Overhead and Underfoot – The Second World War Legacies Around Lough Neagh

Overhead and Underfoot – The Second World War Legacies Around Lough Neagh


The Second World War was to have a massive impact on the greater Lough Neagh area and this is still very evident in the built and cultural heritage of the area today. In order to explore the cultural legacy of the Second World War on the Lough Neagh area, Lough Neagh Partnership is hosting a free to attend two day conference on 16 and 17 October.

The two day event begins in The Old Courthouse in Antrim on 16 October exploring the role of the Second World War through various talks to inform delegates of the stories associated with those from the Lough area and the service personnel based there. Associated stories of rationing, military aviation, haunted places, evacuees and refugees, soldiers and airmen. Delegates will then be encouraged to participate in lively discussion after each session.

The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael commented: “I am delighted that this interesting conference is taking place in our Borough. Antrim and Newtownabbey has a diverse history and I would encourage everyone to attend to learn about the cultural legacy of the Second World War in the Lough Neagh area.”

Liam Campbell, Lough Neagh Partnership, said: “Covering a diverse range of topics the packed agenda on this two day conference will appeal to anyone interested in history and the future of life and living on the Lough.

“We have engaged community historians, archaeologists, authors and leading researchers, who have a very real interest on the impact of the Second World War around Lough Neagh to share their knowledge during what promises to be a great two days.

“This conference seeks to foster relationships among many community groups, institutions, government bodies and practitioners, as well as academics who have an interest in the impact of the Second World War around Lough Neagh.”

On 17 October delegates will be taken on a guided bus tour of the major Second World War sites including Toome, Ardboe/Clontoe, Langford Lodge and will visit the Ulster Aviation Society at Maze Long Kesh.

To attend ‘Overhead and Underfoot’, book your place by contacting Lough Neagh Partnership on tel 028 7941 7941 or by email at info@discoverloughneagh.com as advance booking is essential.

Bookings can also be made at: Overhead and Underfoot Booking

For a full programme, visit: Overhead and Underfoot Programme

Lough Neagh Partnership through its Heritage Lottery funded Landscape Programme is promoting this conference with support from Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council.

www.discoverloughneagh.com, www.twitter.com/loveloughneagh,


Guest Blog by Emmet Campbell

Guest Blog by Emmet Campbell

Guest Blog by Emmet Campbell

Hey Guys, its Emmet. The office-favourite student on this placement who’s here for a good time, but not a long time.

Just like my student-fellow Amy, I am a Queen’s student and I’m studying Biological Sciences (the foundation degree). There’s 4 of us in the office; Nicole Amy, Sarah and yours truly (that was in no particular order, but the best was saved for last). The 3 gals are here for their placement year however I’m just here for the summer. No one wants to spend their summer working but I was excited to get a bit of experience for the first time in an actual scientific environment. Unlike many of my classmates, who have been working in labs 9-5 everyday for 2 months, I get to spend my summer actually enjoying it. Outside. With the Lough Neagh Partnership at Oxford Island Discovery Centre.

For what has been probably one of the hottest summers the Emerald Isle has ever seen, I’ve been identifying plants, counting bees and holding damselflies hostage until we can determine if the wine glass on their back has a base or not. And what do I have to show for it? Well, apart from a killer farmer’s tan, I have a whole new understanding of the word ‘conservation’. Carrying out the work I’ve been doing has opened my eyes to the big beautiful world of environmental management. All my friends hate me now because I can’t help but identify the positive and negative indicators of any random patch of grass we happen across.

“Those nettles are a sign nutrient enrichment, that Farmer would need to be careful with his slurry”

“Emmet, we literally don’t care”

And that’s the just the thing, people don’t care. I didn’t. Until I had to. But its through this placement that I’ve started to see just how important the work that the Lough Neagh Partnership undertakes is. To give you an example, Devil’s Bit Scabious, a plant that I would’ve shrugged off as some weird looking thistle, is the feeding source for the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly’s larvae. Now, there are people writing 40+ page long management plans on how to maintain a stable population of this species over years so that this butterfly doesn’t become extinct and I used to walk past it calling it a strange purple plant.

And that’s just one of the many I could write about. If I wrote about all of them though, no one would read this (good job for getting this far).

Thanks to this placement, I now have a whole new array of skills under my belt useful for a life of conservation and even though I don’t have much time left here*, I intend to put them to use, both in and outside of work.

*I’m going back to uni, not death row

That about sums it up for my first (and final) blog. Unfortunately, there wont be another as like all good things, my presence in the office must come to an end. Best of luck to my subordinates fellow students that I’m leaving behind!




