Images of Events held in 2022
Members put up bat boxes near to the Castle
On Monday 14th February five of us spent a couple of hours putting up 14 bat boxes in Cave Hill County Park. These boxes, made by Men's Shed, were nailed high up in the trees along all along the main approach road from the Innisfayle Park gates to the Castle.
This initiative arose from our bat walk last year with Aidan Crean and Debbie Nelson when we noted fewer bats than we expected; we decided to help them any way we could. The boxes are numbered and are easily visible. We hope that their presence will alert the public to these delightful creatures
Members work together to transform the Maze
Twenty-one members and supporters gathered together on Saturday 19th February to resurrect the long-neglected maze beside Belfast Castle.
In previous months we trimmed the existing beeches but today we planted about 750 trees to fill in the gaps. These are willow trees which are fast-growing and in a year or two will provide a dense hedge. We had members of various communities and groups: members of the Belfast Indian and Slovakian communities along with members of the Cavehill Walking Club and NI Young Walkers as well as our own members.
It was a very successful and fulfilling morning's work
Litter pick on Cave Hill
Imagenation, an Indian community group, came to Cave Hill on Sunday 27th February to help maintain the area by lifting litter and, of course, to enjoy themselves. We acted as their guides and they did most of the work. Their ages ranged from 18 months to well, much older! They were a lovely group, friendly, enthusiastic, engaged and energetic.
On a cold windy late winter day they all reached McArt's Fort and then, most importantly, got safely back to the Castle with six bags of rubbish. And then...they produced chai and samosas; proper authentic Indian food and absolutely delicious. It was a really satisfying day.
Thanks to Sanjay Ghosh for setting it up.
Twelve members and supporters gathered on a very pleasant spring morning, on 12th March, to scrape 20 years of accumulated muddy leaf litter off the maze pathways. We also uncovered a mosaic which appears to date from the creation of the maze in 2000. We ave now done nearly all we can with the maze.
Our April volunteering task will be to remove the ivy from the surrounding yew hedge. Belfast City Council has already cut that lovely hedge down to a much more suitable height. Our hope is that they will do some more improvement and then the maze will be ready to be used as a place to enjoy.
Laying paths in the maze
Work continues on the Maze
On 9th April, which was another pleasant sunny morning, members and supporters gathered to do some more work on restoring the maze. Fifteen of us reinforced the fence posts and removed ivy from the surrounding yew hedge. We hope to finish both these tasks in our May event. Thanks to all who took part and especially to Ann for the coffee.
The Geology of Cave Hill
Fourteen members and supporters, including two youngsters, met at the Castle on Saturday 23rd April for our first guided walk of 2022. Kirstin Lemon, the well-known geologist, was there to guide the walk for more than three hours across the top of Cave Hill. We learned about continental drift 240 millions years ago; this was when the supercontinent began breaking up and landmasses drifted to form the continents we are familiar with today. The weather was splendid and Kirstin was as entertaining and erudite as ever; everyone really enjoyed the occasion.
Focus on the past
During the geology walk we looked at many rocks that naturally occurred on Cave Hill. One of these rocks was limestone. In the past limestone was extracted from the quarry on the slopes of Cave Hill. The limestone was carried, via the aptly named Limestone Road, on train tracks to the docks. From there it was taken by ship to Scotland for processing. Another use for the limestone was to act as ballast for the sailing ships when the holds were empty. The limestone would be unloaded at its destination and replaced by an alternative cargo for the return or onward journey.
Dawn Chorus on 7th May
Thirteen of members and supporters met together at the gates on Innisfayle Park at 5 am on 7th May and John O'Boyle brought us on a dander to listen to the wonderful dawn chorus. So many different birds were singing that it was confusing at first. But with John's expert help we learned to distinguish them and we heard or saw over 20 species. The weather was clear and calm and we had a delightful time.
Forage on Cave Hill 14th May
Fifty-three members and supporters arrived at the Castle on 14th May, including 2 year old Lewis in a buggy, to discover what edible plants grow on Cave Hill.. We were guided around the estate by the superb team of Phil Simpson and his colleagues Davy and Leah, all from Buzzard Bushcraft. We sampled lots of edibles, heard mythologies attached to specific plants, saw how to make cordage and also how to make fire. Some youngsters actually struck sparks from flint and steel and made their own fire. After our walk we gathered around Davy's stove to sample nettle soup and wild garlic butter. What a wonderfully eye-opening and informative morning!
