August 10th - Brown’s Bay and Skernaghan Point, Islandmagee

Members assembled at Brown’s Bay carpark on a dry but chilly August evening. Our leader, David Mc Neill, Botanical Society of the British Isles Recorder for Co Antrim, had spotted the heart-shaped basal leaves of Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris) when we had visited the area in May 2009 and so we had arranged a return visit for August when this beautiful plant flowers.

After walking along the beach we climbed up onto the grassy Skernaghan headland. The National Trust owns 90 acres of open access grassland and rocky shore here. The Rocking Stone, a well-known local landmark, no longer rocks as it has been secured to a concrete plinth and sadly is defaced with graffiti. We walked over grassy slopes with Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) and Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) in flower until we reached an area of coastal flush where we were rewarded with the sight of many flowering specimens of Grass of Parnassus; it is probably extinct in its one County Down site, Aughnadarragh Lough, but does occur in several coastal marshy areas of County Antrim.

On our return walk, we encountered a bull among his harem of cows and our leader disappeared rapidly through gorse bushes down to the rocky shore. However the bull seemed to be more interested in his cows than in a group of botanists and we passed unscathed. Craig Somerville of the National Trust promised to ensure that the bull would be removed from this public access area.

The President thanked David for taking us yet again on a botanical walk where there was plenty of interest for specialists and non-specialists to enjoy.

While writing this report, I googled Skernaghan Point and was interested to learn it was only 24 miles from Portpatrick where the nearest golf club and camp sites could be found - no mention of being separated by the North Channel!

Margaret Marshall

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Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris)

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