Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Walk of the Week: Lagan Valley

This attractive route explores a beautiful Local Nature Reserve where cows graze within just a few miles of Belfast city centre. All sorts of wildlife habitats can be found in this stretch of the Lagan Valley, which centres on the winding lower reaches of the river.

Directions

Enter at Knightsbridge Park, accessed off Stranmillis Road at Richmond Park, and off the Malone Road at Bladon Drive. Metro Services 8 (A-C) to Malone Road, get off at Bladon Drive and walk 0.4 miles (0.7 km) to Knightsbridge Park.

Enter this Local Nature Reserve via the kissing gate at Knightsbridge Park and follow the path to your right. After a short distance you will find a path to the left leading to Lester’s Dam and pond. Retrace your steps to the main path, and continue along for a good distance through wooded areas and past meadows until you come to a steep set of steps. These lead down to the Lagan towpath.

Turn left along the towpath for a short distance, then take the bridge on your right over the former canal and cross the stile. Keeping the River Lagan on your right, follow the grass path that leads round Moreland’s Meadow. At the far end of the meadow, you will cross another stile and then a small bridge.

From here turn right on to a narrow path that leads to a footbridge and back over the canal onto the towpath. Turn right and follow the river as it winds its way downstream. Pass by the first kissing gate on your left (taking this gate is a shortcut via Lester’s Dam to the starting point). Continue along the towpath taking the next path on your left.

Follow this path to the end, pass through another kissing gate and take the path to your left. This path leads round the edge of the meadows and back to the car park.

THE BACKDROP

Opened in 1985, Lagan Meadows contains the source of Belfast’s first piped water supply, a stream that still flows today. An earth wall was built to form a reservoir that became known as Lester’s Dam. From here, the water was fed through a system of open aqueducts to holding ponds at Botanic Gardens and Lennoxvale, and on into Belfast through a series of wooden pipes.

The ground towards the northern end of Lagan Meadows once formed part of Malone Golf Course, before the club moved to a new site beside Barnett Demesne. A number of flat tees and greens can still be identified among the gorse and recent tree plantings in Lagan Meadows.

In 2006 a Local Nature Reserve was designated in recognition of its important wildlife habitats and biodiversity.

The spring at Lester’s Dam was the source of Belfast’s first piped water supply nearly 200 years ago. A reservoir, named after John Lester who leased neighbouring land, was created by the building of a dam. Today, the remains of this earthen bank can still be seen, topped by a few hawthorn trees.

Lagan Meadows has areas of mixed deciduous woodland, rich in birdlife and woodland wild flowers such as wood anemone, lesser celandine and herb Robert.

The 18-acre island at Moreland’s Meadow was formed when the canal cut was made to avoid the long curving bend in the river. It is grazed in the summer. Specimen cedar and oak trees now dominate the meadow landscape.

The low-lying central areas of the park give rise to wetland and marsh areas for which Lagan Meadows is best known. This area is managed as a wildlife reserve by the Ulster Wildlife Trust in conjunction with Belfast City Council.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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: Lagan Meadows.

Area: Lagan Valley.

Nearest big town to start point: Belfast.

Distance: 2.2 miles circular.

Time: Walkers should leave one hour to complete this walk.

Suitability: This walk is on both|surfaced and unsurfaced paths and is|not suitable for wheelchair users.

Publications: A Walk in the Park, Ulster Wildlife Trust Lagan Meadows leaflet is available from Belfast City Council Parks & Cemetries, tel: 028 9066 2259.

Walk Developed By: Belfast City Council & Ulster Wildlife Trust.

Map: Sheet 15 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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