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Rural Recreation

Participation in outdoor recreation for both the population of Ireland and visitors to Ireland has grown hugely over the last 20 years. Recreational walking is by far the most popular physical activity. Statistics from Fáilte Ireland show that the tourism demand is very strong for outdoor recreation with 2.7 million visitors to Ireland from overseas markets coming in to take part in outdoor activities in 2019. Hiking and walking tourism makes up the majority of these figures with cycling and watersports also showing increased popularity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for outdoor recreational amenities and has seen a significant growth in domestic visitors to the rural outdoors. The CSO ‘Our Lives Outdoors’ survey, carried out in spring 2022, revealed that 55% of respondents said they spent more time outdoors than they did before the pandemic.

“Embracing Irelands Outdoors- National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027” provides a strategic, collaborative framework to facilitate the consolidation and sustainable growth of the outdoor recreation sector. While respecting the landowners and other custodians of the land and water, caring for the environment and promoting responsible recreation, it also seeks to realise the social, health and economic benefits of rural recreation.

South Tipperary Development CLG (STDC) play a key role in the implementation of the strategy. The company has a service level agreement with the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) for the delivery of the Walks Scheme across the whole of Tipperary and has done so since the inception of the scheme in 2008. STDC employs the  Rural Recreation Officer (RRO), whose main duties include the co-ordination of trail management and maintenance through the walk scheme as well as supporting the planning and development of new trails and recreational infrastructure across the County.

Tipperary has so much to offer in terms of recreational amenities, especially when it comes to our extensive array of walking trails. We have 58 Sport Ireland registered walking trails in the county ranging from easy to challenging with loops and long-distance walks suitable for every level of fitness. No fewer than 9 National Waymarked Ways traverse Tipperary accounting for approximately half of the total length of over 640km involved when neighbouring counties are considered.  There are over 40 loop walks with some further 260km of trails involved. For example, our National waymarked ways include the East Munster Way in the south which follows the Suir from Carrick on Suir to Clonmel, traverses part of Co. Waterford before re-entering Tipperary and following the Coillte tracks across the northern slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains to Clogheen, while up north the Lough Derg Way follows the Shannon up from Limerick and Clare before crossing into Tipperary at Ballina and winding its way through the Arra Mountains and the farming vales of Lower Ormond to Dromineer. There is so much to do and so many new places to discover, all right on our own doorstep. It’s a wonderful resource and we really are very lucky to have such quality and variety freely available to locals and visitors alike.

Our trails are based on permissive access and this is kindly given by the landowners. South Tipperary Development CLG works with the landowners and the various trail management organisations in conjunction with other stakeholders in the maintenance and development of our trails. Through working with the stakeholders and all involved agencies including North Tipperary Development Company, Tipperary Co Co, Coillte and the DRCD, STDC has been involved in securing funding for the development and maintenance of Tipperarys’ trails for over 15 years.

There are currently 12 of our trails in the Walk Scheme with 172 landowners participating across the county and we take this opportunity to thank each of them for granting access and for their continued support and maintenance work.

As with all good things, there must be some rules and regulations to follow and we ask that all walkers be mindful of these rules. Walkers should follow the principles of Leave No Trace as a code of behaviour when recreating in the countryside. The principles include:

1. Plan ahead and prepare

2. Be considerate of others

3. Respect farm animals and wildlife

4. Leave what you find

5. Dispose of waste properly

When walking in Coillte Forestry dogs are generally permitted once kept on a lead. In private land, we ask walkers to please leave their dogs at home as dogs can inadvertently upset livestock, bloodstock and local on-farm dogs.  We also ask that walkers would park responsibly and within the designated parking areas at the trailhead. Walkers must be mindful of parking along narrow roadside verges or blocking farm entrances and we would ask that people always take home their waste. These are simple rules to follow but are very important in terms of continued good relations with our generous landowners and hardworking local community groups.

Over the last 15 years, many trails in the county have been supported in some way through the efforts of South Tipperary Development CLG in co-operation with our partner organisations. Be it through several rounds of Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) funding,  through the Walk Scheme Development Fund (WSDF) or the general operations of the RRO,  we can point to success stories right across County Tipperary. Over 40 of the 58 trails listed on have benefited directly from the work of the Rural Recreation Officer at South Tipperary Development CLG.

And the work goes on. There is always something to be improved or upgraded, there is often a need to re-route parts of the trails for whatever reason and there will always be exciting new proposals for inclusion in our large and diverse family of Tipperary Trails.

We can be rightfully proud of all that has been achieved in Tipperary to date, always mindful of the ongoing efforts in terms of keeping and maintaining what we have and ever hopeful as we look to the future and the challenges that lay ahead.

John Egan

Rural Recreation Officer

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