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A very tough outing to the Mournes was next up when starting at Ott Mountain Car Park , 3 Mountains were climbed , Sieve Loughshannagh ,Slieve Meelbeg at 708M the highest point of the day and finally Slive Meelmore before returning via Fofanny Dam and a stop in Hilltown on the way back to Tyrone.
Thirty three members of the West Tyrone Ramblers met on the 16th April 2016 to travel to the ouskirts of Newbuildings. The weather was, cold with bright sunshine and the occasional wintry shower, including on one occasion a hail shower..
The ramblers walked along the footpath alongside the A5 towards Derry City for about one mile. On reaching the Prehen playing fields, turned left and walked across the soceer pitch to the River Foyle. Following a riverside path , through woodland, with wonderful views of the Maiden City to be oberserved until the Foyle Search and Rescue Centre was reached. The track then became a Cycle/Footpath folowing the now discussed Co Donegal Railway line to the Victoria Road Station, a distance of one mile, at this point the walkers crossed the A5 road.
Continuing their ramble back towards Prehen for about a mile, on the footpath until they came to a kissing gate the entrance to a public path called “the Bolies”. A woodland walk managed by the City Council. Continuing their walk up this very picturesque glen for about ten minutes, the opportunity was taken to stop for lunch.
After the rest for lunch the walkers continued back down the glen to the A5 road. Turning left and walking along Prehen Rd until they came to Hazelwood Park and the entrance to Prehen Wood. One of the few remaining remnants of ancient Irish woodland dating from the 17th century. Prehen Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust and is 18acres in size. The ramblers meandered through the wood, following leaf covered paths under a canopy of mature beech ash and oak trees, with holly and hazel trees scattered throughout .The lesser celendine and wood anemone a carpet of yellow and white flowers. The bluebells are just beginning to appear, another two weeks and the woods will be awash with them. At the site of an old quarry there were terrific views overlooking the city and river Foyle. Also to be seen throughout the wood are some additional woodland creatures in the form of wooden sculptures created by Michael Rodgers, a squirrel, fox, badger, hedgehog and butterfly.
Leaving the wood the members walked along Prehen Park to look at Prehen House, an 18th century house built by the Knoxes family and presently owed by the Peck family. Two information boards revealed the local history and folklore of the house including the legend of “Half Hanged” MacNaghten.
Leaving the house the ramble continued for a mile and half back along Prehen Park and the A5 to the starting point at the lay by just before Newbuildings.The end of a very enjoyable, varied and interesting days walk.
Away from the scheduled rambles the club has been busy recently on a number of outings. In preparation of the Club's annual weekend away in Westport ,County Mayo in May , Committee Members undertook a reconnoitre. Walks in Achill Island for both grades on the Saturday are planned and a choice of 3 ramblers on the Sunday including the iconic Croagh Patrick. A delegation from the Club also attended the Ulster Federation of Ramblers Spring Meeting at Lough Neagh Dscovery Centre at Oxford Island. As well as making useful contacts , very enjoyable talks on the Connwater Greenway , East Befast and the Great Western Greenway , Co Mayo were enjoyed by the group.
With the longer days approaching the West Tyrone Ramblers are looking forward to travel further afield in the forthcoming months with trips to all corners of Donegal planned and the Mournes among their new spring/summer programme. The schedule also include a weekend Rambling based in Westport , County Mayo. However they closed out their winter programme in style with some very enjoyable walks.
22 Ramblers drove to South Armagh on a Sunday morning to walk a section of the Slieve Gullion Way which included at 573m Slieve Gullion itself which is the highest point in County Armagh. The mountain is a central plug of a volcano which erupted over 50 million years ago. The plug was surrounded by a crater which is now an eroded circle of heather covered hills and the whole area is designated as a special Area of Conservation. The ramblers first followed a path, from the Slieve Gullion Courtyard , through a deciduous wood leading to the scenic forest drive which picturesque views . Then a steep boulder path leading to the summit and Southern Cairn was tackled. Here the Ramblers took time to enter the 4000 year old Neolithic passage grave at the cairn. After crossing the boggy ridge of the hill the Ramblers stopped at Cailliagh Berras Lough to have their picnic. On the descent the hill was alive with rambling boots and cheery voices as another forty strong rambling group from Dublin were descending at the same time. Off the northern slopes the West Tyrone Ramblers followed an undulating green road to the tarred Ballard Road and onto Killeavy Old Church. A refreshment stop in Murphy's Bar in Meigh was enjoyed before the journey home
On a Saturday in March a group of 12 West Tyrone Ramblers travelled to Banagher Glen in Co.Londonderry which is one of the largest and oldest ancient oak woodlands in Ireland. The weather was dry with some sunny spells. One of the many sights admired on the 9 mile circular walk was Altnaheglish Reservoir which supplies water to the surrounding area.
