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As we approach the end of 2018, we thought this would be a timely moment to review the developments of Siul Eile since its inception in 2016.
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The first Siul Eile group started in early 2016, in Clogheen Co. Tipperary and surrounding areas, sine then we have done over 400 walks, attended by over 2,000 individuals who between them walked over 85,000 km (the equivalent of walking all around the world twice!!), all in their own communities.
The walkers were of all ages ranging from 4 years to 89 years. The walks were suitable for most people as almost all walks were between 3 and 8 km with everyone walking at their own pace.
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Here is a backdrop to how Siul Eile came about:
Having already organised a few walks to promote the area, an opportunity came about through Fr. Sheehys (Clogheen & Burncourt) G.A.A. Healthy Club Project.
Through this the Couch to Mountain Top walking program arised supported by Knockmealdown Active. This involved four walks a week for 12 weeks, where we explored the Knockmealdowns extensively and also part of the Galtees. We had 160 locals take part in this program, who were amazed and surprised at all the trails on their doorstep as we rarely did the same route twice.
The primary objective of showcasing what was on our doorstep had been realised. However a few other unexpected things also materialised from the program.
One was that once the walkers got into the habit of getting out walking, they found it harder to miss a walk than go. So once the program finished a lot of the walkers continued to meet up and go for their walks.
The other finding from the program was how much people enjoyed the social aspect of the walking. Modern Ireland has become very fast paced with people rushing from one thing to the next. The opportunities to meet and chat with your neighbours are becoming few and far between. The church and pubs were once socialising pillars of communities but numbers nowadays going to either has dwindled dramatically. Even on a daily basis human interactions are becoming less and less as supermarkets and banks direct their customers to self serving machines rather than a bank clerk or till assistant.
Couch to Mountain Top brought neighbours together that would hardly ever get the opportunity to see each other and relationships strenghtened naturally.
Now that we could see that the social side was a very important aspect of Siul Eile, we set up the Howshecuttin’ program which involved night time walking in the dark months of October and November. A significant developement of this program is we extended our catchment area to our two neighbouring rural parishes Ballyporeen and Ballylooby.
The word was spreading about the enjoyment received from these walks and 50 or 60 people were turning up every night in the depts of winter to go walking on quite country roads but more importantly was the opportunity to have a chat with a neighbour.
In September 2016 as a result of the large numbers on our walks we were accepted onto the BNest Social Enterprise Incubator Program in UL. Over the following six months Siul Eile was shaped and moulded into a social enterprise.As a result of that program we are looking to spread the impact of Siul Eile to other communities around the country.
Since participating in the BNest program we have set up a further six Siul Eile groups, in Clonmel, Ardfinnan, Inch, Nenagh, Moyne and Slieveardagh with the support of Tipperary Sports Partnership.
The community walks are all free and are being organised and led by volunteers. There are a number of different volunteer roles required to ensure the walking programs go smoothly.
One of the outcomes of bringing communities together was the formation of the Rhododendron Walking Festival in 2018 which was a huge success in Clogheen and surrounding areas and is set to become an annual hit as walkers from near and far flock to the area on the June Bank Holiday Weekend to witness the phenomenom of the Vee Valley in full rhododendron bloom.
There are also heartwarming stories coming from individuals who are regular participants in our community walks. These range from personal fitness challenges to overcoming and eradicating health problems to feeling part of their local community, combatting isolation and the mental health and wellbeing benefits of regular walking.
We also organise challenge and event walks charging a fee which helps to offset some of the costs in our mission to spread the impact of Siul Eile to as many communities as possible.
In 2017 we did the Community Hall Crawl walk which involved a 36 km road walk with pitstops in Duhill, Ballylooby, Burncourt, Ballyporeen and Clogheen community halls. In 2018 we did a 28 km version starting in Ardfinnan Community hall with stops in Goatenbridge, Newcastle and Grange before returning to Ardfinnan.
In 2018 we also did the Tipp Top Challenge which brought us to the highest point of the Devils Bit, Keeper Hill, Slievenamon, Knockmealdown and Galtymore.
In 2019 as well as the Tipp Top Challenge we are also introducing the Siul Eile Trail Walking Series which involves taking in the 3 National Way Marked Trails that start in Clogheen. We will be doing the East Munster Way (73 km) in 3 stages, The Tipperary Heritage Way (56 km) in 3 stages and the Avondhu Way (104 km) in 5 stages. These can be booked in our Store section
If you would like a Siul Eile group in your local area and are willing to be involved then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, we would love to hear from you.
You can also follow our progress by liking our Facebook page Siul Eile.