Summer Programme 2010


Botanic Gardens


Presidential 15th - 16th May

Presidential Field Trip to west Fermanagh on 15 and 16 May 2010 

This area was chosen as the President, Claire Foley, knows it well and the effort of travelling so far was rewarding due to the style of farming here with the good preservation of both archaeological and natural heritage interests.

A select band of members assembled in Belcoo on Saturday morning where we were met by Gaby Burns whose survey work with Jim Nolan has greatly increased our knowledge of archaeology on the karst limestone areas to south of Lough MacNean. We proceeded to Killesher graveyard where we viewed the ruin of the old church on a foundation of St Lassair and discussed the former existence of an ecclesiastical enclosure. Members were much taken by the headstones and flora in the graveyard as well as the many orchids in the adjacent hedgerow. 

Onwards to Clyhannagh Dual Court tomb, a fine example of its type and a reminder that this limestone grassland was farmed  in the Neolithic. We speculated about the intended connection to the ‘underworld’ in its siting in front of a natural sink hole at the west end. Gaby then treated us to a variety of definite and indefinite cup-marks largely on glacial erratics which lie scattered about on the limestone pavement. He showed us the ‘pedestals’ under each one, which are the preserved original surface of the limestone pavement where rain over many millennia has not reached. He also pointed out the many ancient field walls and house footings which he has plotted and we discussed their possible relative dates.

After a picnic lunch at Crossmurrin nature reserve we arrived at the Marble Arch International Geopark where we were refreshed with tea and biscuits while Martina McGee gave us an excellent talk on the caves and the wider Geopark region. The final treat was a specially laid on tour in 4x4s halfway up Cuilcagh Mountain to view the results of ten years of peat regeneration after extensive cutting in the past. This is not only good as a habitat restoration but the restored peat prevents run-off from the mountain which can affect water levels in the caves.
On Sunday we headed north from Belcoo for the church site at Templenaffrin where we saw the ruined church in its crowded graveyard and the well-preserved ecclesiastical enclosure which surrounds it. A multiple bullaun in an earthfast boulder in the hollow below was much photographed and the landowner David Fawcett showed us a rare plant, Sambucus ebulus, growing nearby. We learned that the access lane to the church used to be the old coach road and a neat little stone bridge is still extant here. We progressed to the village of Holy Well where we viewed Rushin old church and paid homage to the restoration work done by Canon McKenna and Dorothy Lowry Corry in the 1930s. The actual holy well is an impressive pool of water fed by a spring with streams flowing away in two directions – it was traditionally known as St Patrick’s Tub and also as the coldest bath in Ireland . Further up country we found our way to Aghnaglack Dual Court Tomb built of large limestone slabs and we discussed the uses of the courts at each end for cremations and speculated about the type of people who were buried here while enjoying our picnic lunches. Next stop was the church site at Toneel North, also known as Boho, where an elegant, probably 10th century, cross shaft is the only remnant of St Febhar’s Early Christian foundation. The final push was a pleasant uphill walk to the hillside above the church where at Reyfad a remarkable display of Bronze Age cup and ring decoration is incised across several exposed sheets of limestone (picture above). As we regrouped to say farewell the first rain of the weekend hurried us on our way and back to the 21st century. 

Oldbridge 22nd May

Oldbridge Saturday 22nd May 2010, A.M.



Space for Report





Mornington 22nd May

Germander Speedwell - Veronica chamaedrys

Mornington dunes, Saturday 22nd May 2010, P.M.

( For full report Click HERE )


Members of the Dublin and Belfast Naturalists’ Field Clubs reassembled from various directions at the mouth of the Boyne for an afternoon of sunny botany led by Declan Doogue of DNFC.

Declan shewed us 2 precious books - a 1726 edition of Caleb Threlkeld’s Flora and a facsimile of another edition – both mentioned finds of Sea-rocket (Cakile maritima) and the parasite Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum), used “to purge melancholy” , being found at the Maiden Tower, a reputedly Elizabethan light-house, where we had met.  We saw neither of these plants but we did see many others and learnt a great deal from Declan about the nature of sand dunes, appropriately on World Bio-diversity Day. 


