Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Walk of the Week: Huntly Wood

Huntly Wood is a natural haven, a mature beech woodland sited on steep wooded banks between the Huntly Road and the River Bann in Banbridge.

Banbridge District Council manages the 10-acre site for nature conservation and amenity. There is a 0.79-mile circular walk that follows the track of the former Banbridge-to-Scarva railway line along the River Bann for a short distance before looping back along the upper banks to the starting point at the layby.

Directions

Huntly Wood is located off the Huntly Road (which links the Downshire Road with the Lurgan Road at Lenaderg). The wood is located approximately one mile to the north-west of Banbridge town centre, opposite Banbridge Golf Club. A roadside layby taking four cars has been provided just opposite the smaller of the two car parks at Banbridge Golf Club.

From the layby follow the beaten/surfaced track either to the left, or walk directly from the layby towards the river and cross over a small footbridge to enter the start of the old railway cutting along the river. The walk is circular and will take you back to the starting point.

The Backdrop

In 2006 Banbridge Golf Club granted a 25-year lease to Banbridge District Council to manage this beautiful area of woodland for public access and conservation and it was officially opened to the public in July 2007. The project was completed with assistance from Probation Board for NI and with grant assistance from the Environment and Heritage Service.

The route follows, for a short distance, part of the old railway line that ran from Banbridge to Scarva. The line closed in 1959. Little trace remains of the old railway other than the cutting along the river and a length of square cut masonry wall. At the southern end of the site, opposite the bench, is one of the old stone-built bridge abutments that carried the railway over the River Bann.

The upper grassy banks are home to mature beech and oak, a zone of laurel has been contained at the foot of the slope, and beyond the old railway, along the river, is an area of alder. The combination of woodland habitat and old and dying wood is great for mini-beasts on which birds and bats feed. The river banks here form part of the territory of otters and they use it to forage and to get to other parts of their territory.

The habitats found in the wood provide good feeding and roosting opportunities for bats — four of the eight species of bat found in Northern Ireland have been identified in the wood. The majority are pipistrelle, which can be seen in the early evening between April and September. Species identified in the wood and along the river include Soprano pipistrelle, Common pipistrelle, Whiskered bat, Daubenton's bats and Leisler's bat. Bats can be seen swarming on warm, summer nights as they feed near the site of the old railway bridge.

The River Bann was integral to the development of the linen industry in Banbridge. Once, the banks between the town and Gilford were dotted with linen mills and factories and green fields made white by the strips of linen left out to bleach in the sun. On the opposite bank of the river, new housing development has replaced the old mills.

Along the old railway cutting, a viewpoint has been created at an old weir that once would have served to siphon water from the river into a large mill to power machinery and to provide water for bleaching.

The soft water of the River Bann was regarded as excellent for this purpose.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation NI (formerly CAAN) at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

Outdoor Recreation NI (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation NI 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: Banbridge Walk: Huntly Wood.

Area: Down.

Nearest big town to start point: Banbridge.

Distance: 0.79 miles.

Time: Please leave approximately 30 minutes time to complete this walk.

Terrain: Woodland and riverside walk. Walkers are advised to remain on the trail as there are steep slopes and uneven areas off trail. The trail is a mainly dust surfaced narrow woodland trail with some inclines. The path is very narrow along the upper bank and there can be wet and muddy areas along the walk so please wear suitable footwear.

Access restrictions: Please remain on surfaced trail. Keep children and dogs under close control. No motor vehicles. No bicycles.

Facilities/refreshments: A small roadside layby has been provided just opposite the smaller of the two car parks at Banbridge Golf Club. Refreshments can be found in a number of cafes, shops and restaurants in Banbridge town centre.

Publications: Banbridge: A Place to Visit, available from Banbridge Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 4062 0232.

Walk developed by: Banbridge District Council with assistance from the Probation Service for NI and grant assistance from NIEA.

Map: Sheet 20 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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