Helping put Creeslough on the walking map

It is a case of putting your best foot forward for the first ever Creeslough Walking Weekend this summer, but for local man Declan Breslin it is the simple pleasure of seeing the local area benefit from community endeavours that he enjoys the most.

It is a case of putting your best foot forward for the first ever Creeslough Walking Weekend this summer, but for local man Declan Breslin it is the simple pleasure of seeing the local area benefit from community endeavours that he enjoys the most.

Declan is originally from Ardara but for many years now he has lived just outside Creeslough village with wife Margaret and daughters Breda and Catherine.

Initially he trained as a metalwork teacher and graduated from Thomond College in Limerick.

He began teaching stints in Dublin and Mayo but eventually moved into the world of insurance and has been there for over 20 years.

Now he is a financial planning partner tied to Irish Life.

“I’m in the insurance business for the last 21 years, since 1990. I was a teacher before that I was a metal work teacher and I taught in Finglas in Dublin and Westport. But at that time it was similar to now in that the cut backs came in. There were 35 of us who qualified as Metal Work teachers in 1984 from Thomond and out of the 35, three of us got full time jobs. I was one of the three but as it turned out the job I had wasn’t as secure as I thought it was,” he explained.

After he moved to Donegal, Declan became involved in a range of local community projects and works in many local groups and committees on a voluntary basis.

Hailing from Ardara, a town well re-nowned for its community spirit and innovation, he became involved in a number of projects that have benefited his adopted home in Creeslough.

Among them was the foundation of a locally based annual community magazine - The Creeslough View - that serves as an way of celebrating the local history of the area as well as recording events through out the year to serve as future history of the locality and its people.

“That actually came out of the ‘Creeslough 2000’ project. The Creeslough View was actually started as a fund-raiser for the Creeslough 2000 project. It was similar to the very successful magazine they have in Ardara called “An Dearcadh”. When the Creeslough 2000 project finished up myself and others decided to continue with the Creeslough View. We have just had our 10th anniversary and its been very successful.”

Declan says he has always had an interest in working in whatever community he found himself in, and that through volunteering and group work people can make a significant impact for their home area.

“I always thought it was a great idea to get involved in community work no matter where you are. That was why I became involved in Creeslough 2000. I have also done a stint with the Youth Club and other committees such as the Creeslough festival and the Christmas lights as well.”

Declan says his home town is “the pinnacle” of community work and an inspiration to him.

“If you’re looking to see where community work, works best, Ardara is peaks above anybody else. They all pull together, everyone gets a wee bit. My motto is - if you help others to get what they want, you’ll get what you want. It takes very little. If you get a group of people together it can be very easy to get something done. You don’t have to put all the work into it yourself. Often nobody wants to put their hand up in case they are afraid of getting a job, it’s not about that. If there were three of four more people each to say ‘I’ll help them’, well, that job now becomes very easy because there is going to be five people doing it now, not just one,” he says.

For Declan its the simple enjoyment of seeing the local area benefit from volunteer work that gives him the most satisfaction.

“You get great enjoyment out of seeing things like the Christmas lights going up. I have no business as such in the town or anything but its great to see it looking good. It’s the little differences that make the big difference.”

In an area steeped in heritage and stunning natural beauty, Declan has joined forces with other like minded people to help organise Creesloughs first ever walking festival.

Creeslough and its surrounds offer an abundance of opportunities for those with a love of the great outdoors. Within a short distance of the village there is the backdrop of Muckish and the old railway line. There is Ards Friary and Ards Forest Park and Glenveagh National Park.

This July 7 and 8, they host the “Creeslough Walking Weekend”. Each day there are two walks planned, one moderate walk aimed at the beginner or recreational walker, while for the more adventurous there will be strenuous walks each day.

The moderate walks will take in the fine scenery on the way to Lough Altan and also the old railway line at Carrownamaddy, littered with places of historical interest.

The strenuous walks take place in the same area but will last longer and cover more demanding terrain.

“I was speaking with others and we spoke about the great walks we have here and we thought ‘we need to do something to bring people around the area for a weekend’. It will generate a bit of interest and it will do somebody some good. There will be extra visitors and they might get something in the local shops or petrol or accommodation. We have so much to offer here. Ards Forest Park has to be one of the nicest places to go for a walk. I know people who have come here and walked through it and they just want to come back again and bring somebody with them. We are not setting up a walking club but just concentrating on a walking weekend.”

With so many experienced hill walkers living locally he says that visitors to the event will be in safe hands with the best local guides you could ask for, those who know the area best.

“There are a lot of people in the parish who are into hill walking that people may not be aware of. There are many who are involved with other walking clubs or walk independently and probably of many of the walks similar to what we will be doing, but it is good to have our own weekend.

“We have some very experienced walkers locally so you couldn’t go wrong. They have done a lot of work to get these walks recognised. We are lucky to have these people involved because they know these areas like the back of their hands and they are very experienced people.”

With that in mind he says everyone who travels to the north west in July for the event will be well looked after. “We would encourage people who are not that used to hill walking to take the moderate walk. They will still enjoy it and get plenty out of it. So, you will have the choice of easy walking for getting into climbing steep hills.”

Working in a core committee of about eight people, Declan says he is enjoying the organisation and planning since the New Year and he and the group are looking forward to welcoming anyone who comes for the weekend in July. For more information you can contact the Creeslough Walking Weekend on Facebook.