BBC did an aerial video of this area before, see here
Heres some pics from myself and Gracies wee adventure....
thousand shades of green
Sat 16th saw us take a wee dander to Loughermore Forest (on the limavady claudy road), and what a treat. Some amazing panoramic views, great path network, a great show of lichen and mosses...and I've found some amazing new patches for wild blueberries too....
BBC did an aerial video of this area before, see here
Heres some pics from myself and Gracies wee adventure....
picture showing Gwynns Institute
Brooke Park is undergoing some change...a complete redevelopment is underway under the guidance of Colin Kennedy from Derry City Council, so no better time to understand what we have before it all changes...then we can appreciate more the works being undertaken by DCC in the parks. Keen Historian Gerald McGill was our guide for the walk, and we went from 1840 to 2013 in under an hour....phew!!
Heres some pics and quotes from our wee dander....
Was the location of Gwynn’s Institute for Orphan Boys from Derry and Donegal between the ages of 8 to 12 years, it was built at a cost of£10,000 as part of a £40,608.93 halfpenny will bequeathed by the late John Gwynn a who had a Grocery business in Bishop Street Derry, he was born in Drumskellen Muff Co Donegal, he died in 1829 and is buried in the Church of Ireland Graveyard in Muff just on the Derry Donegal Border. The Orphanage was opened in Shipquay Street Derry in 1832 following a Cholera outbreak that year, it later moved to the new building in Brooke Park in 1840.
The grounds known as Brooke Park after Benefactors, the Brooke Family of Brookhill off Culmore Road L‘derry. When James Hood Brooke died in 4th August 1865 (buried in St Columb’s Cathedral Graveyard) his will stated that he wanted the residue of his estate to secure an area of land to be used for recreation by the citizens of Derry. The money was placed in a trust fund and when his sister Margaret died in 1884 she also left the residue of her estate to the trustees. There was now a sum of over £10,000, which was used to buy land and design the Park it was laid out in trees shrubs and a fish pond it opened in 1901.
The second in front of the ornate gates is an imposing statue of Sir Robert Alexander Ferguson, Bart and MP for the City for 30 years, he was fondly referred to as “The Black Man” he was Born on 26 Dec 1831 and Died 13th March 1860, he married Elizabeth Alexander, daughter of Robert Alexander of Boomhall, Culmore. He is Buried in the graveyard adjoining Augustine’s Church L‘Derry, known as “The Wee Church on the Walls” - G McGill
Thanks to all who came out to take in the sights and sounds of Brooke Park, and thanks to Gerald McGill for providing such an interesting history of Brooke Park....PS next time you're there, look for the archway in the west wall where the river used to come in....
sunday past saw us take our first woodland walk of the year (see here), we started in Prehen Woods. This ancient woodland (ancient means its been mapped as woodland since 1609) is just on the edge of Derry City, the path network is excellent and a circular path of approx 1mile allows you to experience everything this wood has to offer. From old trees, snowdrop drifts, bluebell drifts, woodland flowers, fantastic viewpoints, ww2 air-raid shelters, and an old quarry (the stone from here used to build Lisahelly Docks)
here is the old quarry site - you can see that the Birch trees has started to colonise this area - Birch is a great pioneer species, it self-seeds and colonises new areas quickly. We were grateful to have George McLaughlin from the Prehen Historical Society leading the walk, george was great for local stories and unique history of the woodland and the area, explaining the stories behind all the wood carvings and the management of the wood...
Prehen wood is small - just under 19 acres, but there is a load to see there, and with the good circular path there is a well planned walkway through it, the lower side is marshy to wellyboots were a must, but the streams that run through are only winter streams so in dry weather they all dry up. The wood is easy to get to (park at Summerhill), and is well worth visiting every 3 weeks or so, especially at this time of year to experience the changing flora of the wood....
Thanks to all those who came out, and to George for his fantastic tour.....
if you like the sound of this then why not join a wee tour this sunday to BeechHill Hotel and come spot some snowdrops? see here for more
old garden gate
Sunday saw us take a stroll aroudn the house, gardens, riverfront, woodland and Marine Base of Ashbrook House in Ardmore...the weather was pure murder, lashing rain most of our time there but the site was fierce interesting....lots to see, some spectacular trees, bushes, foliage and the house itself is just steeped in history....the generosity of our host was brilliant and the craic amongst the group made the near 4 hours fly by...here's some of my pics from the day...
chinese artifacts decorate the hall
Ashbrook is a fantastic place....a private family home which just oozes history....a must for anyone who's into historical houses, ancient woodlands and a great day out....join Ashbrook on Facebook here
Sunday 7th October saw our latest gardeners outing take in BeechHill House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Derry. This fabulous place dates from the mid 1700 and has been in constant use ever since, modern day its a multi-award winning country house hotel, previously it was private home, a ww2 Marine base and before a proper gentlemans abode...we tried to sample all of these on our fascinating tour of the grounds...and boy were we blessed with the perfect weather!!
