
Wicklow County Council have proposed to permanently re-route the eroded section of the walk further inland and have held lengthy discussions with landowners. In May this year, at the Greystones Municipal District meeting, District Manager Michael Nicholson told councillors that there were outstanding legal issues to be resolved and that the process was taking longer than expected.
Wicklow County Council issued an update recently, with a spokesperson saying, “The Council is continuing to engage in efforts to find a solution to the serious erosion which forced the closure. Investigations were undertaken at the time of the landslide to determine the extent of the collapse and possibilities for remedial action.
“Unfortunately, due to the instability of the area where the damage occurred, repairs are not possible, and the only solution is to relocate the walk inland. Wicklow County Council is engaging with local landowners to divert the walk away from the most hazardous sections and will immediately proceed to develop the new route once agreement is reached.”
Simon Lynch, co-owner of the Wicklow Wolf brewery in Roundwood, also frequents the Cliff Walk and echoes the public’s outcry for a more expeditious solution. “I walk it, run it, I bring the dogs out there, and still do,” said Simon. “You still meet a lot of people on it. There are barriers they put up, but you can get around them – and people do.
“Of course the Council don’t want people doing that, but there are still quite a number of people on the Cliff Walk, I still see a lot of people biking it in the mornings. Some people still chance it but, for the majority of people, after being told it wasn’t safe, won’t risk it.”
A highly successful entrepreneur, Simon is quick to point to the unquantifiable loss of income to local traders at both ends of the Cliff Walk, but particularly to those in Greystones.
“Getting the train to Greystones for a coffee or a crepe, then walking back to Bray – that’s gone. It should be a really heavily promoted attraction: Get the DART from Dublin to Greystones, do the cliff walk back to Bray – it should be huge attraction. A lot of people go there to watch the sunrise. It’s a breath taking spot. We often jokingly call it Montebray’! I think there’s a huge amount of trade lost, in Bray and Greystones, but particularly in Greystones.”
The cost to local traders may be unquantifiable but, according to Fred Verdier, Tourism Officer at Wicklow County Council, the value of the trail – which was voted the best free attraction in Ireland in 2019 – is considerable to local enterprise.
“From the perspective of the tour operators it hasn’t been a big issue, there are plenty of other walking routes in Wicklow,” Fred began. “The real cost of the closure, in my opinion, is to the local traders in Bray and, particularly, in Greystones.
“The business from walkers is gone – the connection is not there now. While there may be some commuters still using the route, the flux of people that used the walk as a public amenity and as a tourist attraction is gone. All those people who walked to Greystones for lunch, or to get a coffee, they’re just not doing it any more.
“I know the Council is very keen to get it done,” Fred continued. “The question is: How do we reconnect Bray with Greystones in a way that is sustainable and safe? The funding is available, it’s just a case of finding a solution that suits the landowners, the Council and, most importantly, the public.”