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Caring for the Hills, their Wildlife and People

Issue 10 | Spring 2010

Partnership’s future hangs in the balance The future of the Belfast Hills Partnership continues to hang in the balance after it was hit with a severe funding axe. The cuts have dented staffing as Partnership staff look to other sources of funding to keep the organisation viable. A last minute reprieve of cuts for the year 2010-2011 was granted after the shock announcement that the Partnership’s funding was to be cut. The Department of the Environment had slashed the budget by more than half. But a proportion of the funding shortfall was recuperated from extra cash from the Executive’s swine flu fund. However the following two years look bleak and uncertain for the group that was set up to protect the Belfast Hills five years ago. Dr Jim Bradley of the Belfast Hills Partnership warned that the Partnership faced closure, job losses and the collapse of vital services. “Our funds have been axed. We were in line for this year’s raft of threeyearly core funding and are being expected to carry a particularly savage cut in 2011 to 2013.” The Belfast Hills Partnership seeks to improve and protect the Belfast Hills. It was formed in response to ongoing concerns about the exploitation and degeneration of landscapes, communities and habitats in the Belfast Hills during the 1980s and 1990s. It currently runs physical and mental health initiatives for people living in some of the most deprived areas in the north and west of the city from its offices in the unemployment blackspot of west Belfast.

“We understand that all sections of the economy must take their hit in these harsh economic times, but cuts of these magnitudes would be devastating for small bodies such as ours,” said Jim Bradley. “These crippling cuts have not been made because of any poor performance or poor grant application. We are hitting all the targets set for us. “In the last three years we have put in new footpaths, started invasive species control programmes, surveyed upland heath and Irish hare populations, promoted the health of this city, attracted more visitors and tourists and rolled out a whole series of successful events to raise awareness of the Belfast Hills. “We have also brought a new way of dealing with issues ranging from wildfires to development planning in the hills which shows the way forward when we work in partnership. “We are now spearheading heritage and tourism projects. Our ability to deliver these is now threatened. Rebuilding capacity after such a cut would take a very long time.”

Timeline • The Belfast Hills Partnership submitted a grant application under the NIEA Natural Heritage Grant in August of 2009 to seek core funding for the tri-annual period of 2010 to 2013 • The initial proposal was to cut £250,000 awarded between 2007 and 2010 to £135,000 in the 2010 to 2013 raft. • About 15 bodies are core funded by NIEA within the Natural Heritage Grant Scheme with a third of these seeking funding this year • The grant scheme is aimed at securing delivery of NIEA objectives in key areas – usually awarded by way of letters of offer which outline partial core funding (usually 60 per cent) • Other core funding comes from bodies such as local councils and our own fundraising

Float with butterflies in the Belfast Hills Butterfly Conservation is to survey butterflies and moths living in the Belfast Hills this spring and summer but they need your help. No specialist knowledge is involved – just an interest in exploring the Belfast Hills looking for these creatures. Butterflies and moths act as indicator species and are found in profusion in the Belfast Hills.  This means we can use them to tell us information about our climate, and also about the health of the landscape they live in.  Butterflies and moths are very sensitive to changes in temperature,

in the weather and to the plants growing in the area in which they live.  If the conditions are not right for a butterfly, moth or their caterpillars, these creatures will die.  This very fast reaction can be crucial to helping us manage sites right, not just for butterflies and moths, but for a host of other insects, and the plants and animals that rely on them as pollinators and for food.  If you would like to find out more, email: Catherine Bertrand Butterfly Conservation

