Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Walk of the Week: The Ballycollin Walk

Experience the lowland meadow and rush pasture habitats of Slievenacloy, some of the rarest grassland habitat in Ulster. The fields are alive with delicate flowers, insects and birds, and watch out in the autumn for rare grassland fungi.

The Slievenacloy Nature Reserve is located in the valley between Divis and Colin Mountains in the Belfast Hills. The site is described as a mosaic — a patchwork of different types of habitat all blending together.

The three main habitats you will see are species rich grassland, wet heathland and rush pasture, but there are also areas of fen, bog, and a stream system. Depending on what time you visit, you will see the wildlife supported by these habitats.

Directions

You can park on the Flowbog Road where there is pedestrian access to the farmhouse through a kissing gate located along the road. On-site car parking is only available by prior arrangement with the warden, tel: 028 4483 0282 for more information.

Walk south from the farmhouse down the hill towards the road, following the yellow butterfly markers.

At the bottom of the hill, climb over the field gate to the left and walk through the lowland meadow, following the fence line on your right, parallel to the road.

At the intersecting fence line, use the stile, then cross over the Stonyford stream. Follow the earth bank up the slope ahead and then through the rush pasture, watching out for wet and boggy areas.

At the next fence line, turn left, following the waymarker posts north until you drop down and cross over the stile onto the surfaced track. Turn left and follow the surfaced track west, turning left at the road junction back towards the farmhouse.

The backdrop

Without people shaping the landscape for centuries by grazing cattle and opening up the land for growing hay and crops, Slievenacloy would not be the diverse place it is today.

Farming has been done here on a small scale, mostly by hand and without heavy machinery or chemicals. Today the Ulster Wildlife Trust continues to graze the site with low numbers of cattle that create the ideal conditions for many different types of wildlife and allows the animals and plants to flourish.

This route heads off east into the Nature Reserve into lush pasture and some great examples of species-rich grassland.

Here, depending on the time of year, sweeps of primroses can be seen across the slopes, butterflies could be on the wing among the colourful blooms of orchids and other wildflowers or you may find an unexpected blush of brightly coloured waxcap fungi in your path.

Irish hares have been spotted here on the other side of the river and listen out for the squeaking and chattering sounds of the pygmy shrews. The valley is steep in places, so bear in mind that you have to come back up once you’ve gone down.

What to bring

As a general rule, it is best to be overprepared than underprepared. Waterproof and windproof clothing are essential and strong walking boots are also advised. Walkers should carry enough food and water for the walk and for emergencies as well as taking a first aid kit. As a further safety precaution, you are advised to inform someone of your intended route before you leave.

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: Slievenacloy Nature Reserve — The Ballycollin Walk.

Area: Co Antrim.

Nearest big town to start point: Lisburn.

Distance: 1.5 miles/2.4 km.

Terrain: This short circular walk is on rough off-road paths and is not suitable for those with limited mobility.

Access Restrictions: Please keep dogs under control at all times as there are cattle present within the reserve.

Refreshments: Refreshments can be bought from the Glen Colin filling station at the junction of the Ballycolin/Colin Glen Road, or at the Ballymac Hotel on the Rock Road.

Publications: Welcome to Slievenacloy Nature Reserve, available from The Ulster Wildlife Trust on, tel: 028 4483 0282, or download from walkni.com.

Walk Developed By: Ulster Wildlife Trust.

Map: Sheet 14 or 15 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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