15 June - Carnmoney  Hill


Leader : Gregor Fulton  


On a lovely June evening, members assembled at the Knocknenagh Avenue entrance to Carnmoney Hill. Our leader, Gregor Fulton, site manager for the Woodland Trust’s N.Ireland woods, explained that Newtownabbey Borough Council and the Woodland Trust had formed a partnership in 2003 to preserve the hill and its mixture of habitats for future generations. Over 57,000 native trees have been planted to bolster the ancient woodland. Local volunteers help keep this Local Nature Reserve in order.


At the entrance  we looked at a pond with young Tufted and Mallard ducks and then contoured round and up the hill.  Our President, the archaeologist Claire Foley, discussed the remains of old farmsteads, field boundaries, raths and souterrains. The last thatched cottage had been inhabited until a fire in the 1970s.


By a small pond and damp area were lovely clumps of Flag Irises (Iris pseudacorus), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) - flos-cuculi because it flowers when we should be hearing the cuckoo, and Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

The Field of Flowers project aims to turn a one hectare field into a wild-flower meadow with 25 oak trees dispersed among it. Yellow Rattle (Rhinantus minor), a hemi-parasite on grass, will gradually weaken the grasses and already Red Campion (Silene dioica) was established.


We climbed higher for magnificent views over Belfast, Belfast Lough glinting in the sunlight, the Mourne Mountains and out to sea as far as Scotland. Our return route was thought the ancient woodland where formerly coppiced hazel trees provided shade for Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) and Wood Sanicle (Sanicula europaea) an umbellifer which is an indicator of ancient woodland. A Victorian well, restored with sculptures of local wild life as a Millennium project, was admired.


Our leader was thanked by the President for introducing us to an area rich in wildlife and history so near to Belfast but new to many of the group.

                                                                                         

Margaret Marshall




 
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Yellow Rattle (Rhinantus minor)

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