Bogs & Blogs

Bogs & Blogs

Guest Blog by Amy Gallagher

Hi, my name is Amy. I’m 20 years old, studying Environmental Management at Queens University Belfast and I’m currently doing a placement with the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership. I’m going to start a blog to keep track of everything I have done and learned during my time here.

I decided to take on this placement as I am extremely passionate about the environment and its conservation. Growing up with a farming background, I was introduced at an early age the importance of preserving our land and the natural beauty that comes along with it. I guess that this is where I first became interested and invested in the environment. Through this placement I am able to gain hands-on experience in the management of designated areas that are at risk of succession or specified as areas of special scientific interest.

Through the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership, I have the opportunity to be involved in some really interesting projects. One of the many being the setting up of the first bee transect at Oxford Island. We also received training in a wide range of skills that are important for conservation; training by Robert Thompson on Dragonflies and Damselflies identification, Botanical skills training with Bob Davidson and performing a tree risk assessment at Gosford Park using GPS mapping technology.

Bogs & Blogs

I loved getting to meet so many experts from so many different fields, gaining such an extensive knowledge of plants and animals that I never even knew existed.

Experiencing the wildlife at the different locations around Lough Neagh has made me so much more comfortable around animals, even ones not found at Lough Neagh. I visited South Africa earlier in the summer to build houses as well as working at a crocodile sanctuary and rehabilitation and release program for cheetahs. Thanks to the experience I have gained here, I was opened up to an entire new world of life in a foreign country; I now had the mindset to look past what you see at first and take a closer look at the environment around me.

This placement has really opened my eyes and has helped developed the skills I need for a career in ecology. I can’t wait for the next blog when I’ll tell you all about the new and exciting things that I have done on placement!

Blogs and Bugs

Blogs and Bugs

Guest Blog by Sarah Galloway

Title: Blogs and bugs by Sarah

Hi, my name is Sarah Galloway, I am a student studying geography at Ulster University Coleraine, I am currently on placement at The Lough Neagh Partnership at Oxford Island where I will be completing a year placement before going back to university to finish my degree. I chose this placement as I have never visited Lough Neagh before which was an opportunity for me to learn about a new area. It was also by the water which was an interest for me as I enjoy coastal rowing and kayaking.

In the first two months of placement we have attended a lot of training including Dragonfly and Damselflies with CEDAR, bee training which was then used to set up Lough Neagh first bee transect, and vegetation training. With this training we then carried out Irish Damselfly surveys with the RSPB at the Munchies (Montiaghs).

Hairy Hawker Dragonfly This image shows a Hairy Hawker Dragonfly we found at the Munchies (Montiaghs).

We have carried out vegetation surveys and quadrants at several sites including Brackagh Bog, Multiple meadows around Lough Neagh, and at Brookend nature reserve. We have also completed the bee walk twice and found garden bees, common carder bees and white-tailed bumblebees. It is important to monitor bee activity as they are an endangered species through doing a transect it will give us an insight into the bee population we have at Lough Neagh and the vegetation and areas which they like so they can be preserved. If you are interested in learning more about bees and how to identify them you can visit www.bumblebeeconservation.org for more information.


Adventures of a Busy Bee

Adventures of a Busy Bee

Guest Blog by: Nicole Feenan

Hi, my name is Nicole Feenan, I am an Environmental Science Student at Ulster University Coleraine. I am currently a placement student with the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership at Oxford Island Nature Reserve. I chose to complete my placement year here to widen my knowledge of my local areas environment as I have lived less than six miles from Oxford Island and have visited many times. During my second year at university I attended a field trip to the Ballyronan site to investigate the quality of the water in Lough Neagh’s basin. From starting this placement, I have gained a wealth of knowledge thus far. The main aim of the year-long placement is to produce management plans for sites around Lough Neagh. In order to achieve this a breadth of training from various professionals has been provided in the fields such as: bee training to set up the first bee transect for Oxford Island, a dragonfly and damselfly course with Robert Thompson at Brackagh Bog and the Montiagh’s Moss. Bob Davidson has also been providing training in botany of various sites around the Lough including: Brackagh Bog, Rea’s Wood, Lough Beg and Peatlands Park. This has aided me in seeing what the effect of different environments has on wildflowers and the differing species at each site.