Balloo Woodlands 25th May

Balloo UWT Tuesday 24th May 2010

( For full report Click HERE )

The evening proved sunny and pleasant although a cool wind meant that warm layers and coats were needed by all! A good number of Field Club members turned out to hear Willie McNamara tell us about the site, it’s function and the way it was managed.

It is a managed wetland and woodland site which the Ulster Wildlife Trust took over in two parts. The woodland was purchased in 1995 from the Nicolson Estate. The wetland was only taken over in 2006 when the Trust started to manage it for the Down County Council in 2008. This part is a relatively new project, whose aim is to create an environmental haven in the middle of an industrial estate.

We then moved to the Woodland Nature Reserve, an oasis for wildlife and people in the heart of the Balloo Industrial Estate. Unlike the wetland, which is a newly created, the woodland at Balloo has been there for a long time. What is now called Balloo Woodland was previously the grounds of Balloo House, home of the Steele-Nicholson family since the early 1700s.  For more details, follow the hyperlink above.


June 5th - Castlerock

June 5th - Castlerock, by train










June 12th - Peatlands

Zoology outing to Peatlands Park  12th June          Leader  Trevor Boyd

We were fortunate with the weather for this butterfly outing and an enthusiastic group of Club members set off on a 3 mile route round the area. We were not to be disappointed and were soon able to spot several Speckled wood  (Parage Aegaria), Green-veined whites (Artogeia napi) and an Orange Tip butterfly in the wooded area and the sunny spots of grasslands near Mullenakill National Nature Reserve. We also saw Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata) and Clouded border (Lomaspili marginata) moths here.

We then headed across Derryhubbert Bog where we first saw the Large Heath butterflies (Coenonympha tullia), at least 10, as well as Brown Hawker dragonflies (Aeshna grandis), red and blue Damselflies and more Green-veined Whites. More day flying moths with Common Heath and Silver Y. There many interesting plants too Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nummularia), wood avens (Geum sp), bog cotton (Eriophorum angustifolium) and sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).

The outing was particularly enjoyable as our leader, Trevor Boyd, took time to capture a variety of specimens and show use the main ways to identify them. He also explained details of their life cycles and distribution – a wonderful way to learn about the species found here. 


June 15th - Carnmoney Hill

Carnmoney  Hill     (B)         Tuesday  15 June ,  Leader : Gregor Fulton  

On a lovely June evening , members assembled at the Knocknenagh Avenue entrance to Carnmoney Hill. Our leader , Gregor Fulton, site manager for the  Woodland Trust’s  N. Ireland woods,  explained that Newtownabbey Borough Council and the Woodland Trust  had formed a partnership in 2003 to preserve  the hill and its mixture of habitats for future generations.  Over 57,000 native trees have been planted to bolster the ancient woodland.  Local volunteers help keep this Local Nature Reserve in order.

At the entrance  we looked at a pond with young Tufted and Mallard ducks and then contoured round and up the hill.  Our President, the archaeologist Claire Foley , discussed the remains of old farmsteads,  field boundaries, raths and souterrains.  The last thatched cottage had been inhabited until a fire in the 1970s.

By a small pond and damp area were lovely clumps of Flag Irises (Iris pseudacorus), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) - flos-cuculi because it flowers when we should be hearing the cuckoo-and Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

The Field of Flowers  project  aims to turn a 1 hectare field into a wild-flower meadow with 25 oak trees dispersed among it. Yellow Rattle (Rhinantus minor), a hemi-parasite on grass , will gradually weaken the grasses and already Red Campion (Silene dioica) was established.

We climbed higher for magnificent views over  Belfast,  Belfast Lough glinting in the sunlight, the Mourne Mountains and out to sea as far as Scotland. Our return route was thought the ancient woodland where formerly coppiced hazel trees provided shade for Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) and Wood Sanicle (Sanicula europaea) an umbellifer which is an indicator of ancient woodland. A Victorian well, restored with sculptures of local wild life as a Millennium project, was admired.

Our leader was thanked by the President for introducing us to an area rich in wildlife and history so near to Belfast but new to many of the group.