The rare dark green fritillary that was spotted in the Belfast Hills

The magic of moths By John O’Boyle, Higher Scientific Officer, NIEA You can record the magic of moths straight from your doorstep! It has been a great adventure recording the moths on my doorstep this year and adding to my natural history knowledge of the wider Belfast Hills. I trapped on eight evenings and managed to record 184 moths of 38 different species. Moths often get bad press with childhood memories of big, brown, furry objects flying frantically around the living-room light and screaming sisters dashing for cover. But really, many moths are equally as colourful and beautifully patterned as butterflies. Only a small handful eat clothes and this tends to be when grubby clothes are left undisturbed in the dark. Moths are a fascinating part of our natural world! So it was with great excitement and anticipation that I volunteered to put a moth trap out in Colin Glen early last April to sample the Lepidoptera (‘scaly-winged’ ones) therein. Colin Glen is an important ‘green lung’ bringing a variety of wildlife into the heart of urban west Belfast and Dunmurry. The glen is well populated

by bats – a protected European species. But have you ever stopped to think that bats depend upon nocturnal insects? A large proportion of these are moths. Trapping in spring, whilst producing smaller numbers of moths still turned up interesting species like red chestnut. It wasn’t until June however that I started getting larger catches with lots of different species to identify and admire including the clouded magpie. Recording this rare species proved to be one of the highlights of the whole project for me. As summer edged into autumn, total numbers caught began to fall, but as each season and month has its own variety of moth species on the wing, I began to find the beautifully coloured autumnal species with their russet, yellow and brown tones – resembling the fallen leaves. Note that no moths were harmed in the making of this article. I hope it whets the appetite of a few of you out there to discover more about things that go bump in the night!

If you live in the hills and would like to do some moth trapping, then get in Moths found in Colin Glen, from top to bottom: buff arches, clouded magpie, red chestnut, touch with the Partnership and we’ll streamer and water carpet set you up!

Living past catches up with the present on Black Mountain

Happy Birthday Belfast Hills!


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Our fifth birthday events leaflet is now available and it’s going to be a full year of never-ending fun in the Belfast Hills. Get ‘Roman’ to take part in some great activities onFeCave Hill in July or go back in ?cfehjWdj _dji <eh\khj^[h_d\ehcW 7bbWh[l[hom[bYe j_edWalk c[jeek time[l[d on our heritage bus tour in May. h Kdikh[m^[h[Wdoe\ jiXkjfb[Wi[X[Whj ^[i[ j^[i_j[iWh[5 _cfehjWdjfe_dji_dc ekhm[Xi_j[mmm _dZ0 Divis toL_i_j $X[b\Wij^ along the new Dixon Link on our 10_bbi$eh] v 7bbY^_bZh[dkdZ[h 9edjWYjkiWj0 ',ckij X[WYYecfWd_[ZX 8[b\Wij>_bbiFWhjd [hi^_fus oWd mile WZkb fundraising event, or let guide you /IeY_Wb;YedecoL_bbW  j ][ Ik_jWXb[Ybej^_d]WdZ >WddW^ijemd>_bb   on vour spectacular Colin waterfall adventure \eejm[Whi^ekbZX 8[b\Wij8J'-&NI [mehd v :e]iWh[Wbbem[Z ediec[ J[b0&(. /&,&)*, walk. to kill all alien species of , mWbaVolunteer iXkjedboedWb[WZ ;cW_b0_d\e6X[b\Wij^_b v Iec[fWhjie\mW bi$eh] baiYWdX[ ij[[feh plants that threaten the habitat of Colin Glen Z_\ÅYkbj  J^[8[b\Wij>_bbiF or WYj_l help in the annual clean-up of Cave Hill. Whjd [hi^_f [bofhecej[ih[if edi_Xb[ Yekdjhoi_Z[[d`eo c[d jWdZ^Wi for you in the Belfast Hills. There’s an event fkXb_i^[ZWd7YY[ii9 Fh_dj[Zed eZ[$ h[YoYb[ZfWf[h \hecikij W_dWXb[ Find out more about the sites and all our iekhY[i events at J^[\kbbdWc[e\j^