Hairy Hawker Dragonfly

I also attended Chris Packham’s Bioblitz at Murlough Beach, a Bioblitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time, with the help of students, experts, families and community members who all share an interest. At this event we were provided with a range of guided walks and talks with professionals from various fields within conservation, I had the chance to take part in both the marine mammals talk with Andy Carden and birds of Murlough walk with Dot Blakely. This event helped me to further widen my knowledge within these areas and to see the breadth of knowledge that both Dot and Andy had in their respective fields. Another main skill I have gained through this placement is the ability to confidently use the GPS device known as the Trimble, this device can give GPS readings as close to centimeters from its location. I have had many chances to use this skill at both Brackagh Bog and Gosford Park where I was part of the tree risk assessment for the new trails.Irish Lady's Tresses


South Lough Neagh Native Apple Tree Project

South Lough Neagh Native Apple Tree Project

Forest Culture: ‘A word of mouth tradition, encompassing laws, mythology, skills, experiences and insights of people, applied to maintain or improve their livelihood over generations in a woodland environment’.


As part of The Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership’s project “South Lough Neagh Heritage Apple and Native Tree Project”, (funded by Heritage Lottery Fund) I was invited to help put together and deliver a tree Heritage Project.  The basis of this project is to raise awareness of the heritage of unique trees and fruit that grow in the South Lough Neagh Landscape, by working with five local schools. It would be a grassroots citizen-led initiative will inspire the creation of new community native woodlands in the area whilst exploring the art, science, and technology of managing trees and forest resources in the Lough Neagh landscape ecosystems for the physiological, sociological, economic, and aesthetic benefits trees provide society. They remind us of the changing seasons and the natural world’ their fantastic legacy has been deeply forgotten.

There are three themes at the heart of the project

  • Forest in a Box
  • Churchyard Yew Tee Project
  • Traditional Heritage Apple Orchards in Schools

Native Apple Tree Project 1

Background to the project

Historically, the Lough shore was a vastly wooded area – this can be picked up by looking at the townland names remaining heavily wooded up until the mid-1600s.  Killultagh, the great forest of Ulster, formed a triangle lying between the shores of Lough Neagh, Portmore Lough and the Maze. On the South side of the River Lagan, the area between Strangford Lough and Lough Neagh was designated by district names of Clacan, Clanawle, Clanbrasel and O’Neilland. Between the Blackwater and the Bann rivers, near the Lough shore lay Clancan; to the south Clanawle stretched from the Blackwater to Armagh; and O’Neilland from Armagh to Portadown; and eastwards from Portadown to the Armagh-Down border was Clanbrassel. On the north-west shoulder of Lough Neagh were the Derry and Tyrone oak woods Mountreivelin, Killetra, and Glenconkeyne – the latter merging with the woods of the lower Bann Valley, The Dufferin.

This vast forest stretched from coast to coast, east to west and north to south.  There are reminders of this everywhere: of the 62,000 townland names in Ireland, north and south, 13,000 have reference to trees whiles 1,600 have a derivation of “dair” (Irish for oak).  The shores of Lough Neagh are no exception. Oak woodland was extensive around the shores of the Lough during the early 17th century. By the beginning of the 18th century these oak woodlands had all been cleared apart from a few remnants to the north shore, which were cleared at the end of that century, marking the passing of the old landscape forever. The land that once supported these vast temperate rainforests is now almost entirely converted to agricultural use. Many of the townland names on the southern shore of the lake contain the word ‘Derry’ which strongly indicates earlier extensive occurrence of oak woods.

One-eighth of ancient and long-established woodland has been cleared in the last 40 years, and around a third of ancient woods have been replanted with conifers, or a mixture of conifers and broadleaves. Unfortunately, this is a statistic unique not only to Ireland but most of the developed world as we’ve witnessed near total deforestation of indigenous woodland within living memory.

As a society, shocking lack of ambition or sense of urgency and a genuine fear of wilderness and wild places are extinction catalysts of what is left, let alone our ability to reach targets of expansion laid out for 2050.

Native Apple Tree Project 2

Why wait until 2050?

There is a Government plan to achieve 12% of land cover by 2050. Sadly, planting has slipped so far behind we’re bordering on deforestation – which seems to have become acceptable.

Ironically, if we want to learn more about how to do it and do it well, as well as understand what the benefits are, we should look north to once treeless Iceland. It has plans to ensure 12% tree coverage by the end of this century – an ambition that has widespread support both amongst politicians and the wider public. The Iceland Forestry Society is now the biggest environmental charity in the country.

Northern Ireland has fewer trees than any other part of the European Union. The idea is to, with the help of schools, make a practical contribution to redress this situation by recognising and utilising the profusion of the natural world itself. Our trees annually provide seeds, if we can recognise and utilise this natural resource they have within their grasp the only way to conserve our dwindling tree heritage. The seeds that our existing trees produce each year!

From listening to the personal accounts of elder generations, who have taken the time to discuss the project with me, it became evident that some of their deepest regrets are only to discover a mysterious world of trees late in life – a world we humans have, as intrinsic parts of nature, always been connected to but know very little about.