                                                                                                                                Margaret Marshall

Greenisland Island (intruded volcanic sill)

June 1st 2010 -    “GREEN ISLAND, BLACK STONES AND RED ROCKS”                   

( For full report Click HERE )

After hearing a summary of the geological history of the last 500 million years, and in particular the events at the end of the Silurian period when there was a collision between a northern continent and southern continents which squeezed the “Iapetus” ocean out of existence, we descended to the beach and examined the rocks  at Macedon Point - the  Sherwood Sandstone, Mercia Mudstone, and intruded basaltic dykes.

After examining a ruined tower-house, Castle Lug, on the Shore Road, we went on to Carrickfergus and examined the rock on which the castle is built.  This is another dyke, a really big one.We discussed the conspicuous yellow Magnesian Limestone which is used extensively in the castle.  This outcrops at Cultra and doubtless was brought across the Lough by the Normans when they were building the castle.

Our final stop was at Island Park which is a short side road about halfway between Carrickfergus and Jordanstown.  This allowed us access to the tiny island which gave Greenisland its name.  The island is formed from a sill – a horizontal sheet of basalt – and typically of a sill, it has distinctive vertical jointing. 


Gibsons' Quarry June 25th

Gibsons' Quarry June 25th,    Leader: Leslie Wortley

There are three main exposed rock types in Gibson’s quarry, the Ulster White Limestone (Chalk), the Clay –with- Flints which is overlain by the Antrim Lava group. At the top of the succession is glacial till.

The Ulster White Limestone represents a period when Ireland was covered by warm, clear, shallow seas. The composite thickness of the formation is approx. 133 m and at least 38 m have removed by erosion.

This limestone is much harder than the English Chalk group. Fossils to be found in Gibson’s Quarry include Crinoids and Belemnites.  


              The clay - with - flints is part of the 10million year gap between the limestone and the earliest Basalt lavas. This deposit is thought to have been formed as a fossil soil combining the weathering products of limestone and flint, an aeolian component and alluvium from the overlying basalt lavas. Contemporaneous volcanism contributed much of the clay fraction.       The clay with flints comprises a soft, highly-weathered clay matrix consisting of fine quartz clay minerals, opaque oxides and haematite. Flints range from grey to white, fawn purplish to deep reddish brown.

A cataclysmic volcanic explosion produced ash at a minimum of 750deg. C. , which along with the haematite changed the flints from grey to an intensely coloured jasper.

       The basalt lava flows cover the Clay with Flints ( over 50 mil. Years ago) It has been estimated that up to 1000m of basalt lava has been eroded indicating that the lavas extended far beyond their present outcrop. In the quarry the depth of the basalts varies from 5 to 20m.

This is a working quarry with mobile crushing and screening plant producing mainly road metal. Near the surface the basalt is rubbly producing a very poor stone the use of which is limited to infill. As depth increases it becomes massive giving a very good aggregate.

    The Glacial Till is not consolidated and is relatively soft and contributes to modern soils. As glacial deposits cover most of the older rocks in Ulster we can see the importance of quarries to geologists both professional and amateur.

     All and all a very interesting quarry and as several people remarked, they have lived and worked in the Portadown area, unaware that such a geological gem existed.

   James Rutherford   (Geology Section Sec.)



Craigavon Lakes June 26th

Saturday 26th June              Craigavon Lakes

In June 2006 we had found several hundred Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) at this site between the North Balancing Lake and the railway line. This year we found just 2 growing in the shelter of a gorse bush and only because Pamela Thomlinson was photographing a Common Blue butterfly there!  Unlike most orchids, the Bee Orchid produces a rosette of basal leaves in the autumn which is photosynthetically active during the winter. We speculated whether the long harsh winter might have damaged these leaves. However Bee Orchids are notorious for the fluctuation in their numbers at any particular site.

We did find about 50 Common Twayblades (Listera ovata) and hundreds of Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii ) in varying sizes and colours from almost pure white to purple.

On a lovely sunny afternoon many Common Blue and Meadow butterflies were in flight as well as red and black Cinnabar and Five-spot Burnet moths.

Purple Knapweed (Centaurea nigra), pink Centaury (Centaurium erythraea ), violet Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca),  white Ox-eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare ), yellow Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) , Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) gave a rich variety of colour to the site.