Fortified by a sup of winter warmer-upper and energised by a morn that was 'breaking bright and fair' 28 members of The West Tyrone Ramblers set out on a 10 mile hike in the Galbally- Altmore area for their final walk of the winter. Cresting the brow of Logue's Hill they were rewarded with the spell-binding vista of distant hills dressed with a collarette of morning mist. Following the quiet Altaglushan road for a few miles they then branched off onto an old farm lane which led to a short stretch of blanket bog. A couple of novice ramblers tried, in vain, to keep their boots clean by stepping daintily into the footsteps of the more experienced clod-hoppers.
Entering Altmore Forest all sat down to enjoy lunch in the last of the winter sunshine. Thus sustained, they followed the trail through the forest where in the more shaded parts thin ice still covered the many pools of water. On emerging into the brilliant sunshine, shots ringing out alerted them to the Sunday afternoon activity of the local clay-pigeon club. An envoy was dispatched and a temporary ceasefire negotiated. The ramblers then crossed over some farm lanes to reach Shane Barnagh's Sentry Box where they enjoyed an almost 360' view taking in The Donegal Hills, The Sperrins: Sawel, Dart and The Mullaghs, Slemish, The Belfast Hills, Slieve Gullion and The Mournes. Lough Neagh glistening in the sunshine could also be seen nestling below the hills. This highwayman's vantage point afforded a splendid look-out over the ancient highway which carried King James II and his troops as they travelled from The Boyne to The Siege of Derry. Thus sated with landscape the group sought out refreshments in Galbally then travelled along this ancient road on their return journey to Omagh.
However the Ramblers would not agree with D'Avaux the French Ambassador travelling with James, when he referred to this countryside as a frightful wilderness.
The last few weeks have seen the West Tyrone Ramblers visit local areas full of historic significance but where they haven't visited for a number of years
First up saw 21 Ramblers stay dry as they enjoyed the majestic wilds of Fermanagh . Some six miles outside of Derrygonnelly the Ramblers parked at Big Dog Forest. . The forest is named after two distinct hills within the forest, Big Dog and Little Dog. This forest is included in the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. This is a 1,097 hectare mainly coniferous forest. Management of the forest is focused on timber production, biodiversity and water quality. The main soil types in the forest range from deep peat to peaty gley. The ramblers enjoyed dry weather st they trekked six miles , walking around the edge of Lough Nabrickboy , through a farm yard then the forest itself. Before climbing and lunching at Little Dog peak
On the last sunday ramble of January the walk started in Victoria Bridge and there were 18 walkers out. They headed towards the riverbank and followed the fishermen path towards the Sion Mill. On reaching Sion weir the Ramblers learned the history of the lade, swinging bridge and Herdsman's mill. They also were informed of the events associated with the cricket ground and the football pitch. We then made our way to the Recreation club for a lovely tea. On leaving the club they did a small tour of the village and the churches and then retraced their path back to Victoria Bridge.
Then on a chilly Saturday morning 27 ramblers travelled the short distance to Seskinore Forest. After leaving the car park the walkers passed the courtyard and stopped briefly opposite the stable block to hear some of the history of the forest which was originally part of the McClintock estate. Unlike most local forests, Seskinore was planted on more fertile lowland and is mainly mixed or deciduous woodland, with each season bringing change. From the stables the walkers followed one of the original estate roads called Ladies' Walk. In days gone by ladies paraded here in their finery, very different from the hiking boots and wet weather gear worn today. The group continued in a loop which brought them back close to the site of Seskinore House which was demolished in 1952. Along the way they passed two WW2 ammunition stores and the ice house. They then visited the Garden of Remembrance where they learned a little more about the McClintock family. Seskinore is a relatively small forest and the leader had decided never to take the direct route if a longer one could be found, and so the group meandered their way towards the main entrance passing some fine displays of snowdrops. The walkers crossed the Seskinore Road and continued along the Cow Lane where the legendary White Lady wanders. Dressed in her wedding gown, she looks for her husband who was tragically thrown from his horse and killed on their wedding day. The walk continued along quiet country roads until a suitably dry and elevated spot was found for lunch. There was one final detour through a particularly pleasant area of beech wood before the ramblers made their way uphill to view the ruins of Mullaghmore Castle or Perrymount.. A few minutes later the first raindrops were felt and it was decided to take the shortest way back to the car park giving a total distance 6.75 miles.