To me, this highlighted the importance of stimulating an interest in the science of trees in primary schools and incorporating this into all aspects of the Tree Heritage Project proposal.

Plans in motion – LNLP

The Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership have impressive plans in place and in action, above and beyond lip service, pursuing the idea of tree planting by involving communities. Imaginative approaches are being be taken to reinforce the connection between local trees and people – regionally developing the Lough shore’s community’s reputation for sustainability, intelligent land management and active regeneration of its woodland resources.

It is not lost on the partnership that an attractive, Green rural landscape underpinned by tree and woodland cover, attracts a higher degree of inward investment, employment and tourism, reflecting the type of environment in which people want to live, work and play.

It is an initiative launched to re-assert the value of the pristine living wilderness we have on our doorstep, to our economy, our culture, our ecology and our health and well-being round the Lough shore.

Many of our remaining trees and woodlands have deep rooted historical and cultural significance and associations, significant to the local identity and sense of place. It acts as a powerful example of Sustainable Development – by acting locally and thinking globally, communities can take direct action to regenerate life on this planet.

Forest in a Box – Project and Proposal

The aim of this phase of the Tee Heritage Project is to help children better understand the miracle of growing a tree from a seed, its parts, purposes, dynamic changes and cycles, as well as the way its life is interwoven into the very definition of what it means to be human.

By observing growth patterns so intimately in bespoke school tree nurseries, they are discovering the cycles in a trees life – what it likes and dislikes, what helps it grow, and finally what might kill it.  We can never conserve what we do not understand!

The box mimics the natural woodland floor of leaf litter to start provide optimum conditions to get the trees off to the best possible start, the sides creating shade to encourage the trees to reach for the light; the fuel of all life, increasing their chances of survival by 90% or more.  This works to foster the idea of sanctuary, planting it firmly in their conscious world view. Each one metre by one metre seed box is capable of providing approximately 200 healthy native oaks between 45 and 60cm for planting out every two years. To preserve the local genetic character of trees in the Lough Neagh basin, the seeds are collected by the school children within a ten mile radius as it is a fact that these native trees are the most adapted to the conditions of the area and therefore the most valuable in providing Ecosystem services such as: wildlife habitat, water filtering, soil protection, flood prevention and more.

The project creates an opportunity for dynamic Eco-schools committees, providing schoolchildren ways in which they can become involved and make a difference. With a view to working as a local action group, each Eco-schools committee will engage with local landowners to co-ordinate the planting site they’ve been allocated as a new community woodland along the shore. With the guidance of LNLP, the trees will be transplanted from the nursery box to project sites into the surrounding Lough Neagh shore landscape, with a view to increasing the number of local provenance oaks in each of the Derry townlands. These are skills are essential career skills in an ever-evolving society, nurturing a sense of ownership and identity with their own landscape.

Not only does the forest in a box offer the children practical projects and visions for re-greening our future, but  it also provides the perfect platform to develop essential skills to consider our environment on a global scale whilst actively engaging landowners and members of their local communities – inspiring them to plant and care for the trees nurtured in the school’s tree nursery.

All seven schools approached have been more than supportive of the project, actively encouraging participation of the pupils, from the collection of acorns in the autumn to the installation of the seed box at each school in September.

Native Apple Tree Project 3

Woodland Field Trips – October, November

The children visited ancient woodland in late October and November to coincide with the huge acorn mast falls we’ve witnessed in 2017.

On the day the children learned about The Brehon Laws which laid down specific protection for trees and gave them a hierarchy of importance. It imposed penalties on those who committed offences against “the lords of the wood”, the seven species deemed most important: oak, hazel, holly, yew, ash, Scots Pine and wild apples. The ancient Irish people were regulating tree preservation more than 1,000 years before any other society.

The children were given insights into how trees communicate with each other and filter air, improving air quality by filtering particulate pollutants and locking up atmospheric carbon into their trunks, branches and roots. They can help limit or prevent flooding. The health and wellbeing benefits of giving curious minds access to wooded areas means that, no matter how much adults believe they know about the world around us, there will always be room to wonder.

They witnessed how Oak woodland is nature’s highest achievement in their local landscape.  The 1/5th of 1% of fragmented ancient woodlands offered them glimpses of the ‘wildwood’ of prehistory. These still play host refuge for our natural flora and fauna; the birds, mammals, invertebrates, mosses and lichens, fungi, and plants share complete interdependence with them.

I told them how a group of trees forms a forest and a forest offers food and protection to sustain life’s great diversity. One individual tree can live hundreds of years, closely collaborating with other species of trees plants, micro-organisms and animals and it is this which gives a tree its miraculous power to flourish, even under the most extreme conditions. Trees are bread baskets to many but also resilient fighters, steadfastly protecting their own ground. Yes, trees are the foundations of forests, but forests are much more than what you see above. Below ground there is another world, a world of infinite biological pathways. These connect trees and allow them to communicate and allow the forest to behave as though it’s a single organism.

