5th June - Castlerock



The excursion to Castlerock was a partial reenactment of a BNFC excursion in 1910. Like our forefathers we travelled by train to Castlerock, the journey in 2010 being a mere 15 minutes shorter than the 1910 one.


On arrival we walked to Hezlett House where there was promise of tea or coffee before the tour of the house. Hezlett House has a thatched cottage exterior, which hides a fascinating early timber frame dating from 1690, making it one of the oldest vernacular domestic buildings in Northern Ireland. It became home to the Hezlett's in 1766 and stayed within the family for the next 200 years until the National Trust acquired it in 1976. Much is documented about the members of the Hezlett family who lived there, and for that reason we are able to learn today what farm life was like 200 years ago. When the BNFC visited Castlerock in 1910 this building was still the Hezlett family home. The farmyard houses and the Downhill Marbles collection and viewing these gave us a taster for our visit to Downhill Demesne.


The more energetic members of our club followed in the footsteps of the 1910 members and walked to Downhill where we entered by the Bishop's Gate, which has a lovely Gothic gate lodge.


After a picnic lunch we were met by the Head Gardener of the estate who was very keen to tell us about the restoration of the Bog Garden which is beside the Bishop's Gate. The garden was first created by Lady Bruce in 1910 but had been neglected over the past 10 years so is now being restored to its former glory. We were also conducted through the Black Glen which is a small arboretum that's home to many different trees.


The warm, sunny weather made the walk to the ruins of Downhill a delightful experience. Downhill had a three storey front, facing south and with two long wings at the back of this. Originally these wings terminated in domes topped with ornamental chimney-pots. The wings were continued in ranges of outbuildings, forming inner and outer yards, and ending towards the sea in two immense curving bastions of basalt. It required a lot of imagination to picture the house in all its glory when it had been built for the Earl Bishop.


Our walk back to Castlerock took us past Mussenden Temple and along the cliff path where there was plenty to interest the botanists and the zoologists.


On our return to Castlerock there was time for afternoon tea and very scrumptious cake before our return train journey to Belfast.


Joan Semple

 
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Hezlett House

(Crustum classicus)

Members talking to Toby Edwards, Head Gardner

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