Head Chef Barry leading the harvest of salads
Our tour started in the 2 acre Walled Garden, an areas which has been transformed in the past 12 months under the guidance of Olli Smyth (BeechHill Kitchen Garden guru), Olli chatted to th egroup about the work undertaken, what the future holds and offered great advise on growing tasty produce...and there can be no better business card for freshness than Head Chef Barry leading a harvest just as our tour was on....Field 2 Fork in less than a 2 min stroll....
Gerry starting the ww2 history...
After the walledgarden, Gerry Temple took over the tour, covering the recent ww2 history of the site, highlighting the re-use of some US materials, locations of some of the 400+ outbuilds and lots more....He kept the history short and to the point, just how we all like it. To think 5000 Marines were based here was amazing...must have been a right hub of activity.
nice ripe elderberries
the grounds are littered with free foods...here we're collecting some Elderberries for a wee snack as we go....
ancient steps in the garden
The grounds of the BeechHill are fabulous, and offer a multitude of small walks, photo opps and more. Its a wonderful place, we take the kids there a lot as its a nice hour walk around the grounds and there is the option of using the hotel for a coffee or lunch stop before we head home....
Donations from the tour went to Foyle Hospice , we raised nearly £90 in donations....thanks to all who chucked a few quid in the pot, thanks to Patsy O'Kane from the BeechHill for the warm welcome to the group, thanks to Olli Smyth and Gerry Temple for giving up there Sunday morning for us.
On March 24th from 12, our famous Non-Gardeners Gardeners Cub has been invited for a tour of the famous Springhill House, Moneymore, Magherafelt. (full directions etc here on their website). This 17th century plantation house is closed to the pblic over the winter months and re-opens on the weekend of the 16th March, so our tour will be on the second weekend of the year.
Our group has been invited for some-what of an exclusive tour as apart from getting a tour of the House, Gardens, Parklands our tour will be guided by the relevant staff/experts (ie part of the gardening team will lead the tour of the gardens), we will also have access to the allotment/kitchen garden area which public are not normally allowed access to.
If you visit their website you will get a right idea of the scale of the house,gardens etc with their famous Chamomile lawn and the 1000 year old Yew tree....
Springhill is National Trust property and as such they charge for entry. This tour of the house, gardens, parkland, veg gardens etc etc includes tea&coffee and scones in the cafe and is offered at £10 per head.
Take a virtual tour here to wet your whistle...
Date 24th March
Time 12 (may be subject to change)
Cost £10 per head
Clothing - prepare for amazing spring sunshine!
Buggies - Aye, all good paths and easy access
Kids - Aye, i'll hae ma 2 so bring yours too...
Picnic - Aye, mind tea and scones is provided and there is a cafe on site, but a picnic would be amazing if the weathers right
Dogs - No
My few pictures only give a tiny impression of Springhill, hopefully you can make it in person.
Leave a comment on the blog if you can make it. Hopefully we can arrange some car-sharing at the same time for folks travelling from Derry/Coleraine/Limavady/Donegal/Strabane etc....if you think you might have a spare seat even let folks know, or if you need a lift do likewise....Cheers guys.
Thought I'd try for something new and special for Novembers tour. I have secured us a wonderful days outing to the unbelievable Balyscullion House in Bellaghy....an amazing place. Mr and Mrs Mulholland the owners have thankfully offered us the chance to explore the house and grounds of a truly amazing place on the 25th November.
Check out the official website here
Come join acclaimed gardener Gareth Austin on a winter woodland tour of the
gardens and grounds of Ballyscullion Park. Located in Bellaghy, Co Derry
Ballyscullion Park covers 400 acres (mostly in wood) and offers a rare-glimpse into something
truly special. On site there is fully restored Coach Houses, a 4 acre walled
garden, a 1840 house and some ancient woodland....which houses the
ruins of a Palace once built as a sister palace to Downhill...used recently for
filming the award winning Game of Thrones TV series. (check out a blog post of my previous visit here)
On the tour we will walk through the walled garden, with its extensive perennials borders, manicured
lawns, built in gazebo pavillions and household kitchen garden, then onto the
woodland paths and finally ending up in the outdoor arena.
The walk will last approx 4 hours, and be generously hosted by Mr+Mrs Mulholland, owners of
Families are more than welcome, dogs too (but poop-and-scoop and only on leads).
