Ness Country Park lies in the steep, wooded glen of the Burntollet Valley, southeast of Derry City.
It’s home to Northern Ireland’s highest waterfall, which formed after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago when the old Burntollet River course was choked by glacial boulder clay deposits.
The park extends along both sides of the Burntollet River, joining Ness and Ervey Woods. This walk takes you from the new Visitor Centre, past the wildflower meadows and along the banks of the Burntollet River into Ness Wood, where the waterfall is situated, and back to the Visitor Centre, with the option of a further walk through Ervey Wood.
Ness Country Park is located approximately seven miles from the City of Derry. The main entrance is signposted from the A6, via Oughtagh Road. There is also car parking at Ervey Wood and another further along the Oughtagh Road at Ness Wood.
From the main car park at the Visitor Centre, take the path leading straight down to Brown’s Bridge. Follow the path to the right before it crosses the bridge. This easy path will take you past the wildflower meadow to Hone’s Bridge.
Cross Hone’s Bridge and follow the path alongside the Burntollet River. When the path splits, take the steps to follow the upper path and continue along this uphill path for approximately 1 mile. You will see the waterfall viewing point on this path.
Continue along the path until you come to a junction where you will take the path leading to the right. Follow this path until you reach Shane’s Bridge. Cross the bridge and continue along the path until it reaches a T-junction. At this point, take the path leading right and cross back over the river.
Follow the path alongside the river until you reach Hone’s Bridge. At this point take the path to the left which will take you past the wildflower meadows and ponds and back to the Visitor Centre carpark.
Ness Country Park is made up of 55 hectares of mixed woodland (including Ness Wood, Ervey and Tamnymore Woods) as well as more open parkland, all developed by Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The woods are now linked by Donaghy’s Farm, which gives visitors access to 7km of woodland and riverside walks. It also includes an area of level meadow, providing easy-access walking for less able visitors.
The earliest evidence of local human settlements are the Bronze age remains at Slaughtmanus, Ballygroll and Mullaboy. During the Early Christian period, it is believed that St Patrick founded the church of Commyr (now Cumber), afterwards burned by the Norse in the ninth century. Later, the area became part of the O'Cahan's territory in North Derry, until the 1641 rebellion, after which the last O'Cahan forfeited his lands.
With the plantation of Ulster in the 17th century, the wood was allotted to the Grocer's Company, one of the London Guilds charged with planting Co Londonderry and subsequently to the Stevenson Estate.
These new owners clear-felled the oaks and introduced a variety of species, including beech, sycamore, sweet chestnut, silver fir, larch, cherry laurel and rhododendron.
However, the steep-sided nature of Ness restricts the removal of timber and this, combined with vigorous natural regeneration, has ensured the survival of oak, birch, rowan and holly, along with ash, hazel, alder, willow and elm. Ness Wood is a rare remnant of extensive natural oakwoods.
Ervey and Tamnymore Woods, which are separated by a small stream, cover an area of 20 hectares dominated by oak with a smattering of birch, hazel and beech. Physical features include a number of small waterfalls and wet rock faces, as well as a series of high cliffs and a broad river flood plain.
Both Ness and Ervey Woods are Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), designated for their woodland flora, and are part of the Faughan Valley Special Area of Conservation.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network, tel: 028 9030 3930 or www.walkni.com
Countryside Access and Activities Network (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: Ness Waterfall Trail
Area: Ness Country Park, Co Londonderry
Nearest big town to start point: Londonderry/Claudy/Eglinton
Distance: 3 miles
Terrain: Woodland, riverside paths and wooden boardwalk
Access Restrictions: Ness Country Park is open daily from Easter to the end of September, 9am-9pm, and October to Easter, 9am-5pm. The Visitor Centre is open daily from July 2009 to the end of September, 10am-6pm, and from October to Easter, noon-4pm on Sundays only. Please ensure that dogs are kept under control at all times and please clean up after your dog. There are no litter bins, so please take all your litter home to recycle.
Refreshments: Ness Garden Centre, which is located at the Ervey Road junction off the A6 (signposted), has a lovely coffee shop
Walk Developed By: Northern Ireland Environment Agency
Map: Sheet 7 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series ( www.lpsni.gov.uk )