This week’s ramble was supposed to be up over in Donegal where we had hoped to be up over the Urris hills (your iss /our iss I can never remember the pronunciation, and I would not be surprised if both of them are wrong too. The aforesaid piece of landscape is a favourite of most (if not all) of our motley little crew. The hills, the lakes, the views, the solitude and just the general feel good thing this place gives you. Must admit solitude is often something this place does not have the odd time. But in saying that when you get to the peak and take in the majestic views little is spoken.
ANY WAY weather conditions at the start in the usual rendezvous were not quite favourable. So after a very brief discussion we decided to head to Banagher Forest.
Banagher forest is actually County Derry’s largest commercial forest. The wildlife there includes stoats,squirrels, birds of prey such as buzzards and sparrow hawks and the occasional rambler and mountain-biker. I think the circular walk is about 9 miles-but then –as any rambler knows…tracks are for wimps! And did I say it contains the one of the largest examples of old sessile oak woods in Northern Ireland? Well I did now.
Banagher Glen lies just three miles south-west of Dungiven, close to the Villages of Claudy, Feeney and Park and is a secluded, steep wooded glen leading to Altnaheglish Reservoir and Banagher Dam. One of the oldest ancient oak woodlands in Ireland, Banagher Glen is a Nature Reserve and Special Area of Conservation.
Local folklore tells of when St Patrick was ridding Ireland of its snakes that he first drove them into the rivers. It is said that St. Patrick found the largest snake in Ireland in a pool on the Glenedra Water (aka the ‘Crooked Burn’) in Banagher Glen and it was too large to move so St. Patrick imprisoned it there. Legend claims that the most monstrous last snake in Ireland is still there to this day! But then practically every county in the 32 counties here has got a Saint Patrick legend-I think over in Donegal they have a copy of his driving licence. Well he did drive the snakes out so he had to have a car.Makes sense doesn’t it?
When we got there we noticed something different-a new bigger car park. Now this was a breath of fresh air as the previous place we had to park was precariously narrow and would sometimes need a 10 point turn getting in/out of a space and there was only room for 2 or 3 cars.
At the start we met a runner who was there for the first time and was asking us for directions and distance to the dam –we told him. But later we met him as he got a bit lost-on a straight line too-a rambler in the making here me thinks.
The autumn colours were great-as expected. Getting near the dam we had a quick change of course and we decided to go down to the bottom of the dam and get over to the other side.
The dam was built (I think) sometime between 1920-1939 but it was improved in 1987 due to a bigger need for water in the Limavady area. I think this is when we in Loughermore got our first flush toilets –the novelty is yet to wear off.
We went over to the other side of the dam and more or less did our route anti-clockwise-but it DID take a bit of effort to get back onto what you could call a track.
Despite the mizzling rain and misty skies the views of the lake from the other side had a certain mystical magic to it. In the distance on the other side of the dam we saw another bunch of walkers-and pitied them as we had the better view and challenge.
When we stopped for our feed station (look ramblers are like touring cyclists, we don’t eat-we feed) It was then we saw the other group and noticed a few females in it-maybe WE had gone the wrong way after all. We decided to go down to the bottom of the dam –it was good seeing this thing from a different angle. In fact is was good seeing the entire walk from a different viewpoint, No doubt we will be doing this again.
Despite the changing weather a good day was had by all. It was not the usually straightforward easy walk-which made it better-in a round about way I suppose the moral here is to turn round and look at things from a different angle-you’ll be surprised at how good it looks.
I’ll be putting more photos up on facebook later and on flickr.And too lazy to spell check/edit
Y’all take care now-y’here?