                                                                                                                Margaret Marshall


Dumfries & Galloway

  Dumfries and Galloway, July 4 - 7


  ( For full Botanical report Click HERE )









Marsh Helleborine

August 7th - Milford Cutting and Gosford Castle

7 August 2010 -  Milford Cutting, Armagh and Gosford Forest Park

Conductor: Margaret Marshall

We met at 11.00am in the village of Milford, just outside Armagh city. There was a group of 16, which included what must be two of our youngest members (Arthur, aged nearly 3 and Eva, aged 1 ¼ )! The day was still cloudy at this stage as we walked up a lane towards Milford Cutting, spotting buzzard  and a heron flying overhead.

Milford Cutting , now a nature reserve managed by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, was part of the Armagh City to Castleblaney railway which opened in 1909 and then closed in 1957. Apparently the Milford platform was the longest of the GNR.

In particular we were here to see the quite rare Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) and the Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) – which we did. The Marsh Helleborine has an exquisite little flower when viewed close up. We were also hoping to see butterflies, particularly the Silver-washed fritillary, but the lack of sunshine made that unlikely at first. However shortly after arriving at the Cutting the sun broke through, and although we didn’t see the Silver-washed fritillary, we did see several Speckled wood, Small white, Large white and a Common blue.


There were lots of other flowers to enjoy, including:- Angelica (Angelica sylvestris), Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca), Knapweed (Centaurea nigra), Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum), Square-stalked St. John’s Wort (Hypericum tetrapterum), Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), Herb Bennett (Geum urbanum), Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

We understood that there should be about 11 of the rare Irish Whitebeam tree (Sorbus hibernica) in the area, but we only managed to find one of them!


We then drove over to Gosford Forest Park, near Markethill, and had our picnic before embarking on a walk round the Arboretum. There was a lovely Walnut tree (Juglans regia) in the car park area, and then in the Arboretum a great number of trees (deciduous and conifer) from all over the world, many having reached over 150 years of age. Most of them were very helpfully labelled. Trees seen  included:- Common/English Oak (Quercus robur), Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Copper beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘purpurea’), Southern Beech (Nothofagus), Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Silver Birch (Betula Pendula), Cut-leaved Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘laciniata’), Cypresses, Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), Giant Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria imbricata), Yew (Taxus baccata), Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Bhutan Pine (Pinus wallichiana), Armands Pine (Pinus armandii), West Himalayan Spruce (Picea smithiana). There were far too many to name them all, and lots of beautiful specimens. We also saw Broad-leaved Helleborines (Epipactis helleborine), and a number of fungi.

The trip may have finished with afternoon tea at the Cafe in Gosford Forest Park – but it was closed!

Maureen Carswell



Parnassia palustris

August 10th - Brown's Bay





Cross at Layde Church

   August 14th, Archaeological sites on the North Coast

Leader Lorraine Bourke NIEA

A group of members assembled at Layde Church on this fine sunny day for a visit to several ruined church sites and appreciate the prehistoric landscape in dramatic coastal settings. At Layde, overlooking the sea along a sheltered valley, we saw a multi-period medieval church with a later west tower retaining its distinctively Irish ‘wicker centering’. This was a method of supporting the vaulting during building while the mortar set. The gravestones proved as interesting to members as the church itself. We then processed through Cushendall, busier than usual with a festival in train, and lunched at the Yacht Club car park. From here we could appreciate the dominant Lurigethan hill, a large promontory fort of probable Bronze Age date. We then headed southwards for Ardclinis Church passing en route below Red Bay Motte and Castle. Lorraine has been supervising the conservation work at Ardclinis and she related how the medieval ruin had been cleared of vegetation revealing the original masonry of the west end. This is believed to be on the site of a 1500 year old foundation. A small, cross-inscribed stone near the gate was much admired. A highly decorated 12th- century crozier from the site is in the National Museum, Dublin.

Our journey continued northwards where we stopped beside Loughaveema, the vanishing lake. This natural phenomenon, which was empty on the day, provided a lively discussion as to its cause and we learned that it was also a focus of interest in prehistoric times with a court tomb, three portal tombs, a wedge tomb, a round cairn and Neolithic occupation site all found in the immediate surrounding landscape. 