Work continues at the Maze
Another successful day in our mission to revive the maze in the Castle estate. We were joined by 7 students and teachers from Belfast Met and together we reinforced the fence within the maze and planted 30 foxgloves around the inside of the yew hedge. This group was great to work with and were happy to take on any task; they mixed very well with our other volunteers and provided enthusiasm and energy! We are grateful to Bill Love of Stupidpricedplants (sppni.co.uk) for the generous donation of the plants. The students in particular are looking forward to revisiting the maze when their flowers have burst into bloom.'m a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.
The Birds of Cave Hill
Thirty members and supporters gathered near the Castle in the morning of Saturday 28 May. There we met with licensed bird-ringer Aidan Crean who had set up special mist-nets to catch birds flying by. We were then invited to watch him ring two black-caps, a male and a female, a chaffinch, a robin (shown here) and a goldcrest (also shown here). It was rare privilege to participate and to learn so much about the birds we see daily; how far they travel and how long-lived they are. Aidan entertained and informed us all the while in a wide-ranging talk about how wonderful, enterprising and versatile birds really are.
Birds are safely caught in a specially licensed net. They are then safely fitted with a very light and sized ring which carries a unique number which will allow identification. Birds are immediately released should they show any sign of stress
Summer Solstice Walk
Forty-eight members and supporters came together on Saturday 18th June at 3.30 at the Castle to walk to McArt's Fort to see the sunrise at 4.46 - its earliest this year. It was a wonderful occasion. The weather was calm if a little cold and the air smelt fresh. We were of a wide range of ages, from about seven to well over retirement age, and from many parts; in particular twenty-five members of the local Indian community organisation Imagenation. As usual the sights on Cave Hill were stunning! At the end of the walk, around 6 o'clock, when were back at the Castle, our friends from Imagination, and not for the first time, produced samosas and chai; we had never had a breakfast as tasty and welcome!
Identifying the trees that grow on Cave Hill
Karl Hamilton, of Mantella Environmental Education, is a well-known ecologist with a comprehensive knowledge of plants. On Saturday 25th June, Karl took 16 members and supporters on a three-hour dander around the park near the Castle. During the walk, he introduced us to a wide range of trees, both native and foreign. Over the centuries, Cave Hill has accumulated many, many tree species. Absolutely fascinating!
Members spend another Saturday at the Maze
Another successful and enjoyable morning's work in the Maze. Members and supporters cleared much of the new growth from the bases of the newly planted willows and put in a few more supporting posts. The craic was good and there was a lot of talking and laughiing!
Volunteers join in a Litter Pick on Cave Hill
Volunteers had a very successful morning in August with a great turnout of 28 people from the Halifax/Lloyd's Building Society. At least three-quarters of them were over from England on work experience and returning to England this evening. Mark, Owen and Gerard were in attendance. They gathered 9 bags over by the Upper Cavehill Road area at the old estate wall and 5 bags from the north of the Castle.
Volunteers work on restoring the Belfast Castle Millemmium Maze
Belfast Castle Millenium Maze 2022
Originally the creation of a Maze came from a suggestion within Cave Hill Conservation Campaign in 2000. Proposals were put by CCC to Belfast City Council and this led to the commencement of work that year. This was in an area not far north of the Castle (the former Rose Garden). The Maze was formed by planting Beech tree saplings with the perimeter edged with posts and wire fencing, all supplied by BCC together with tools needed for the job. It was agreed to name the maze the Millennium Maze. Unfortunately, it was not fully maintained over the following years and it became seriously overgrown.
In early 2021 CCC decided that it was time to restore the Maze to its former glory. After negotiations with Belfast City Council along with Mark Turner, BCC rep to the CCC board, work commenced in September 2021. Work on restoring the Maze was very demanding as trees had grown and needed to be reduced in height and the branches trimmed. Gaps had developed between the trees and these were filled by planting around 750 fast-growing Willow whips together with cane supports and guards. These were supplied by BCC together with 60 wooden posts to replace those broken or rotted. In addition, we planted fruit trees and t Foxgloves, donated by Stupid Priced Plants, in an open area at the edge of the Maze.