Archaeological tours of the many enclosures, cairns and settlements on Divis and the Black Mountain are proving a big hit on the National Trust site. Since taking over the stewardship of Divis and Black Mountain the area has given up long lost secrets of the ancient people who inhabited the mountain terrain in pre-history. Dermot McCann, National Trust warden said there is a growing popularity of all things archaeological on the site. An event scheduled for this summer to explore the rich treasure trove of clues left on the landscape is proving “extremely popular”. “We’ve over 50 people signed up already for this walk to explore the past of our ancestors on Divis and Black Mountain. “These sites are newly discovered and until the National Trust took over the care of this site, were not even recorded on ordnance survey so it’s all new and very exciting for us,” he said. Archeological Day - exploring the past - is taking place on Sunday June 20 from 9.30am to 1pm. Contact the Divis warden’s office on 02890 825434 or at divis@ or visit www.


Events Programme





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To receive leaflets by post and regular updates by email just call us and we’ll add you to our mailing list.

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Arsonists will cause loss of life The Partnership has paid tribute to the dedication of the PSNI and hard work of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service in battling to protect the hills from arsonists. And it has appealed to anyone who sees a fire or anyone starting one, to report it to the police immediately. Conservationists in west Belfast have warned that someone will be killed in the Belfast Hills after arsonists torched upland heath sparking scores of malicious fires. Officials from the Belfast Hills Partnership and the National Trust have been surveying the devastation that has cut a swathe through a vast area of habitat. The incendiaries have caused widespread damage to land above the Whiterock Road across to an area known locally as Windy Gap. Carnmoney Hill and Cave Hill have also been targeted. A number of youths have been charged with arson. Red grouse, stonechats, skylark, snipe and other upland breeding birds live in the Black Mountain area, while peregrine falcons and ravens feed on the mountain environment. The National Trust’s warden for Divis and Black Mountain, Dermot McCann

said it was only a matter of time before serious injury or loss of life was caused by the arsonists. “Someone is going to be killed. There is going to be loss of life if this goes on,” he said. “It only takes the wind to change and either the people starting these fires or an innocent walker will be caught up in it, or will be disorientated because of the smoke.” Dr Jim Bradley of the Belfast Hills Partnership, which has been studying the long term effects of the malicious fires with Queen’s University’s Quercus group, said with the right conditions, the fires could spread and change direction at a frightening pace. Dr Bradley said the implications were also “extremely serious” for soil erosion. “Water draining off the hills could lead to flooding in the long term.” He said: “It is obvious these are deliberate fires. Early spring fires like these are causing major damage and loss of wildlife and landscape. I would appeal to those starting them to stop now before more damage or serious injury is caused. “These parts of the hills are cherished and widely used by the local community. We commend the work of

Top: Fire trap. The devastating fires that experts warn will cause loss of life on the Belfast Hills Above: A view from Finaghy Road North in west Belfast of some of the10 fires that were lit on Black Mountain in one day

the Fire and Rescue Service and PSNI and it is important that people call the fire brigade when they see these fires. Don’t assume that someone else will be doing it. We’d like to appeal to all those within the communities in west Belfast to help educate people about the devastating consequences of these upland heath fires.”

Ligoniel environment and heritage site update Work has been progressing in earnest to open up the area around the Wolfhill dams for public access and recreation. The Ligoniel Improvement Association has successfully purchased and put in place agreements with landowners for public access around the mill

Ligoniel dam

dams and westward towards the Forth River.

through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Work has already started to remove overgrown areas of scrub which had surrounded the dams, and to clear the original mill races to allow water to flow freely again.

Further work is taking place to install fishing platforms and an improved path network will start shortly.

The project was made possible

The area is already becoming wellused by local residents for walking, exercising dogs and fishing.

