Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Walk of the Week: Straidkilly

This walk leads through one of the largest areas of semi-natural woodland in Co Antrim. Mainly a hazel woodland walk, with areas of grassy clearings full of meadow flowers, the trail through Straidkilly Nature Reserve boasts a fabulous variety of woodland flowers.

The village of Straidkilly lies on the hillside above the coast of Glenarm. Most people call it the ‘Slipping Village’, because of the rock structure of the area.

Directions

The reserve lies midway between Glenarm and Carnlough. There are two access points to the nature reserve along the Straidkilly Road, which is signposted off the A2 Coast Road south of Carnlough.

This short walk follows unsurfaced paths around the nature reserve.

From the road entrance, follow the waymarkers through the woodland and onto the grassy open areas. To complete this circular route there is a short return section on the Straidkilly Road.

The backdrop

This small nature reserve, a designated ASSI (Area of Specific Scientific Interest), is perched above the village of Glenarm.

Straidkilly is an Area of Special Scientific Interest and is located within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The 21-acre site is managed by the Ulster Wildlife Trust under a 99-year lease from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

The reserve lies on a north-east facing escarpment of basalt underlain by chalk, a testament to the fascinating geology of the area. The woodland is dominated by hazel, with ash and birch more prominent on the upper slopes.

There are a number of grassy clearings full of meadow flowers surrounded by blackthorn scrub within the woodland. The woodland boasts a wealth of flowers in the spring and orchids in summer.

The highlight of a visit in the spring is the carpet of bluebell, primrose, dog violet, early purple orchid, wood anemone and wild garlic. A number of rare plants have also been recorded, including wood vetch, toothwort, bird's-nest orchid and juniper.

Resident bird species include the buzzard, song thrush, treecreeper, long-tailed tit and bull finch.

During the summer look out for warblers, such as blackcap, chiffchaff and willow warbler which winter in Africa.

Warm days in the spring and summer are perfect for seeing butterflies such as the dainty wood white and the majestic silver-washed fritillary around the woodland edges.

A small population of red squirrels can be found in the woodland, while other mammals on the reserve include rabbits, wood mice, shrews and stoats. Fine views of the stunning Antrim coast and the Mull of Kintyre can be enjoyed from the picnic area.

The book of Diocese of Down and Connor by Reverend J O'Laverty, which was published in 1878, mentions the existence of a Mass rock at Straidkilly.

“Mass was celebrated on a sheltered stone at the ‘Priest's Knowe' near Straidkilly. The spot is between the old and new roads from Glenarm to Cushendall, bounded by the old road, and a few perches off the new cutting,” it says.

Nearby Glenarm forest is small, but has a wide variety of tree species growing under excellent conditions of soil and climate. Throughout the forest the tree species such as oak, ash, beech, sycamore, Japanese larch, Sitka spruce and many others compete for survival. On the forest floor, plants such as bluebells, primroses, dog's mercury and ground ivy can all be found.

The numerous feeder streams that run down the side of the glen to join the Glenarm river form ribbons of natural vegetation through the man-made forest. The Lead, which was built early in the 19th century to bring water from the top of the glen to the ‘whitening mill' beside Glenarm harbour, now forms a part of Glenarm's industrial archaeology.

The Glenarm river runs on a straight course down the centre of the glen to join the sea at Glenarm village. It is normally well stocked with brown trout, sea trout, salmon and eels and, along its banks, mallard, heron, dipper, kingfishers and the odd otter can be seen.

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: Straidkilly.

Area: Antrim Coast & Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest town to start point: Glenarm.

Distance: 0.65 miles.

Terrain: This short circular walk is on unsurfaced paths through hazel woodland with some steep inclines.

Refreshments: There are shops, pubs and cafes in the nearby village of Glenarm.

Publications: Walk the Bann & Roe Valleys — Landscapes from Stone Route 4. You can pick up a copy of this at Limavady Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 7776 0307.

Walk Developed By: Ulster Wildlife Trust.

Map: Sheet 9 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop, Lincoln Buildings, 27-45 Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT2 7SL (lpsni.gov.uk).

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