It was observed how light is the fuel of all life, how it powers the biochemical processes needed for photosynthesis, where trees and other plants combine water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce sugars and oxygen.

Encountering the hidden lives of trees always nurtures a sense of wonderment and intrigue in wild being, wilderness and the processes of life death and regeneration. The recognition of the role of trees and woodlands in modern living is encouraging a new reappraisal in the way they look at trees as a living social network as well as the symbiotic relationships and friendships formed between trees over hundreds of years. This offers them profound templates for how to live, how to communicate and build resilience together.

Planting a Forest in a Box

The tree seed incubator box was then activated with the children’s participation, spreading the leaf litter mix, then following up by casting the native tree seeds of sessile oak which they had collected in the nearby Peatlands Park ancient oak wood. These children are investing time and energy in their own future in a unique way that combines the past, present and future – it is amazing that some of the acorns are from trees that have watched over their families and sustained the art craft and survival of a lough shore way of life for generations.

Native Apple Tree Project 4


For me, personally, it is fulfilling seeing the children engaged totally in their day outside the confines of the classroom.

They are open to appreciate the magic of existence around them and especially in trees, all the while fostering an awareness for the natural world but more importantly a respect for the role they play in it. This is refreshing to see, because with it comes the realisation that Lough Neagh’s woodland culture may be deeply forgotten but it is certainly not lost.

View the gallery below for more images

Archaelogical Dig at Brocagh

Archaelogical Dig at Brocagh

Archaeologists have rediscovered a fort from four centuries ago which had disappeared beneath the surface of what used to be the shoreline of Lough Neagh.

Students from Queen’s University in Belfast have taken part in the dig at Brocagh in County Tyrone over the past month.

Evidence of a settlement going back thousands of years has also been found.

The dig was commissioned by the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership.

It had support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Mountjoy fort was built as the Tudor military campaign encroached on the territory of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Ulster, towards the end of the Nine Years’ War. The site was strategically significant.

The work of royal cartographer, Richard Bartlett, had already provided key clues for the archaeologists.

“Bartlett in the early 1600s is going around mapping out what existed here, so we’ve a wonderful map of the period,” said Liam Campbell, built and cultural officer with the Partnership.

“Richard Bartlett’s map shows a fort here and we know that there are between 1000 and 1200 soldiers mustered here.

“And yet nothing remains on the surface of this place now.”

Lough Neagh, known as Lough Sydney in the early 17th century, used to lap the bottom of a cliff face just 100m or so from where the fort would have been.

But the lowering of water levels over the century has left the site almost four times as far from the water’s edge now.

“If you take all of Ulster, Lough Neagh is like the hub of a bicycle wheel and all went out from around it,” Mr Campbell said.

“So, this place might look peripheral, but it was really, really central.

“We’re on the historical lough shore – this was a major source of food and protein, so people are actually here hunting, gathering and fishing.

“So it’s no surprise these were centres of population and settlement for a very, very long time.”

The dig has confirmed that the history goes back far beyond the 17th century fort, evident in geo-physical surveys carried out before the work started.

Meosilithic period

The archaeologists explored between three and four metres down, finding not only evidence of the fort, but of a settlement going back thousands of years.

“We’ve excavated everything manually, and we have uncovered a considerable ditch running across our trench,” said Ruairí Ó Baoill, an archaeologist with Queen’s University Belfast.

“In that ditch is 16th century pottery, fragments of rotary querns for grinding corn, red brick, Gaelic Irish pottery, bits of [Victorian] clay pipe and we’re very happy,” he added.

“Everywhere we’ve dug we’ve found archaeology.

“Elsewhere in the trenches we’ve found material dating back thousands of years – 7500 years to the end of the period of the first hunter-gatherer settlers, the Mesolithic period, and we’ve found their flints.

“We’ve found 6000-year-old flints, projectile heads and knives from the time of the first farmers.

“They’re all living here, all in County Tyrone, all on the shores of Lough Neagh and all exploiting the lough.”

The finds have included the blade of an implement probably used to cut meat, which is still sharp 7500 years after it was carved.

The entire site has been meticulously recorded and will be written up, so while the trenches have been filled in, the discoveries and the archaeology will still be available.

“Because the landscape has changed so much, it’s got people really interested in their place,” Mr Campbell said.

“And part of the reason we did this was not just to do archaeology for the sake of it, but actually to get people reconnected to their past.”

