Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Get close to nature in the heart of the city

One of Belfast’s most popular Victorian parks, Ormeau Park in the south of the city was once the home of the Donegall family.

The name ‘Ormeau’ comes from the French, meaning elms by the water (orme meaning elm and eau meaning water).

This route explores the historic parkland overlooking the River Lagan on surfaced paths.

Directions

Ormeau Park lies between the Ormeau Road, Ormeau Embankment and Ravenhill Road.

By bus: Metro Service 7 to Ormeau Road or 78-79 Ravenhill Road, 0.6 miles (0.9km) and 0.4 miles (0.65km) respectively to the starting point. By car: Car parking at recreation centre — entrance off Ormeau Embankment.

Beginning at the car park beside Ormeau Recreation Centre, take the tree-lined path to the right of the recreation centre, past the all weather pitches. Keep right at the next two junctions. Continue along this path past mature trees and woodland copses.

You will reach a crossroads — notice the green post labelled E9 and go straight on. You will pass the former Superintendent’s House within the garden on your left. Continue until you pass a small shelter. Ahead will be two roads — take the second one on the right.

This leads to the outside of the former walled garden. Turn left, keeping the wall on your right, and then left again on the main path leading from the entrance to the service yard. Follow this path.

On your right you will see a bandstand. Follow the path on your right, which leads past a second shelter, some flower beds and mature conifer trees. Just beyond these on your right is a small wildflower meadow.

Continue past a triangular rose bed on your left, but veer left at the next triangular flower bed, in which there stands a bell on a post. Take the next right and then left to return to the car park.

The Backdrop

The second Marquis moved to the Demesne in 1807 when he came to live in Ormeau cottage. Between 1823 and 1830 the building was replaced by a much grander Ormeau House. The house was 300 feet in length and had more than 20 rooms, standing near the centre of today’s park.

In the early 1830s and early 1840s Ormeau was a busy and moderately prosperous estate with a walled garden (parts of the wall still surround the bowling greens at Park Road) gardens, glasshouses, two summer houses, a porter’s lodge at the Ravenhill Road entrance, an ice house and a battery.

The second Marquis lived at Ormeau until his death in 1844. The property was then passed to his eldest son, but the third Marquis never took up residence at Ormeau and the house was lived in by his cousin Thomas Verner for 10 years. In 1857 the contents were auctioned off, 1861 saw one wing of the house destroyed in a fire and by the late 1860s anything of value was removed from the house and the empty shell left to decay.

The estate was sold to the Belfast Corporation in 1869 to pay off some of the family’s debts.

The Corporation decided to sell on some of the demesne and the remainder of the land was opened as a park to the public on April 15, 1871, the first public park in Belfast and one of the largest in the city.

In June 1900 a ceremony was held in the park to present the Freedom of the City to General Sir George White. In 1903 a pair of lion cubs were given to the city and kept in the park. In 1904 the park received a gift of a pair of ostriches from the Duke of Abercorn.

During the Dockers’ strike in 1907, there were three regiments stationed in the park. The men billeted in tents around the pond and flat region on the park opposite the gas works site.

Migrant spotted flycatchers have been seen catching flies from open perches on the old wall, which once surrounded the walled garden. Foxes are a common early morning sight, and jays have also been spotted.

Ormeau Park plays host to an oriental plane from the Balkans, contorted willows from China, cedars from Lebanon and maples from North America.

The Superintendent’s house is a Victorian home built for the park’s superintendent, who originally lived on the property. This house is still clearly visible and sits within its own garden.

The bell, which looks somewhat out of place in one of the flower beds, was once rung to indicate to the public the park’s closing time.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Walk Name: Ormeau Park.

Area: Ormeau Road, Belfast.

Nearest big town to start: Belfast.

Distance: 1.25 miles.

Time: 30 minutes.

Suitability: This walk is on well-surfaced paths with some gradual hills and is suitable for people with limited mobility.

Access Restrictions: Ormeau Park opens at 7:30am and throughout the summer closing times vary from 8pm to 10pm. Check the Belfast City Council website for more information,belfastcity.gov.uk/parks.

Refreshments: There are numerous amenities and coffee shops along the Ormeau Road.

Publications: A Walk in the Park, available from Belfast City Council, Parks Section or via belfastcity.gov.uk/parks.

Developed By: Belfast City Council.

Map: Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series sheet 15, available from LPSNI Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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