While walking through the many parklands and forest parks in mid Ulster, visitors often miss out on the scenery either “browsing”, or waiting on 3, 4 and at some stage in the near future 20G to return. Young parents with toddlers can be found negotiating as to whether they were following the red, yellow or green trail and the runners are busy “mapping” their life with headphones in, dodging potholes while checking their BPM.
Walking along the Blackwater at Benburb you will find a place that has not followed the latest parkland trends. It is a place of adventure where trails are often hidden and should you dare to explore, you will find nature at its best. Using reliable navigation methods such as the river, streams and the leaf covered tracks, you can walk”off piste” to find some hidden treasures. It’s certainly not a place for nice new trainors so come prepared.
An orienteering post was the start of our adventure yesterday, while out participating in the Benburb bioblitz part 2. While the adults were discussing the possibility of a trail nearby, and paused to view an old map, the kids took off.
After a few yards they discovered an old footbridge that was disguised as a moss covered carpet. It wasn’t long until they had rolled back the moss, checking for bugs and additional items for our survey. A great find! This was just what we needed to re route our bio blitz walk and follow a new trail.
The route was a little obscure at first but a path was apparent and we walked on as the kids scrambled uphill excited by the discovery of a new trail.
It wasn’t long until the trail opened up to reveal a wonderful ancient bluebell wood, a “secret garden” high above the river Blackwater. This will definitely be worth revisiting in the coming weeks as they start to flower.
Walking along the old woodland trail that is overgrown and green, moreso by the invasive laurel visitors, than native trees, we stopped to view the latest edition, Portuguese laurel. Man’s favourite garden hedge has long visited these woods and is trying to take over.
At the edge of this forest sits a lovely snapshot reminder of how it once looked. Small beech and oak trees with a carpet of leaves. The addition of light makes it hard for the green moss and ivy to grow.
This area has become home to a few air ‘badger ‘ B n B’s. While out foraging away from home they can often take refuge in a nearby den. By the “sweet” smell in the air they must have been partying late last night. Plenty of scratching holes provide evidence that they were out feeding into the early hours.
The dark hedges days may be numbered after battles with storm doris but fear not we can always invite game of thrones to Benburb in a few years to use our woodland set. The almost robotic precision of this planting must have been paving the way for the return of an O Neill clan to march back to the castle.
The importance of the mighty oak to the biodiversity of a woodland is clear when you look at the bark of an oak compared to an Ash tree, in the pictures below. Oak forests provide a habitat rich in biodiversity; they support more life forms than any other native trees. They host hundreds of species of insect, supplying many British birds with an important food source. In autumn mammals such as badgers and deer take advantage of the falling acorns.
A short walk downhill through the old forest and we returned to the main path along the river, enriched by the sights and scenery along our walk.
If you would like to learn more about this wonderful area and volunteer to help look after the valley park please contact Alynjones@allianceyouthworks.org.uk or via Facebook for info on future events and activities.