My Stretch of the Dodder

The lowest reaches of The Dodder River achievable are on the pedestrian walkway leading up to the
busy and noisy hump of Ringsend Bridge, I’ve spotted pods of mullet here sifting through the languid
still water and just recently four swans flying abreast down river their combined wingspan almost
covering the water expanse bank to bank.
Past the brackish estuary water where the seagulls congregate noisily and the stadium looms, the
rivers meets the majestic park that inspired or was inspired by the 1907 World fair. Herbert Park and
pavilions (since destroyed), featuring a Canadian Water Chute, and two bandstands was once Forty
Acres. Ownership passed to the Earl of Pembroke and then to Dublin Council, but apart from losing
the magnificent hundred yard pergola to a storm recently, the park is very much still itself. Solitary
Herons and rowdy Mallards interchange between river and pond such is the proximity. An Egret
won’t however, shying away from the crowds to the quiet of the river under the leaves of the
graceful willow trees.
It’s rumoured that local kids in days gone-by swam in a deep pool formed between rocky outcrops
just below Donnybrooks bridge, or it was a pool deep enough to swim in anyway, I haven’t found it,
and it might be shallower than could be expected. Moving upstream leaving Ballsbridge behind and
passing the Beaver Row Iron footbridge in Donnybrook, we come to a large weir – a hangover of
industrial days when mills lined the river banks retrieving its energy for industry. Migratory salmon
struggle to make it past this point and up to the slower moving pools above the weir.
Soon after that we meet with the Clonskeagh linear park, a stretch of river in which I have managed
to spot a Dipper and a Kingfisher, the latter jetting downstream over the river. There is a lovely old
and tall bridge just adjacent to the Mosque and the stone remnants of ancient or old infrastructure
surround this immediate area, the bridge spanning the river was a coach bridge supposedly. If you
make it to the Milltown Bridge there’s a public house, and it’s an opportunity for refreshment, while
looking at a large statue of a hippo stationed mid-stream and gaze fixed up river.
I have had the fortune of living beside the Dodder for over a decade now and I find walking its banks
and parks can throw up new surprises each time, whether it be historical or of the natural kind. The
river can also bring adversity, and has flooded the old artisan housing estates on the lower reaches.
And the water quality can be poor, as well as the beds litter strewn. My father who is a keen angler
once remarked to me that you could tell the health of the river from the vegetation growth on the
bed, and not the presence of fish, because it is stocked annually by the local angling club. To the
littering issue, it’s a chance for local community groups like Dodder Action to convene the annual
clean-up and a chance to see the Garda Diving team operating on a voluntary basis on the river. Just
another sight and surprise on my stretch of the Dodder.