Work was completed in August and by then the Willows had grown to around and we were able to bend and entwined them and use the lower branches to thicken the fencing by filling the gaps with the willow growing tips.
Over the period of work, there was a lot of banter, craic and fun amongst the group who were untiring in their efforts. We are indebted to Mark Turner of Belfast City Council for his relentless support of our efforts to restore the Maze. Not only did he ensure we had the proper tools and supplies for the job, but he was on site on all but a few occasions to give a willing hand!!
I believe I can speak for all involved in this very worthwhile project in saying it has been a very uplifting and satisfying experience.
The Maze as restoration work began
Working in all weather - then we discovered an old floor tile.
The herb garden had also become very overgrown. Work still continues on restoring it, planting and maintaining a variety of herbs.
History Walk on Cave Hill
On Saturday. 20th August, in the early morning, the heavens opened and the rain came down in torrents. However, we decided to go ahead with the scheduled History Walk. By 10.00 the rain had begun to ease, but, even before that, 10 people had arrived.at the Castle to join the walk, led by Cormac Hamill. We spent the first twenty minutes in the Castle, where Cormac led us to view the portrait of the arch-rogue George Augustus Chichester, Second Marquess of Donegall, who ruined the family. After that, we walked around the estate visiting the ruins of Hill House and Martlett Towers along with the locations of the stables, the walled garden and the rose garden. Then we walked to the top of Cave Hill and back through the Wallace quarry. Along the way we learnt a lot about what had happened on Cave Hill from access after Martlett Towers was built, the Volunteers Well and the fairs had been held at the Devil’s Punch Bowl beside the Caves. And, the rain held off for the whole walk!
Bats of Cave Hill
The weather was kind on the night of 2nd September- no rain, little breeze and fairly warm. It was a good evening for bats, Twenty-four people must have thought the same as they turned up for a bat walk around the Castle. Our experts, experts Aidan Crean and Debbie Nelson were also pleased with the conditions. Worryingly the bats did not seem to agree - there were bats, mainly Leisler's and some Pipistrelles but in nothing like the numbers we expected. We did detect a solitary male in a tree near the Innisfayle gate calling regularly for a mate and no females arrived to attend him. So he too was aware of the shortage. We also checked some of the 17 bat boxes we had put up in February and all were unused; clear evidence that bats are declining. and edit me. It's easy.
Saturday morning at the Maze
Another very successful morning's work training the Willows, pruning the Beeches and installing a few more fence posts in the Millennium Maze. The restoration work which commenced last September is now almost complete, this will result in a place of peace and tranquility for all to enjoy provided it is not vandalised. We will soon be able to make the public aware as to when it will be officially opened. All of this would not have been possible without the support and physical efforts of our dedicated band of volunteers!! We owe them a debt of deep gratitude, thank you all!!
Twenty-one members joined us on a sunny morning in September to take part in our Fungal Foray; led by Debbie Nelson. We walked through the woods in the Castle estate and discovered many common, and some not so common fungus, including Xylaria Polymorpha, AKA dead man’s fingers, Deceiving knight cap, Common puffball mushroom, Ink cap mushroom, Destroying angel, Turkey tail and Bracket fungi, Bootlace fungus, Jelly antler Organelle coral fungus and a range of bracket fungi. Debbie warned us that the vast majority of mushrooms growing on the Hill were poisonous. Everyone had an enjoyable and interesting morning. Many thanks to Debbie for providing expert and professional support and of course, thanks to those who joined us.
Archaeology Walk on Cave Hill
Cormac McSparron was back with us this year for one of his engaging and very comprehensive archaeology walk on Cave Hill. He was an entertaining and informative guide to ten of us as we visited the Hightown cashel, the nearby souterrain, the summit cairn, McArt's Fort and the find site for the Bronze Age dress fastener. Cormac also made a compelling case for the hill summit to be an early mediaeval ritual landscape