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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 21:20 EDT

Get Back to Nature at Slievenacloy’s Pastures ; WALK THIS WAY

September 27, 2008

By LINDA McKEE

THE BALLYCOLLIN WALK, SLIEVENACLOY NATURE RESERVE

Tucked into a peaceful valley among the heights of the Belfast Hills is Slievenacloy Nature Reserve, a rich patchwork of different habitats harbouring all sorts of wildlife.

The reserve, managed by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, is a mosaic of species rich grassland, wet heathland and rush pasture but there are also areas of fen, bog, and a stream system. The lowland meadow and rush pasture habitats are among the rarest kinds of grassland in Northern Ireland.

The fields are alive with delicate flowers, insects and birds – and autumn is also the ideal time to spot rare grassland fungi. Dogs must be kept on a lead due to grazing animals.

DIRECTIONS

There is pedestrian and wheelchair access to Slievenacloy all year round from the main entrance and through kissing gates on the Flowbog Road.

Cars can be parked along the Flowbog Road. On-site car parking is only available during events organised by the Ulster Wildlife Trust which manages the site or by prior arrangement with the warden. Please tel: 4483 0282 for more information.

There is an information leaflet available on site to help guide the walker round the various way-marked trails.

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 continue through the lowland meadow, following the fence line on the right, parallel to the road.

At the intersecting fence line, use the stile, then cross over the Stoneyford stream. Follow the earth bank up the slope ahead and make your way 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. There is also a choice of three other waymarked trails within the nature reserve.

THE BACKDROP

Slievenacloy lies in the valley between Divis and Colin Mountains in the Belfast Hills.

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

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

Farming has been carried out 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 which create the ideal conditions for many different types of wildlife and allows the animals and plants to flourish.

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

Here, depending on the time of year, sweeps of primroses can be seen across the slopes, butterflies may be on the wing amongst 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.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 9030 3930 or www.walkni.com. CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN 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.

FACTFILE

Walk Name: The Ballycollin Walk, Slievenacloy Nature Reserve

Area: Co Antrim

Nearest big town to start point: Stoneyford near Lisburn

Distance: 1.5 miles / 2.4 km

Terrain: Off road paths, rough pasture

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

Refreshments: Parking is available at the farmhouse. 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. There are presently no toilet facilities on site.

Publications: ‘Welcome to Slievenacloy Nature Reserve’ – please contact The Ulster Wildlife Trust, tel: 4483 0282 or download from www.walkni.com.

Walk Developed By: Ulster Wildlife Trust

Ordnance Survey 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 (www.lpsni.gov.uk).

CAAN endorses the principles of Leave No Trace, which mean recreational users can minimise their impact on the countryside while still enjoying

activities with freedom. www.leavenotrace-ireland.org

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