Walk of the Week: Bog Meadows Local Nature Reserve
This route runs through an area of floodplain for the River Blackstaff, which provides a fantastic oasis for wildlife in the city of Belfast. It mainly follows level stone paths and a wheelchair-friendly route is available.
Take the M1 Motorway to Donegall Road, where you will see the Park Centre. From there, turn left onto the Falls Road. Go past St Louise’s College, before passing a blue building, Rossa House. From here you will see the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve sign. Turn left into the Milltown Row across the road from Falls Park.
From the car park follow the path to the left of the playing fields. When you reach a footbridge take this over the Ballymurphy Stream, then take the path on your left. This leads around the perimeter of the site past some willow trees with the meadows on your right. The path continues adjacent to some houses and near the M1 motorway.
Around the site there are viewing platforms that allow you to pause and appreciate the site’s rich biodiversity and the views of the Belfast Hills. Follow the path until you reach a junction, then turn right alongside the main pond. Off to the right is another viewing mound and platform. Cross another footbridge and turn right out around the meadows.
The path runs alongside a drainage channel on your left and another viewing mound on your right. The path then turns right with willow trees between the path and Milltown Cemetery. At the next junction turn left, which leads to the car park via a steep hill. Disabled users should keep right and follow the gravel paths around the playing fields back to the car park.
The Bog Meadows Nature Reserve is a surviving remnant of the extensive floodplain of the River Blackstaff, formed after the Ice Age, and now covering 50 acres.
For centuries this has been an important area for wildlife and man. Until the middle of the 18th century, many animal species used the site to roost, feed and breed. Fifty species of breeding birds and more than 100 non-breeding species have been recorded in the past. This was the last recorded breeding site for corncrake, which is now almost extinct in Northern Ireland.
During the 18th century human impact on and around the meadows increased. Brick making, linen production and agriculture thrived as local industries. Cattle grazed on the meadows until the 1960s.
In 1987 a concerned group of people, calling themselves Friends of the Bog Meadows decided to do something to preserve this remaining area of wetland. In 1998 they became a local branch of the Ulster Wildlife Trust and received funding from a Peace and Reconciliation Fund to purchase the land and manage it for conservation, recreation and education.
Today the Bog Meadows is one of the few remaining wildlife sites in the city of Belfast. In 2000 Belfast City Council designated the area as a Local Nature Reserve. Besides people, some of the animals and plants that you may discover include the reed bunting (a bird with a black head and white belly which nests in the Bog Meadows), frogs, snipe, rabbits, mallards, pipits and cinnabar moths as well as common spotted orchids and bulrush.
Animals and plants love the Bog Meadows because of its many habitats including swamps and marshes, grasslands and meadows, open water, shrubs and trees.
Contact the Ulster Wildlife Trust, tel: 028 9060 1694. 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: Bog Meadows Local Nature Reserve.
Nearest big town to start point: Belfast.
Distance: 1.1 miles.
Terrain: This walk is mainly on level stone paths.
Access Restrictions: All paths are accessible for wheelchair users with the exception of the viewing mounds. Please stay on the footpaths provided. If you would like to feed the ducks, please bring corn or bird seed, instead of bread.
Refreshments: A wide range of refreshments, from light snacks to full meals, are available on the Falls Road, a five-minute walk from the reserve.
Publications: A Walk in the Park. Ulster Wildlife Trust Bog Meadows leaflet available from Belfast City Council Parks & Cemeteries, tel: 028 9066 2260.
Walk Developed By: Ulster Wildlife Trust.
Map: Sheet 15 & Belfast Street Finder of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).