Over the Christmas and New Year period , and with the shorter days , the West Tyrone Ramblers have remained in their heartland for their outings The last walk before Christmas was a tough five mile trek over very very wet Sperrin bogland on the hills around Glenlark Then the Gortin Glens were explored including the Ladies View trial
For the first Saturday outing of the year 24 ramblers on January 9th headed to Lough Braden Forest near Drumquin .Parking near the waterworks treatment plant the group walked 2 loops totaling 7 miles. The longer morning loop included a part of the waymarked Ulster Way. The Group then turned off this track onto another one which gave them views of Lough Lack. They then walked basically in a square before lunching back at the cars.
The afternoon loop was around Lough Braden itself. Earlier in the day the walk leader had told the story of early in the 1800's when two local men were passing the Lough on their way to the fair at nearby Pettigo just before daybreak. As they passed along the edge of the lough , two creatures with long necks rose up from the water. The creatures appeared to eat some vegetation along the shore until they sensed the presence of the two men and then promptly disappeared Despite looking carefully the Ramblers failed to spot the long necked creatures
Despite a lot of
thought and effort that goes into producing the West Tyrone Ramblers six
monthly Walking Programme , the Walk Leaders need to be inventive and
show adaptability to the Weather conditions at times. The last month has
certainty seen this in place.
Though the first intended walk did indeed take place in a sunny climate. A coastal walk from Rossnowlagh to Murvagh Beach and back in County Donegal was enjoyed. However due to the very wet weather recently the next three walks were changed . As is usual this time of year with the short days the Ramblers tend to stick to closer pastures and the Sperrins were explored.
First up an outing to the Oughtmore area saw socks and shoes being took off to cross a swollen burn. Next the Robbers Table route just west of the Gortin Glens was tackled. The route goes over the western slopes of Curraghchosaly Mountain before returning over Ballynatubbrit mountain passing the Robber's Table , the site where supposed 17th century highwaymen (Rapparees as they were known) met up to divide their spoils after raiding the postal carriages that traversed this upland landscape.
Last Saturdays walk was changed again due to the inclement weather. A road walk near Plumbridge replaced the intended flooded route.. From Plumbridge the Ramblers drove about a mile towards Cranagh where they turned left and parked at Glenelly Church. There were ten eager ramblers who had a good six mile walk in the snow showers along Bradkeel road towards Butterlope. Lunch was took near the junction with Butterlope road. The group attempted to reach the Chambered Wedge Tomb in the area. but because of fog and bad visibility they decided not to proceed and returned to the car park via Butterlope road, a quiet country road with very little traffic.
The first half of November has been a busy time for the West Tyrone Ramblers . First up , was a well attended AGM , held at the SilverBirch Hotel. Secretary Anne McCullagh give an account of the busy year the group have had , in this , it's 25th anniversary year, including a Civic Reception at the council and a trip to the Lake District. Outgoing Treasurer Tony McGarvey give a detailed account of the Club's Financial activities of the year. Chairman Ian Cathcart gave thanks to Tony for his service and also Walks Manager Brian McGarvey who steps down after coordinating 3 years of a wonderful varied walking programme that took the club to a new level.. Praise was also given to John Templeton who steps down as Vice Chairman , John did a lot of work in the background in the year for the Anniversary celebrations.
Despite the inclement weather that caused one member to suggest the group rename themselves the Wet Tyrone Ramblers numbers remain good for the rambles A trip to Belfast to enjoy Belvoir Forest and Lagan Meadows was followed by a first visit by the club to the wonderful Benburb Valley. Walking along a rapid Blackwater River, popular with canoeists , the Ramblers enjoyed views of old Mills , the Castle and the Priory.Focus now switches to the 25th Anniversary Dinner and Book Launch of the Club's History at the SilverBirch Hotel on December 4th.