Tuesday, July 7, 2009
DOWN BY THE GLENSIDE
Before - After
7th Iuil 09
DOWN BY THE GLENSIDE.
This blog gets to be part of good things all the time and gets to go to special events, to be witness to amazing feats and great achievements. Take Tuesday. One minute I was in the chamber of the Assembly in Parliament Buildings. The next minute I was in the beautiful Colin Glen Forest Park. I was there to launch a new heritage trail.
The afternoon was balmy. The sky was blue. Poets, writers, artists, botanists, and just plain ordinary decent citizens were gathered. A piper was playing jigs and reels. Someone was pouring wine. And tea. Others were drinking it. What more could a blog want?
I eased myself into a corner. The conversation flowed all around me. In Irish and in English. This is a bi-lingual community you see. And at events like this it shows.
The Colin Glen Heritage Trail tells a unique and inspiring story which in many ways is a micro history of the Belfast Hills and the Lagan Valley. The signage is bi-lingual.
I know Colin Glen since I was a wee lad. I came here first in the company of Gerard Begley and Paddy Elliott. I rarely admit this in public but Gerard and Paddy are sort of cousins of mine. They taught me how to tickle trout. In those days I thought the Glen – the lower Glen – was called the Kansas Glen. It was actually called the McCance Glen or Cance Glen after the family who managed it in the 19th century.
John McCance was the first elected MP for Belfast. He stood against the nepotism of the Donegall Family who controlled the greater Belfast region since the plantation of Ulster.
The Heritage Trail offers visitors a unique walk through this history via a stunning wood that takes us from neolithic and early Christian archaeology and mass rocks to linen mills. Along the way we will see signs of fairies and wood nymphs as well as the ghosts of high way men, United Irishmen – and women including the formidable Belle Steele.
During the last world war the forest was denuded of its trees. Parts of the desecrated terrain were used as a dumping ground by local industry for thousands of tonnes of rubbish. Parts of the Glen were accessible only to the most determined wanderer. In the 1980’s local people organised themselves to combat all of this. The clean up and the reconquest began. The Heritage Trial is the latest phase of this.
The Colin Glen Trust deserves our heartfelt thanks for the wonderful work they have done. My special thanks to them all. And to those who did the research, the writing, the art work, the singing and music for Tuesdays event. All of you have contributed hugely to the living heritage of this unique place.
For me this is best illustrated by the number of trees they have planted. Not 100. Not 1000. But 100,000 trees planted. In many cases by children from all over Belfast.
The ancient Glen, once a dumping ground and landfill site has been reclaimed by school kids from all over our city. What a huge investment this is! Not just in trees or in the environment but in wealth of our children.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because this blog wants everyone to share in the Colin Glen experience. You wont regret it. Go there as soon as you get the chance.
Have a cup of coffee or a light meal at the foot of the Glen and then meander your way along the Heritage Trails. The walking is easy. And the forest is very very beautiful. So too is its teeming wild life, including a thriving community of birds.
If you are really energetic, keep going up to the upper glen and from there into the Belfast Hills and across Divis and the Black Mountain for the best view ever of the Cave Hill, Belfast Lough, the Mournes and, on a good day, the far off shores of Scotland.
And by the way the river has been restocked. I hope Paddy Elliott and Gerard Begley don’t find out. Tickling trout could be a tickle too far for the two of them at this stage in their dotage.
For more information contact Colin Glen Forest Park centre at 02890614115 or log on to www.colinglentrust.org or E: firstname.lastname@example.org