June 16th - Ram’s Island, Presidential Excursion.

Islands at times involve unpleasant sea travel, but this island lies in Lough Neagh within Sandy Bay only 10 minutes from the marina yet the majority of our 32 BNFC participants had never been there and moreover this delightful little gem had something for everyone.

On arrival coffee and scones were served in the converted barge “Sandmartin”. In spite of a very wet June the day remained dry. After a welcome from the President, Michael Savage, an Island Warden, explained the recent development of the island undertaken by, The River Bann and Lough Neagh Association (RBLNA) and mostly carried out by volunteers.

Rodent extermination and control of sycamores were the first priorities and a new jetty was built to accommodate larger craft.

Although the RBLNA aim to encourage special interest groups to visit the island this must be done in a controlled manner lest damage to the island’s heritage would occur.

Ram’s Island is part of The Lord O’Neill’s Estate and is on lease since 2005. The O’Neill’s had a summer retreat on the island but the house is now a ruin. An interesting connection regarding this was explained by one of our new members Doris Barr. The Cardwell family, caretakers for the O’Neill’s, lived on Ram’s Island for 50 years in a thatched cottage. They lived by marketing the fish they caught and growing vegetables. Their job was to prepare the summer-house when the Shane’s Castle party were arriving. Doris Barr’s mother-in-law Sadie, lived on the island with her Grandmother and Great Grandparents for the good of her health. The island air may well have helped as she lived to be a very old lady.

We then had most informative talks from Philip Doughty on the geology of Lough Neagh and from Pamela Tomlinson on the place of the Lough Neagh May flies in the ecosystem.

Exploration of the island came next. From the former lakebed where we had been standing, a short steep climb took us to the original much smaller “island.” Margaret Marshall has submitted a detailed report on the plants growing on the recent shore line and on the established flora of the higher area.

The centre of the island was of great interest for its archaeology namely an Irish Round Tower fairly well preserved around which there had been a Monastic Settlement. Claire Foley gave us a most interesting talk on the tower and the possibilities of what a “dig” might produce.

Even in its state of ruin we could appreciate that the O’Neill summer -house had been an idyllic spot. Finally walking along the narrow “tail” of the island we came to where the Cardwell’s cottage had stood. The old jetty is still there as is the stone revetment which once protected the house from the winter Lough Neagh waves.

By 3pm the group had arrived in Crumlin at Talnotry Avian Care Trust known as TACT. This centre, which is run as a charity, cares for injured birds, even unwanted pets, such as the beautiful European Owl which we greatly admired. If possible the birds are released back to the wild. Hopefully the Buzzard chicks are now soaring somewhere in Co Antrim.

Small mammals also intrigued us, especially the fox, which had a special relationship with his carer. Although captive animals are not what we would wish to see, we appreciate that this dedicated work springs from a genuine love for animal welfare.

The Vice President Philip Doughty expressed a vote of thanks to the President.

Patricia Rutherford, President.

Field Trip Reports 2012Field_Trip_Reports.html

Irish Round Tower

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Ram’s Island GeologyRams_Island_Geology.html
Ram’s Island BotanyRams_Island_Botany.html
Ram’s Island ArchaeologyRams_Island_Archaeology.html

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)


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