National Trails Day – Castle Ward walk

National_trails_day

Madame Oui and I learned about National Trails Day from a BBC Radio Ulster promotion on Saturday morning. Duly went to the website and discovered that it was organised island wide, with plenty to choose from your own county.

We elected to go for the Colonel’s Walk & Mountain Wood trail at Castle Ward.

A nice bonus that for the day only, access was free to the venues.

We were a little surprised that there were relatively few that showed up for our group, just four of us and our resident guide, David. But we were soon joined by a couple of stragglers to make a reasonably sized pack.

David was brilliant — a fountain of knowledge. I am embarrassed by my general lack of knowledge of all things nature, but thankfully those earth science and biology days in high school enabled me to nod my head every now and then as well as ask the odd opportune question.

Yet David took it all in his stride, providing us very interesting history of the demesne and its workings, while getting specific with species of trees and fungi for those who wanted to know.

For example, did you know that the Ward family so disapproved of their view spoiled by the smoke coming from the stacks of houses in the nearby town of Audley that they bought off the residents with passages to America, then razed all the dwellings to the ground?

The walk was to last 90 minutes and take in a full circuit of the park, but we all knew that the hour it took just to get to the front gate and into the forest meant that either our walk would be cut short or we would go well over our time.

But it was such a lovely, late summer afternoon that no one minded.

So we journeyed on, discovering even more wonders, including the old cornmill farm area, which has been temporarily modified for a Holywood film being shot on location. We were all very impressed with the high quality of faux stone and fittings. David advised us that the crew is returning this winter for more shooting.

We also learned that there are some major upgrading plans underway at Castle Ward. One I am particularly looking forward to is the opening up of designated mountain bike trails. You’ll even be able to hire bikes on site.

We finished back at Stable Yard in 2 1/2 hours. David really made this walk so worthwhile, and Madame Oui and I are looking forward to taking her folks round to share in your new knowledge.

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