After the tour acclaimed chef Emmet McCourt (emmets website) will perform a cookery demonstration using foraged mushrooms, and other seasonal delights...as only Emmet could....which we all get to devour!
This is an event not to be missed. Cost per head is £20, kids free.
Date sun 25th november
Time 10am start
5Now theres a cost here of £20 per head, different from out previous trips, but there is a cost in the chef, food and materials for this one. But the Mulhollands are offering a brave days worth of fun between the house, gardens, ancient woodlands, foraging etc etc and then the cookery demo in the house's kitchen I think it's fabulous value for money.
Leave a comment on the blog below if you can make it. Just pay on the day please. Numbers limited to 30 so please share and put your name down if you want to go.
so full details:
Date 25th Nov
Time 10am start
Guided tour of Ballyscullion House - Approx 1.5 hour
Guided Tour of Gardens and Coach Houses - Approx 1 hour
Wodoland Walk incl ruins and forage - approx 1 hour
Cookery Demo back in the great kitchen - approx 1 hour
Clothing: Its November, its Northern Ireland.....I'd suggest you bring your wellies/boots with you for the gardens and woodland part.
Kids - Yeah, i'll have mines
Dogs - yeah but not in the house and poop-a-scoop please
Parking- Lots on site, but perhaps we'll look at car pooling if folks are travelling from afar?
Cost: £20 per head, no charge for kids. - pay on the day.
Numbers: Limited to 30.
(Bellaghy is on the main derry-Belfast road, turn-off is up beside Toome Bridge, give yourself about 30 mins from Derry)
After the tour and cooking is all over, mr and mrs mulholland are happy for folsk to do more exploring on the grounds, perhaps consider exploring the lough and the other areas which involve a serious treck....defo an entire day out....
Ashbrook House out in Ardmore is something special....it predates the plantation of Ireland for a start....and to quote from the the Derry Visitor website
"Ashbrook has been family home of the Ash family since before 1595. The Honorable
The Irish Society records the Ash family as one of only four 'native land
owners' prior to the plantation. It is set in 30 acres of mature parkland on
the outskirts of the city of Londonderry- The Maiden City, made famous by the
Ulster Plantations and The Siege of Derry. The Ash family is the only family
who have lived in the same house continuously. This is certainly unique in the
North West. "
Now the Ashbrook House and Gardens is not open to the public, its a private family home. Only normally open on such events as European Heritage Open Weekends and the likes...and as recently featured on UTV as part of that weekends events.
Mrs Beresford-Ash has kindly agreed to give a tour of the house and gardens to our group. The Late Mr Beresford Ash was a tree expert and there are some magnificant trees and plants in the gardens....and the house itself is just amazing....from the get go witht he 6' thick walls....history dripping out everywhere.
Get a taste here on this Virtual Tour.....amazing!!!!!!!!
Right the details:
Venue: Ashbrook House
Date: 28th October
Buggies: Not ideal
Kids: aye....i'll have mines....but again its an old house...if you break it you buy it!
Cost: £4 per head
Duration: 2 hours....at least...prob close to 3...depends how much walkign you want to do...gardens run right down to the Faughan
Picnic: Yeah...ideal for it
Clothing: something for walking indoors with and wellies/boots for outdoors....great paths down to the Faugahn in the gardens...
Please leave a comment on the blog if you can make it.....
Numbers limited to 30 for the tour of the house....I'll have to ask permission for 2 groups if the demand is there...
myself and kids venture forth into pure history
September saw the Non-Gardeners Gardening Club take a sunday morning stroll around the grounds of the fabulous Prehen House, you can read more about the house here on the official website, Prehen House is unmissable....you have to go there at least 3 times to get it all in...trust me..go and you'll see what I mean!! The pictures below give a flavour of the trip...but the stories are too plentiful, the images too many, the history to great to give it justice.....just go! (click on any pic for enlargement)
fabulous espallier pears
and after spending some 2 hours being generously toured around the home by Colin Peck, we ventured into the gardens....and we were in for a treat, some 8 acres of walled gardens, courtyards, outbuildings and ancient woodland...Soo much to see here...another day is needed to see it all...the pics do it no justice....you have to go!
Prehen House is an inspiring place, I'm delighted to have visited it and honoured to have such a genrous host in Colin Peck to guide the group around. Prehen House is open for tours, dinner parties and theme nights all year round, details can be found on their website. Also large allotments are available within the walled garden for £50 per year...again contact details on their website for this too. Folks, make it one of your 'things to do' and visit Prehen House!
Gardening on Radio Foyle
A summary of each weeks gardening on Mark Patterson Show and beyond