Feeling ready for the Hills…. The Belfast Hills Partnership is spearheading a drive to improve the emotional well-being of people in some of the most deprived areas of the city. The Partnership began its healthy walking initiative last year with a view to improving peoples’ physical health. Information officer at the charity Andrea McKernon said: “It all started when we decided to engage with the communities around the north and west of the city. “Our feeling was to help people into the hills and teach them about the various public sites. The views, the fresh air are all beneficial, but we wanted to target those groups who for one reason or another wouldn’t normally walk in the Belfast Hills. It would be the person who typically drives down the M1 or M2 everyday and is aware of the beauty of the hills but has never walked them. It would be the new mum living in Andersonstown who wants to get walking with baby in the buggy but doesn’t know that Divis is a perfect place for this. It would be a group of people in the Shankill or Ardoyne who attend smoking cessation clinics, people in slimming clubs in Lisburn or on the Antrim Road looking to do a bit more exercise and kick start a healthier lifestyle.” But Andrea said it soon became clear that hill walking also carried untapped emotional benefits. “One day last August we packed up our gear and put out our stall as part of the West Belfast Festival’s community health day at Whiterock

Three new interpretive panels are proving a big hit with walkers on Cave Hill and nearby Hazelwood. Placed on McArt’s Fort and the woodland below, they mark the completion of path improvement works which started in January 2008. The initiative was made possible with funding from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Belfast City Council.


Leisure Centre. “We found huge opportunities for emotional wellbeing in the communities around the hills. Among these we found Women’s Aid a group interested in getting involved with us. “We took the women on a walk of Cave Hill. We met up about two weeks before Christmas and drove up with a few staff and about 10 of the women residents. “Walking simply gave the women the time to talk, look at lovely views and dilute their minds from their worries and current situation. To be in a hostel before Christmas is distressing for anyone, so it was amazing to see these women smiling and feeling they had achieved something. The hills are very much a free resource and we envisage the staff of Women’s Aid coming out with us again and learning more about the sites. Then these key workers can start up a walking group in the hostel and get the women out on trips to the hills anytime they want.” “Funding cuts have proved we are in testing times, but we are always looking into new opportunities for funding. We think engaging with people’s emotional health by simply showing them the walks and the facilities for a cup of coffee, is something the communities in the cradle of the hills can surely benefit from,” said Ms McKernon. If your organisation would like more information on walks in the Belfast Hills email , phone 02890 603 466 or logon to

• 158,000 people in Northern Ireland suffer from a medically identified mental illness in the course of a year. • Three million working days are lost to Northern Ireland industry each year due to mental illness at a cost of £2 billion. • It is estimated that 10-12 per cent of children and teenagers have mental health problems severe enough to need help in overcoming them. • In Northern Ireland there are 150 suicides each year with just over 35 per cent of these being young men under 35 years old. 17 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women aged 35-44 show signs of depression.

There are numerous stories about Cave Hill, some true and some based loosely on actual events. This folklore adds to the aura of mystery that surrounds the hill. Walking through the park will reveal its natural beauty and clues to some of its fascinating history.

McArt’s Fort Cave Hill

You are here

History of McArt’s Fort

View of Cave Hill from

Profile of Cave Hill

McArt’s Fort is often referred to as ‘Napoleon’s Nose’. When seen in silhouette against the sky the profile of the hill resembles a gigantic face staring upwards.

Volunteers Parading

At the caves early 1900s,

courtesy of the National

Library of Ireland

Legend has it that there was a secret entrance to the caves at the top of the hill – although its location is so hidden that no one knows its whereabout s!

Carrickfergus Castle


M5 Motorway


Grey Point Fort


Scrabo Tower North Foreshore

Strangford Lough M2 Motorway City Airport

Parliament Buildings

on Cave Hill by JW Carey

During the 1780s the slopes of the hill were used by the United Irishmen as It was on McArt’s Fort a volunteer parade ground. in 1795 that Wolfe Tone and the northern leaders and pledged themselves of the United Irishmen to the struggle for Ireland’s met independence. They may name to a spring in the well have given their woodland, known locally as the Volunteer’s Well.

