Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Walk of the Week: Clement Wilson Park

This enjoyable route explores parkland in Lagan Valley Regional Park on mostly level surfaced paths with a series of gradual ramps at Shaw’s Bridge and tactile surfacing.

The route runs alongside the River Lagan, returning via the Lagan Towpath, and can be enjoyed by all as it is has been designed for use by disabled users.

Directions

By bike: NCN route 9 runs through the park. By bus: Metro Service 8 (New Forge Lane), 93. By car: Entrance to Shaw’s Bridge car park off the A55 Outer Ring Road.

Park opening times: Until December 31, 7.30am–4.30pm.

Starting from the Shaw’s Bridge car park, cross the old Shaw’s Bridge and descend the ramps on your left. Turn right at the bottom and follow the towpath, firstly alongside the river and then by the disused canal.

The canal can be crossed using either the humpback bridge or the flat wooden footbridge. Both will take you to the front of the Lock Keeper’s Cottage. Take time to visit the newly restored cottage and the new visitor’s centre and Lock Keeper’s Inn.

Turn left following the path to New Forge Lane via the wooden bridge over the River Lagan. This path is also part of the NCN route and is shared with cyclists. Be careful of traffic on the New Forge Lane and follow the footpath for a short distance to reach Clement Wilson Park.

The raised surface path, known locally as the Burma Road, leads back to the car park, passing under the new road bridge beside Shaw’s Bridge.

The Backdrop

At the beginning of the 20th century, the land that is now Clement Wilson Park was occupied by a factory producing clogs, which were worn extensively worn by the labouring classes. A millrace that started beside Shaw’s Bridge fed water from the River Lagan to the factory.

In 1929 it was bought by a company called Wilson Management Ltd, who acquired additional land as part of the deal. Wilson’s firm used the factory to produce soft fruit for canning. Some of the fruit used was grown in orchards that stood on what are now the grasslands of the park beside Newforge Lane. From 1945 onwards the factory also supplied frozen fruit. This was sold from the first retail freezer unit located in Brands Arcade, Belfast.

As the factory was located out of town, it was difficult for employees to travel home for lunch. It therefore became custom for the employees to walk in the nearby fields. The chairman of the company, Mr Robert Clement Wilson, decided to have the grounds of the factory landscaped into gardens for the benefit of the employees — this area thus became the province’s first factory garden.

After the war, the millrace was filled in using rubble from demolished air-raid shelters and buildings. The sunken waterway became a raised walkway, known locally as Burma Road. This is still the main pathway through the park.

Negotiations between the Clement Wilson family and Belfast City Council took place during 1974 and the park officially opened on October 30, 1975. By this time most of the old factory buildings had been vandalised with only one farmhouse remaining. This farmhouse was used for a number of years by Belfast Canoe Club before it too was demolished in 1985.

The area is now used extensively by walkers and cyclists as it links with Barnett Demesne and Mary Peters Athletics track, Minnowburn and also the Lagan towpath.

Shaw’s Bridge took its name from Captain Shaw, who built an oak bridge in 1655 to transport the guns of Cromwell’s army across the river. This was replaced in 1698 with a stone one, which subsequently collapsed. The present five-arch span bridge was built in 1709.

The 26-mile Lagan canal was constructed in the 18th century to transport bulk commodities between Belfast and Lough Neagh. The Lagan Navigation flourished during the 19th century until rail and road competition made canals redundant; by the 1950s it was abandoned.

Standing beside the third lock, the Lock-Keeper’s Cottage is one of the few remaining examples from the 18th century Lagan Navigation System.

National Cycle Network (NCN) route 9, Lagan and Lough Cycle Way runs through the park. This route links Newtownabbey to Lisburn via the centre of Belfast.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in|association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland 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: Clement Wilson Park.

Area: Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast.

Nearest town to start point: Belfast.

Distance: 1.2miles, circular.

Time: Approximately 20-30 minutes.

Terrain: Surfaced tarmac paths with some ramps.

Refreshments & Facilities: Lock Keeper’s Inn (coffee shop) on the route.

Publications: A Walk in the Park, available from Belfast City Council, Parks Section or via the website belfastcity.gov.uk/parks. A Breath of Fresh Air – The Story of Belfast’s Parks by Robert Scott available from Belfast City Council. Clement Wilson leaflet available from Belfast City Council.

Walk Developed By: Belfast City Council.

Map: Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series sheet 15, available from LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ (lpsni.gov.uk).

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