Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Walk of the Week: Prehen Wood

The Woodland Trust’s Prehen Wood is one of Northern Ireland’s rare and irreplaceable ancient woods.

Ancient woodland is land continuously wooded since at least 1600, and Prehen has certainly seen its share of centuries come and go.

Today’s wood is a remnant of the extensive woodland that once covered much of the east bank of the River Foyle, stretching as far as Strabane.

It managed to withstand the Siege of Derry in 1689 and the presence of American troops during the Second World War, only succumbing in recent years to the pressures of modern development.

At 7.5 hectares (18.5 acres), the remaining woodland is much reduced from its former size. That which remains, however, is a treasure trove — a place of great beauty and a precious wildlife habitat in the middle of an otherwise urban landscape. It is situated on the east bank of the River Foyle, less than two miles outside the city of Londonderry,

Directions

Take the A5 Victoria Road from Derry to Strabane, along the bank of the River Foyle. Approaching the Everglades Hotel, you will see a signpost for Prehen at the left-hand side of the road. Follow this slip road and, having passed the main entrance of the Everglades Hotel, follow the next signpost for Prehen on your left hand side. This takes you to Prehen Park.

Take the second left turn into Sandringham Drive. At the top of Sandringham, turn left into Summerhill Park. At the end of the cul de sac you will see the entrance to the wood.

The choice of walking routes is detailed on an information board at the entrance to the wood. Choose between a 40-minute circular walk and 20-minute circular walk. In both cases, stout footwear is required and the walk grade is easy or gentle.

As you enter the wood you will see a large, wooden red squirrel carving. Follow the path straight past the squirrel and continue straight ahead, with the golf course to your right, until you come to the first stone bridge at a pool of water with an alder tree standing on an island in the middle of it. This is where you can decide which route to take.

For the longer route, take the right path and for the shorter route the left. The longer route takes you past the sculpture of the foxes and eventually to a leaning rail, where you can take in the views over the city. Continue along the path until you reach a sculpture of a hedgehog. This is where you rejoin the short route.

From here the path will lead you over a series of stone bridges and streams and eventually you will start to climb back up the hill past a sculpture of a butterfly, arriving at the fence above the disused quarry, which affords fantastic views over the Foyle. The quarry is gradually being reclaimed by trees and offers a haven for wildlife. The path continues to climb uphill to the sculpture of the red squirrel at the entrance/exit to the wood.

Whichever path you follow, you will be impressed by the tranquillity and beauty of this precious ancient woodland.

The Backdrop

Beech trees, interspersed with hazel, holly and oak, will greet you at Prehen Wood. Spring brings an amazing array of woodland flowers, including bluebells, lesser celandines and wood anemones, while autumn shows off its stunning russet browns, golds and reds.

This beautiful ancient woodland is also home to some colourful wild inhabitants. The more privileged visitor may catch a glimpse of the endangered red squirrel. Birds such as sparrowhawk and long-eared owl also live in the wood.

A carved squirrel, fox, badger, hedgehog and butterfly will keep a watchful eye on you as you explore this quiet corner of nature. The new wooden sculptures were created by sculptor Michael Rodgers and were inspired by children from the local Rosemount Primary School.

If you wish to step out on a mission, then an orienteering trail awaits you. The trail, complete with wooden waymarkers, will help you to navigate your way around the wood. In Prehen Wood, the ecotrail is aimed at everyone, regardless of ability or age. Find out more and download an activity booklet and a specially produced map at ecotrails.co.uk.

Certain features, such as a quarry right beside the Trust’s woodland, are reminders of past times. During the war, the Americans had a communications base in Derry City and stone from the quarry was used to build Lisahally Docks on the River Foyle. Here, a fleet of German U-boats famously surrendered to the Allies.

Now a haven for wildlife, the quarry is said to be haunted by the ghost of a US soldier who was accidentally killed there before excavation ceased in 1944.

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: Prehen Wood.

Area: County Londonderry.

Nearest big town to start point: Derry.

Distance: 0.5–1 mile.

Time: 20 or 40 minutes to complete this walk, depending on route chosen.

Terrain: Gravel and grass pathways through woodland.

Access Restrictions: The wood is freely open to all, all year round.

Publications: The Woodland Trust’s leaflet ‘Prehen Wood’ is available by telephoning the Trust’s Bangor office on, tel: 028 9127 5787 or by visiting treeforall.org.uk/northernireland.Visit ecotrails.co.uk.

Walk Developed By: The Woodland Trust. The purchase and management of Prehen Wood have been made possible thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Environment and Heritage Service, Derry City Council, Woodland Trust members and local people. Ongoing support has been received from the local group, Prehen Historical and Environmental Society.

Map: Grid reference C425148; Sheet 7 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series.



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