Easter on Cave Hill

Samson & Goliath


The Flight of McGilmore

Easter time on Cave Hill was once a popular venue for festivities. Tents were erected, fires lit, entertainers performed, and dyed eggs were rolled down the slopes.

Carnmoney Hill Kilroot power station

Top: McArt’s Fort at Cave Hill is the perfect place for peace and serenity

Ritchie’s Dock, 1805

Two of the older names of Cave Hill are derived from the Ulster Chieftains: is derived from the 9th Ben Madigan century the 16th century Art O’Neill. King Matudháin, and the name McArt’s Fort comes after The Fort may date to the late Bronze Age or Iron Age and may have been in times of crisis or war. used for refuge Its exposed position and lack of water supply mean that it was ever a place that it is unlikely of permanent residence. It is the caves that give the hill its modern name. There are five caves though are clearly visible. In the only three early years the caves have served as a retreat to watch coming up Belfast Lough, for invaders and during the Second World War they were used during bombing raids. It is said that the caves for shelter also served as treasure prisoners were at one time houses and that kept in the upper caves.

(H&W Shipyard)


Victoria Square

Belfast City Hall

Mourne Mountains City Hospital

Black Mountain


There is another panel on the opposite side of the Fort about habitat and vegetation. For further information on Belfast Parks log onto www.belfa or telephone 028 9077 6925


Northern Ireland



Above: Staff from Belfast Women’s Aid with Andrea McKernon (right) on Cave Hill in December. The Belfast Hills Partnership brought a group of women hostel residents as part of their healthy walking strategy which has seen opportunities for improving the emotional health of communities living at the foot of the Belfast Hills

STEP IN TIME The right to access the beautiful grounds of Cave Hill from the Antrim Road is something we take for granted these days. But back in the 19th century that basic privilege was seriously contested by an ambitious businessman. A book about the great Cave Hill ‘Right of Way’ case was launched recently by former Linen Hall librarian John Gray. It chronicles the trial of a man who was taken to court for blocking a public pathway to Cave Hill. Back in 1859 Joseph Magill, a wouldbe property developer, blocked the traditional entry opposite Gray’s Lane, by building a gate lodge to his new Martlett Towers mansion across it. The move galvanised the anger of the powerful Rights of Way Association and led to Mr Magill facing the courts. When the trial ended, the Northern Whig newspaper printed an 88-page transcript of the court case, such was its importance. It concluded that the businessman was guilty of obstructing a public footway and he later went bankrupt after incurring substantial court costs. North Belfast historian and researcher John Gray said the trial was a major event by today’s standards. “It was this big trial, and it lasted for a whole week in 1859. I was always aware that there was an extraordinary story to be told here. “It always seemed to me, and I agree with Francis Joseph Baker who wrote about this in the 1920s, that it is a great moral story. “Joseph Magill runs roughshod over

the opinions of everyone else by blocking the access. “He could be described as our first speculative developer, because he planned to sell off some of the land as building sites, and it all came dreadfully unstuck, partly as a result of the huge costs of the court case and because he had overstretched himself financially, he went bankrupt. “His fate decreed that in every respect his venture came to a very sticky end, and the only surviving remnant of it is

the gate lodge. “It was the gate lodge that blocked the right of the way and although Magill lost the case, a deal was done where he didn’t have to tear down the gate lodge but had to provide an alternative route. Today’s path really stems from the compromise deal that was made after Magill’s defeat.” You can buy the booklet, priced £5 from the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign or from the offices of the Belfast Hills Partnership.

It’s your Belfast Hills

Contact the Belfast Hills for help and advice with any concerns or questions regarding the hills, their wildlife and people. Also, let us know what you would like to read about in future newsletters. Charity No: XR70288 Company No: NI053189 Address: Belfast Hills Partnership, 9 Social Economy Village, Hannahstown Hill, BT17 0XS Tel: 028 9060 3466 Fax: 028 9030 9867 Email:

2010 Bel hills Newsletter spring_0