August 7th - Milford Cutting and Gosford Castle

Conductor: Margaret Marshall

We met at 11.00am in the village of Milford, just outside Armagh city. There was a group of 16, which included what must be two of our youngest members (Arthur, aged nearly 3 and Eva, aged 1¼ )! The day was still cloudy at this stage as we walked up a lane towards Milford Cutting, spotting buzzard and a heron flying overhead.

Milford Cutting, now a nature reserve managed by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, was part of the Armagh City to Castleblaney railway which opened in 1909 and then closed in 1957. Apparently the Milford platform was the longest of the GNR.

In particular we were here to see the quite rare Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) and the Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) – which we did.

The Marsh Helleborine (opposite) has an exquisite little flower when viewed close up. We were also hoping to see butterflies, particularly the Silver-washed fritillary, but the lack of sunshine made that unlikely at first. However shortly after arriving at the Cutting the sun broke through, and although we didn’t see the Silver-washed fritillary, we did see several Speckled wood, Small white, Large white and a Common blue.

There were lots of other flowers to enjoy, including:- Angelica (Angelica sylvestris), Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca), Knapweed (Centaurea nigra), Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum), Square-stalked St. John’s Wort (Hypericum tetrapterum), Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), Herb Bennett (Geum urbanum), Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

We understood that there should be about 11 of the rare Irish Whitebeam tree (Sorbus hibernica) in the area, but we only managed to find one of them!

We then drove over to Gosford Forest Park, near Markethill, and had our picnic before embarking on a walk round the Arboretum. There was a lovely Walnut tree (Juglans regia) in the car park area, and then in the Arboretum a great number of trees (deciduous and conifer) from all over the world, many having reached over 150 years of age. Most of them were very helpfully labelled. Trees seen  included:- Common/English Oak (Quercus robur), Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Copper beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘purpurea’), Southern Beech (Nothofagus), Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Silver Birch (Betula Pendula), Cut-leaved Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘laciniata’), Cypresses, Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), Giant Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria imbricata), Yew (Taxus baccata), Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Bhutan Pine (Pinus wallichiana), Armands Pine (Pinus armandii), West Himalayan Spruce (Picea smithiana). There were far too many to name them all, and lots of beautiful specimens. We also saw Broad-leaved Helleborines (Epipactis helleborine), and a number of fungi.

The trip may have finished with afternoon tea at the Cafe in Gosford Forest Park – but it was closed!

Maureen Carswell

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