Belfast Telegraph

Historic Belfast woodland marks facelift with celebration

By Linda Stewart

A north Belfast woodland that was once a commuter trail for a baby elephant during the Second World War has just gained a new lease of life.

Throne Wood, at the foot of Cave Hill, will host a celebration this Saturday to show off improved pathways and entrances, a heron sculpture and a new dipping platform - thanks to a windfall of almost £48,000 from the Alpha Programme administered by Groundwork Northern Ireland. The woodland was once the haunt of Sheila the baby elephant, a denizen of nearby Belfast Zoo during the Second World War. The Ministry of Public Safety ordered that many animals should be shot in case they escaped during the bombing.

However, Sheila was taken under the wing of one of the zookeepers. Every night, the calf was walked through Throne Wood to spend the night at her keeper's home on the Whitewell Road and each morning she returned through the wood. Saturday will feature guided walks, tales and mini-beast hunts between 11am and 4pm.

A dazzling metal sculpture in the form of a heron takes pride of place beside the pond, the handiwork of Kevin Killen, with input from children at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School who use the wood as an outdoor classroom.

Michelle McCaughtry, the Woodland Trust's people engagement officer, said: "A professional storyteller will entertain young minds with some tall tales included. And don't miss the mini-beast hunt. It's a chance to discover the insects at home here, and we'll hopefully catch a glimpse of some larger creatures."

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