Our final site was Bonamargy Friary, dating to about 1500, as oasis of peace surrounded by Ballycastle golf club. Although the sea is not actually visible from here now the siting on the Margy river and proximity to the coast with plentiful fish supplies was vital for the life of the Friary. We heard that the church had been thatched and was burned in 1584. A beautiful east window survives and is thought to replace an earlier one. We speculated about a wooden rood screen which may have divided the nave and chancel and saw the cross commemorating Julia McQuillan, ‘the black nun’, a reclusive here in the mid 17th century after the friars had left. We noted the east range with its several rooms below and a dormitory above. A foul water drain at the south end was admired as being advanced for its time. We tracked the corbels which would have supported the cloister roof and puzzled over the historic conservation of the west wall. Members lingered over the gravestones as usual and noted in particular a small group of war graves.  Before dispersing, Lorraine reminded members of the former glassworks and coastal coal mining which had flourished here in Ballycastle under the patronage of the Boyd family. All were very appreciative of the detailed handouts which Lorraine had prepared.

Claire Foley 

Small Copper

     August 21st,  Banagher Glen

Banagher Glen Nature Reserve 21st August 2011

The sun was shining as we arrived at Banagher Glen, a great relief to all organisers of butterfly outings as – no sun, no butterflies!

A small group of Field Club members made it to this remote location and were quickly rewarded with Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies (Argynnis paphia) as we gathered in the car park.  Ian Irvine, warden for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency was our leader for the day.

He took us up a steep path to a wildlife meadow NIEA maintain and manage by grazing with their own live stock. On the way up we saw more Silver-washed Fritillaries feeding on Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre), Speckled Wood (Parage aegeria) and the path and grass were full of small frogs. Over the meadow we watched another Silver-washed Fritillary, Large Whites (Pieris brassicae), Green-veined Whites (Pieris napi), Ringlets (Aphantopus hyperantus), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) and a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). There also were large grasshoppers and a female Common Spreadwing Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) in the area.  

We watched and heard Buzzards (Buteo buteo) circling and mewing in the distance and four jays (Garrulus glandarus)chattering as they flew slowly through the treetops.  

Reluctantly we left the meadow as clouds covered the sun and walked up to Altnaheglish Reservoir for lunch, seeing more Silver-washed Fritillaries on the way.

A pleasant walk of for kilometres up the road through the following the valley, passing the deep pool where the Altnaheglish and Glenedra streams meet. Legend has it that a monster water serpent lives there, St Patrick was supposed to have driven all the snakes from Ireland but this beast escaped his attention!

The day ended as we arrived back to the cars just as rain began to fall.  A successful outing in a beautiful spot that was well worth travelling to visit.

Pamela Thomlinson

Silver washed Fritillary (f)

  September 25th   Archaeological sites in the Carrickfergus Area
A good group of members assembled in Carrickfergus under the shadow of the castle. First stop was Kilroot Bishop’s Palace near the coast beyond Eden village. Here we mused on the tradition that St Patrick had founded a church here ..... We processed next to Glynn Church and admired the relict medieval field system as expressed on the 1857 OS six-inch map .....  The next stop was Ballycarry  to look over the 17th-century ruined church, the last of several at this place where there is evidence of an Early Christian ecclesiastical enclosure of probable 6th or 7th century date which in turn had been built on an area of Neolithic activity..... Finally we repaired to Carrickfergus passing Dalway’s Bawn en route and joined a tour of the 17th century walls in the company of expert Ruairi O’Baoill.
For the full report of this outing, click HERE.
  October 2nd   Fungal Foray at Clandeboye
The annual fungus foray was held in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Fungus Group (NIFG) and was joined by ten members of the Conservation Volunteer Northern Ireland's Green Gym initiative. The foray had kind permission from the Clandeboye estate to explore some of the more private grounds of the said estate.
The exciting news is that the foray produced one species new to Northern Ireland and three new to the whole of Ireland plus one species on the N I priority list.
For the full report of this outing, click HERE.