Lough Neagh Natural Heritage

Lough Neagh Natural Heritage

Lough Neagh sits in the center of Northern Ireland with many small communities nestled around its shorelines. It has inspired poetry, supports local and international wildlife, provides a large water catchment area that helps supply drinking water for people across Northern Ireland, and is home to the largest commercial eel industry in Europe. The Lough has many faces – from wild and windswept to calmly serene – each as quietly beautiful as the other.

Visitors and locals come to the lough shore from across the province. For many it is an opportunity to be close to nature and there is no doubt that the Lough holds a special place in the hearts of many.

Lough Neagh Partnership (LNP) are working with local landowners, farmers, industry, and communities through its landscape partnership scheme (funded by heritage lottery fund) to deliver a number of important cultural, built and natural heritage projects around the lough.

One of the main Natural Heritage projects is “Saving Nature” where LNP are working alongside partners RSPB NI, Local Landowners, Farmers, NIEA etc. to look at the key habitats around the Lough and the important wildlife species they support. Through a system of monitoring, research, engagement and practical restoration we hope to help improve the biodiversity at key sites and locations around the Lough. Through this research we can improve our understanding of the impact we as people are having on the Lough, and gain knowledge which will allow us to continue to interact with this landscape in a sustainable and well informed manner.

Lough Neagh Partnership (LNP) have been working with local landowners and the wider community looking at the potential impact of pressures such as climate change, over and under grazing, scrub control, etc. on the ecologically sensitive habitats and biodiversity found within and around the Lough Neagh & Lough Beg Special Protected Area.  Work is currently being carried out at Brookend Nature Reserve, where vegetation surveys are being carried out assessing the change in habitats and any changes in biodiversity. Surveys are also been undertaken to look at the invertebrate population found on the site and how this has altered with changing management on the site. Once the surveys have been carried out LNP will aim to work alongside Northern Ireland Environment Agency and other local landowners within the area to help improve the biodiversity value of the lands and offer support to the local communities and peoples who are looking after this valuable wildlife resource. It is also hoped that with correct management breeding waders such as curlew, redshank, and lapwing will start to use the lands again.

There are many pressures both man made and environmental that are acting on these special habitats, and whilst funding has been secured for the immediate future as an organisation we are constantly seeking ways to draw in more to continue this important work. Working alongside local communities and farmers is a vitally important part of our work, and educating recreational users and others on the potential impacts of their use and how they can help us to look after the Lough and its surrounding landscape is for us a big part of what we do. We are not alone in our love for this landscape and we would ask people to engage with us and help manage this landscape.

For further information and details of volunteering opportunities within Natural heritage projects, please contact either the Natural Heritage officer Siobhan Thompson at siobhan.thompson@loughneaghlp.com or Chris McCarney the Volunteer officer at chris.mccarney@loughneaghlp.com

The Lough Neagh Storytellers

The Lough Neagh Storytellers

Lough Neagh Partnership put a call out for local storytellers who wanted to welcome visitors to their community and tell stories about Lough Neagh and its people.  Last year 13 people from around Lough Neagh completed the  programme to be a qualified tour guide.

A Sanctuary for Wildlife

The programme allowed the participants to share knowledge and expertise on the value of Lough Neagh as a valuable wildlife sanctuary.  “We discovered rich environment habitats around the lough for birds migrating from the arctic winter that come here for the winter,” said Fergal Kearney, a participant on the programme interested in linking Seamus Heaney’s poetry to the Lough Neagh Landscape.  The Lough is also an important breeding site for common terns, and overwinters a wide range of birds from Berwicks swan, Golden Plover, and the Great Crested Grebe.  Of course no story about the lough is complete without mentioning our Lough Neagh Eels and our native dollaghan trout.

“I did not fully appreciate the full range of wildlife that make their home around Lough Neagh.  It was a pleasant surprise to realise that Lough Neagh is so highly valued as an important wildlife site for by European and World experts” said Judith Boyle  TTS Associates who delivered the programme and managed the accreditation process.

Another participant, Gary McErlain, a Lough Neagh fisherman of many generations. “Lough Neagh fishing is in my blood.   I am passionate about it and the Lough, and I never wanted to do any other job.   It can often be a very hard way of life, with very anti-social hours and much exhaustion – yet I still love it.   I can only try to explain it by saying that the Lough, and eel fishing in particular, have a magnetic pull for me, a pull that most people who live beside it or work on it, will understand, and are powerless to stop.”   Through the tour guide Gary pledged to do what he could to promote the fishing culture and heritage of Lough Neagh.  “Realistically, I may well be the last generation of Lough Neagh eel fishermen” explained Gary, “So I want to do what I can to ensure that people at home and those from farther afield appreciate know the stories of fishing heritage around Lough Neagh.”

