Meanwhile at the end of the glen….
It’s good to live in a place that actually gives you pleasure. Somewhere where there is space, scenery and clean air; somewhere good for the soul. As I said in the last (tangential) piece, ours lies on the shore of Belfast Lough, at the end of a short wooded glen near our home. Officially the whole walk is 16 miles in length, from Holywood to Donaghadee (or vice versa). The Walk Ni site has details of this and a load of other good walks province wide: http://www.walkni.com/walks/2/north-down-coastal-path/
It's hard to beat a good sunset. This is looking West, towards Belfast further up the lough.
It is pretty much all good, with only a few short sections on road. The vast majority is paved, although a few sections are narrow where the path rounds a rocky headland or two. There are also a few sandy beaches to cross. That said, since it is at sea level, there are no major hills unless walkers get side-tracked along the way. Wildlife abounds. For example, a decent sized seal colony at Rockport. I have seen Sparrow Hawks, and even an occasional dolphin/ porpoise (sorry, I’m not knowledgeable to know how to tell the difference). In the summer, when the herring fry are running it is not uncommon to see large shoals of them shimmering at the surface of the water close to the shore as they are forced up by other predatory fish, or hordes of gulls diving into the water to catch them. A local naturalist tells me he has seen an otter during his early morning walks. It is reputedly the culprit in a few raids on coy carp ponds at some of the large houses on the shore. I have to say I am on the otter’s side here; I have little sympathy for anyone who will pay thousands of pounds for a pet fish!
Walking the path throughout the year sees the changing seasons reflected in the plants there as they bloom and fade. Our regular walks give an almost personal contact with the life along the path and have added to my appreciation of it. The walks are never routine or spoiled by familiarity, in fact I would argue that you need to have this kind of constant contact with a place like this to truly appreciate it. Nature also provides the occasional spectacular display. Once or twice a year, the Northern lights will be strong enough to put on their natural fireworks show. I have seen this and even tried to photograph it, but the results were mere blurs, a very poor imitation of the real thing. I carried a camera and a small tripod on my walks for months afterwards without ever getting a second chance. Oh well.
There is history too, like the mock battlements of Seacourt, the home built by Samuel Davidson, the founder of Belfast’s Sirocco Works (they made tea drying machinery which led them into air conditioning). Look him up on Wikipedia, his impact on our modern world is fascinating). Or Grey Point Fort at Helen’s Bay. This was an abandoned wreck when I was young, but the subterranean ammunition stores were still accessible. There is much else of interest, like old WW2 POW camps, Viking burial grounds, the 17th century customs house in Bangor, or the Norman motte and beautifully constructed harbour at Donaghedee. Even the rocks have a story to tell. On this side of the lough the rock is mostly shale and is around 500 million years old. Over millennia, it has contorted into some strange shapes. On the other side of Belfast Lough is a mere 50 million years old, consisting of limestone overlaid by the basalt that gives the hills there their height. Somewhere out in the sea must be the join between these two geologies.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. I’ll let a few pictures give a flavour of the place from here. Suffice to say that both Trish and I love this place.
An old WW2 fortification outside Groomsport, looking towards the Copeland Islands. These are supposed to have been the inspiration for the floating islands in Jonathan Swift's Gullivers Travels.
An occasional visit from a sail training school keeps the view interesting.
Even at night, and lit by a full moon, the path has its charm. Seacourt, (mentioned above) took up most of the promontory in the middle of this picture although numerous more modern houses now stand in its grounds.
And at Christmas, many of the boats in the marina put up lights.
An icy morning at Crawfordsburn beach
A rather poor picture of Grey Point Fort (sorry). There are two gun emplacements here, and there used to be a matching fort on the other side of the lough. It was demolished to make way for the port facilities for a salt mine. I'm told that it's forward observation posts still exist, and can be seen from the train line running out through Carrickfergus to Larne.
I will add a few more pictures when I get a chance to trawl through my PC.