Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Ulster walks: Straidkilly Nature Reserve

Get closer to nature in the Straidkilly meadow

Straidkilly Nature Reserve may be a relatively small parcel of land perched on the hills above the coast at Glenarm — yet it harbours one of the largest stretches of semi-natural woodland in Co Antrim.



The village of Straidkilly itself is known as the ‘Slipping Village’ — this slipping phenomenon comes about because of the rock structure of the area.

Most of the route is a hazel woodland walk, interspersed with grassy clearings full of meadow flowers, which are best seen in spring when the woodland blossoms are out.

Directions

The reserve is midway between Glenarm and Carnlough. There are two access points to the nature reserve along the Straidkilly Road, which is signposted off the A2 Coast Road south of Carnlough or off the B97 Glenarm-Ballymena Road on the outskirts of Glenarm Village.

The area is served by Ulsterbus service 128 Ballymena-Carnlough or 162 Larne- Cushendun.

From the road entrance follow the waymarkers around the nature reserve through the woodland and through grassy open areas. The walk finishes with a short section on road.

The Backdrop

The nature reserve at Straidkilly is now designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It takes in 8.5 hectares (21 acres) which have been managed by the Ulster Wildlife Trust since 2000 under a 99-year lease with the owners Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

The reserve lies on a north-east facing escarpment of basalt underlain by chalk, a testimony to the fascinating geology of the area. The woodland is dominated by hazel, with ash and birch more prominent on the upper slopes. There are also a number of grassy clearings full of meadow flowers surrounded by blackthorn scrub within the woodland.

The highlight of a visit in the spring is the carpet of woodland flowers such as bluebell, primrose, dog violet, early purple orchid, wood anemone and wild garlic. A number of rare plants have also been recorded.

Resident bird species include the buzzard, song thrush, treecreeper, long-tailed tit and bull finch. During the summer look out for warblers, such as blackcap, chiffchaff and willow warbler which winter in Africa.

Warm days in the spring and summer are perfect for seeing butterflies such as the dainty wood white and the majestic silver-washed fritillary around the woodland edges.

A small population of red squirrels can be found in the woodland and other mammals making their home in the reserve include rabbits, wood mice, shrews and stoats. Fine views of the stunning Antrim coast and the Mull of Kintyre can be enjoyed from the picnic area.

The book of Diocese of Down and Connor by Rev. J. O'Laverty which was published in 1878 mentions the existence of a mass rock at Straidkilly village.

“Mass was celebrated on a sheltered stone at the 'Priest's Knowe' near Straidkilly. The spot is between the old and new roads from Glenarm to Cushendall, bounded by the old road, and a few perches off the new cutting,” it says.

Responsible Walking

CAAN endorses the principles of Leave No Trace, which mean recreational users can minimise their impact on the countryside whilst still enjoying activities with freedom. For more information, visit www.leavenotraceireland.org

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network at 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: Straidkilly

Area: Antrim Coast & Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Nearest big town to start point: Village of Glenarm

Distance: 0.65 miles

Terrain: Hazel woodland, woodland glades. Some steep inclines, unmade paths

Refreshments: There are shops, pubs and cafes in the nearby village of Glenarm

Publications: Walk the Bann & Roe Valleys – Landscapes from Stone Route 4

Walk Developed By: Ulster Wildlife Trust

Ordnance Survey Map: Sheet 9 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop, Lincoln Buildings, 27–45 Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT2 7SL (www.lpsni.gov.uk).

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