Layers upon layers of built heritage

The participants brought us to built heritage sites illustrate how Lough Neagh shaped the lives of local people from the Stone Age to early Christian heritage of towers, churches and monasteries.

Anne-marie McStocker was reared in Cargin on the northern shore of Lough Neagh and considers herself  a ‘Loughshore girl’.  “My parents and grandparents were Loughshore people, and my maternal grandfather’s family were fishing people.  My mother was a lifelong Lough Neagh ambassador long before the label existed”.   Anne-Marie told the story of the ancient ruins at Cranfield Church, where St. Olcan is reportedly buried.  She demonstrated how visitors might benefit from the healing properties of Crannfield Holy Well.  “The site pre-dates Christianity and offers something for everybody: nature-lovers, historians, those interested in spirituality and even picnic-goers!

Anne-Marie adds:  “It brings a rueful smile, to think that this place, my sisters, brothers and I so derided as children is a place that I am now very proud to welcome visitors as a Lough Neagh Ambassador.”


Food Songs & Poetry

Lough Neagh has inspired many local people to poetry and song.  Seamus Heaney use the Lough Neagh and loughshore characters as subjects of his poetry.  While Seamus Heaney’s poetry is recognised around the world there are many other poets that used Lough Neagh as inspiration for poetry and song such as Moses Taggert and Geordie Hanna.   Over the last few years the creativity of local food producers has improved beyond recognition.  The Ambassadors involved local food producers, pubs and restaurants in our efforts to make the visit to Lough Neagh a special and memorable experience.



St Mary’s College Clady has received the overall ‘My Place in the Landscape’ Award for their outstanding participation in a unique collaborative project – My Place Within the Landscape – between Lough Neagh Partnership, RSPB NI and Seamus Heaney HomePlace.

The creative achievements of more than 40 students from Magherafelt High School, Sperrin Integrated College, Magherafelt; St Mary’s College, Clady; St Patrick’s College, Maghera and St Pius X College, Magherafelt; were recognised with highly commended certificates, with the writers of the top five poems also receiving a wooden pen. In Heaney’s poem ‘Digging’ which was included in the ‘My Place within the Landscape’ project, he talks of his relationship with the power of the pen.

“Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.”

Award presentations were made by Queen’s University Belfast Children’s Writing Fellow, Myra Zepff. Myra said: “I am delighted to have been involved in this wonderful project which brought young people, poetry, and the landscape together in such a fresh and vivid way. Their experiences, both of the environment around them and of the creative process will undoubtedly stay with them for a long time”

The project funded by Heritage Lottery, encouraged within the students a love of both landscape and literature, through increasing awareness of their own natural and cultural heritage encompassing various themes including spiritual awareness; creative expression; natural heritage; social studies and use of technology. It provided an opportunity for students to develop the skills and empathy required to respond personally to poetry, as well as giving a better understanding of the rich variety of habitats around Lough Neagh; their biodiversity importance; why they have been designated and how these habitats are threatened.

Conor Jordan, Chair of Lough Neagh Partnership Forum, said: “The poetry produced by the winning students is exceptional and I’ve been told it was difficult to choose the best such was the level of creativity. I would like to congratulate all those who participated in this most enjoyable and truly unique project.  It is an excellent example of how partnership working can help promote a greater understanding of our landscape heritage and the literary value it holds for the observer.

“The cultural significance of Lough Neagh and Lough Beg has been recognised globally thanks to the poetic eloquence of Seamus Heaney and we are delighted to be part of a project that has encouraged young people to look at the landscape with a new heritage awareness.”

Speaking at the celebration, Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Mark Glasgow said, “We are delighted to have participated in this collaborative project that ensures the legacy of Seamus Heaney and his work lives on, and which gives inspiration to new and future generations of young people to pursue their creative dreams. The Seamus Heaney HomePlace education programme and its participation in collaborative shared education programmes like My Place in the Landscape not only provide this inspiration, but also take the poetry of Seamus Heaney as a catalyst for teaching and learning in a wider sense.”

Jess McVicar from RSPB NI added:  “Through this unique project looking at how landscape inspires literature, RSPB NI has connected young people with nature in the important protected landscapes in their area. The project gives students the opportunity to experience first-hand the very landscapes that inspired poems such as ‘Digging’ and ‘The Strand at Lough Beg’. RSPB NI has been delighted to work on My Place Within the Landscape, helping students to learn about the importance of conservation and to recognise the richness of their own natural heritage.”

This is a project of Lough Neagh Partnership under the Landscape partnership programme funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.




‘POETRY IN THE LANDSCAPE’ AWARD: Aaron McGahon, Year 10; St Mary’s


This Farming Life

Silage season (stanza 1)

One bright morning at the break of dawn

At the start of silage season

My brother, dad and I

Got up early to get started at the silage.

