Big thank you from

Foresight that saved some of these important flood plains

by Paul Cormacain

IN the old days, long, long ago, there was a place called the Bog Meadows where now the M1 runs. It was an area of some 400 acres, the flood plains of the river Blackwater which flowed into Belfast and the Lagan.

The Bog Meadows took a hammering when the powers-that-be decided to build a road into the west. Not an essential road to the south which most traffic uses, or an essential road to Derry, but a non-essential road into the scenic west, a far-sighted decision.

This mighty new road did not utilise the Falls Road or the Lisburn Road, for the decision was made to make a brand new road through the Bog Meadows. I suppose that in this day and age things would be different, and perhaps even Europe would have an input and say 'no'.

No one said 'no' to those in control. They went ahead, and we now have a fine motorway and a fine industrial complex where once the Bog Meadows were.

The end result was a truncated bog, and shrinkage occurred, from 400 down to 47 acres.

So one could sit and gripe, talk about the good old days, criticise the mis-management; and let things deteriorate. Not so, said some bright folk, it is better to have 400 than 47, but if we have 47, let us make the most of them.

I can remember going to some meeting several years ago, at which far-sighted people advocated action. The Friends of Bog Meadows was formed, and they campaigned for many years. Eventually the Ulster Wildlife Trust was involved.

So the new Bog Meadows now comprise 47 acres, but what improvements have been made over the years. The area is close to Belfast centre, easily seen from the motorway if someone else is driving, and easily accessible via the Falls Road.

The new-bog is bounded by the M1, Milltown Cemetery, and St Louise's College. Access is via Milltown Row, marked by a brown tourist sign on the Falls Road.

In the good old days you could wander into the Bog Meadows from any direction. I used to head in from Stockman's Lane, a place slightly different from today.

It could be dangerous, I suppose, and it would be very easy to fall into a river or boghole.

I know people who were chased by swans, when egg collectors were trying to steal' a swan's egg. It was supposed that a swan could do serious damage with its wing.

I never heard of anyone coming to harm in the Meadows, apart from becoming wet.

Huge numbers of waders used to visit in winter and many birds bred there in the summer. The land is still partly wetland, part meadow and with some trees. It used to be home to the corncrake and even 20 years ago there was still a remnant corncrake population.

It would be super optimistic to expect corncrakes to return, but people are still hoping for them to return to Fermanagh, and to Rathlin. If that were to happen, who is to say that the. bird could not return to the Bog Meadows.

In the meantime a bank has been constructed and in it are placed many artificial holes. And the purpose of this exercise is to encourage sand martins to breed. First sand martins, and who knows, perhaps second, corncrakes.

On the lake, which you can watch from the M1 if you are not driving the car, you may see swans, greylag, little grebe, teal, coot, moorhen, tufted and mallard duck, not to mention grey wagtail and gulls.

Then there are snipe, stonechat, reed bunting in the damp areas. The drier land has larks, meadow pipits, lapwing and linnets.

Thank goodness for the folk who had the vision to see that 400 was good, but 47 was better than none. Why not take a visit to the area, which is now safe, but keep an eye on the children especially near water. The sign-posting is very good.

Coming Events

Until 31 May - Family fun searching for safe places for birds to lay their eggs at Castle Espie. Phone 9187 4146

Friday 18, Saturday 19 April - Castle Espie invites young and old children to help make an Easter Egg one day, paint it the next, phone 9187 4146

Sunday 20 April - Castle Espie Cuddly Ducks Easter Picnic. Phone them for details on 9187 4146.

Thursday 24 April - Birdwatch Morning, Castle Espie, 9187 4146

Monday 28 April - Lisburn RSPB is holding its AGM, and Ian Forsythe will talk about Leisler bats in Europe, with particular reference to Lisburn. Time 7.30, details 4062 6125

Wednesday 7 May - Ballynahinch Library is the spot to be to hear about sustainable water management, at 8.15. Details 9753 2157

Friday 9 May - Bat detecting at Bog Meadows Nature Reserve, at8pm, contact 9062 8647

Ulster Star