When we started up the tractors and the harvester

You could hear the roar of the engine.

It sounded like the incredible hulk.

When we were out in the field there was a

Sweet smell of silage, sweet like honey.

I remember my Granda he loved to be out in the open air,

The sound of his voice the chuckle of his laughter,

He could never be replaced but my dog digger

Fills the empty seat.


Autumn (stanza 2)

One misty morning at the start of Autumn

The air was as cold as ice when it hit off our faces.

I went into the cow field. The first thing I saw

Was Charlie the bull.

A bull with horns, an off white beast.

I look at him and I see a gentle giant.

We start to feed our cows and calves.

They run like lightening across the field

to get the food. It smelt very sweet. It was dirty.

It felt like cut grass. It’s amazing to see all the wee

calves growing up.

The Winter months (stanza 3)

The winter months

One icy morning in the middle of winter.

All the cows are finally in.

It’s cold outside.

My brother my dad and I went out to feed the cows.

The cows are sad.

The atmosphere is tense they trod slowly to get their feed.

I find a mother that had a late calve.

They both were dead.

Lost friends.


Highly Commended Poems:


My Hometown

As I walk through the peaceful graveyard

I feel a lot of people are with me, but it feels dead.

I see my grandma’s graveyard ahead, I miss her.

As we get to Toner’s Bog giant metal straws suck up

The soaking, soggy, soulless bog leaving a willow tree alone.

On the bog the sphagnum moss sucks up the water making it 20 times heavier,

Better do a few laps of the sperrins shadowing behind it.

Now the wise widow tree sways with the wind,

Now living its last few years in peace.

Long sharp shades of grass flick the wildlife away

With the help of the whispering wind.

We leave to go to the historical Church Island.

We all run wild to the church.

Squelch! Squash! Slop! As our feet leave footprints

The wet gooey ground sucks my shoe as I wiggle it about and sway and

Thump! Onto the soggy chocolate cake.

We get a calling echo “Come back! Come back!”

It silences the place and we all run back.

My feet rise and swiftly drop like a swallow into the dirt

Looking like a bomb exploded

With millions and billions of fragments of dirt going everywhere.

I’m hungry I see a blackberry bush

I pick one and throw it in my mouth. Mmm!

Just as good as my old man’s blackberries.

This was a day to remember at my hometown, Ballaghy.

Seamus O’Sullivan 10B – St. Patricks College Maghera


The Lough Field

As the stone ripples into the water

It turns into something beautiful

Diamond blue water sines in the sun

Water crashes into the boats, hard as rock

The current sparkled like

Shiny jewels.

The butterflies dance all over the fields

As the trees blow, the leaves flutter

To show the beauty of life.

The rushes poke you like mosquitoes

The mud squelches as you walk

The fishermen dance as they catch fish.

When it rains, the puddles fill.

The fishes swimming

Each swimming, hoping they

Wouldn’t be caught by the fishermen.

As the night goes

The day breaks and

I love the place

I’d call it home.

Not many like

The mucky ground

Or the prickly rushes.

But it’s the place I call mine.

For even the Lough is

My home.

Oonagh Doyle Year 8 – Sperrin Integrated College


The Moyola River

The Moyola River snakes through the fields.

Carrying the mountain water down to the sea.

It’s water rich like coffee.

It swells and ebbs.

Pools catch in the corners.

In these dark holes the trout rests.


Below the surface the stillness is suspended.

I drop the line.


The fish swims on.

Steve Wilson Year 10 – Magherafelt High School


Two Dollys in Derrygarve

Round two bends through the hollow trees,

Derrygarve is meant for me.

It might not be where I live

But it’s where all my memories live

Even though the most important person lies alone

Up the Derrygarve road under stones.

I’d pull up at the house,

Hear the click of granny’s heels,

Like the tick of the clock, going over the tiles, towards the table,

Listening to the plumbing of the kettle,

Watching the steam cloud the window, like a cold fog.

With our two cups of tea in hand Hugo Duncan on the wireless

We sing Dolly Paton “I will always love you!”

In tune we hug goodbye,

My head lingering on her shoulder,

A feeling I’ll always remember a smell I’ll always treasure;

It might just be her pomegranate noir, or maybe her washing powder,

But it’s a smell that filled the air wherever she’d enter.

These little everyday unusual things, that seemed so normal,

Now seem so strange and absent now they’re no more

As I move through gales towards the future

Still sniffing the air for your scent.

Round tow bends through the hollow trees,

Derrygarve is meant for me.

Blaithin Donnelly Year 9 – St Pius x College Magherafelt