Click pic for Slideshow MapA disused carboniferous limestone quarry in private ownership which closed some 60 years ago has developed into an impressive wildlife site . Spoil heaps of limestone rubble on the eastern and northern sides of the quarry have provided a perfect environment for development of an impressive orchid flora. Common Spotted, Early Purple , Fragrant orchids and Twayblades can all be found, some of them abundantly. The most interesting aspect of its orchid flora is however a very impressive colony of Bee orchids-a delight to see in early July. Marjoram and at least two species of self sown Cotoneasters grow extensively on the limestone faces of the water-filled quarry . The water itself is a pale blue colour, rather like the turlough lakes of County Clare. A fairly rare kind of submerged water plant known as a Chara grows in the lake . Common Blue and Small Copper butterflies also appear occasionally around the lake The owner, Mrs Elspeth Cummings was a member of Cookstown Wildlife Trust for many years. She and her husband Roland (deceased) shared a keen interest in the developing wildlife in the quarry and always welcomed C.W.T. most warmly on our outings.Click pic for Slideshow MapThe Killymoon river runs through extensive woods on the southern side of Loughry College grounds. Much of the section from the weir beside the college to Tullywiggan bridge runs through carboniferous limestone outcrops which in places contain a range of fossil corals and shells . The river bank has an interesting range of plants, many are aliens originating from planted estates further upriver. These include Fringe Cups , Himalayan Balsam, a garden form of the Yellow Archangel, Few Flowered Leek, Three Cornered Leek, Pink Purslane and Welsh Poppies. The low limestone cliffs host a range of ferns including Hard Shield Fern, Black Spleenwort and the rare Southern Polypody. Giant Fescue and Wood Melick are interesting grasses growing in cracks in the limestone. Spindle Tree and the rare Common Wintergreen also grow here. The Wintergreen exists in only one small patch and is under considerable threat from invasive laurels . Dippers and Grey Wagtails are often seen perched on rock outcrops in the river. In Northern Ireland, woods on limestone are rare outside Fermanagh. Limestone encourages many less common fungi to grow. So not surprisingly the limestone at Loughry supports a range of rare fungi including Death Cap, Sessile Earth Star (only found in one other place in Northern Ireland ) , Yellow Staining Mushroom , Pearly Parachute, Weeping Slime Cap and at least two rare coral fungi . Click pic for SlideshowClick pic for Slideshow
founded February 1950
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Killymoon lies a mile or so to the southeast of Cookstown. Killymoon river runs joins the main Ballinderry just below the lawns of Killymoon Castle and from here the enhanced Ballinderry flows on to Lough Neagh. The estate is farmed by the Coulter family who have always used the land with environmental sensitivity. Considerable areas of woodland have been allowed to remain. Fallow deer were introduced many years ago and can be seen moving through the woods or grazing in fields between the woods and the river . The river banks provide a home for interesting plants including Water Figwort, Monkey Flower and Large Bittercress. Snowdrops have become naturalized in damp wooded areas close to the river. Some aliens have become established and a few, such as Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam are invasive and unwelcome . Woods on the estate contain Birds Nest Orchid , Wild Garlic, Toothwort and Adders Tongue Fern.
Drum Manor Forest Park lies about two miles from Cookstown on the main Cookstown - Omagh road .The House was built in 1829, the Manor fell into disrepair after WW2.In the mid 1960's, its internal structure was replaced by a landscaped garden There are two lakes and several walks in the park, the longest of which is just over three miles in length . Drum Manor contains many forest plots and some of these of less common hardwood species. It also contains some large specimen trees including Atlantic Cedars .There are two very fine beech avenues,one of which contains some interesting and rare fungi. There are several oaks on the avenue leading past the caravan park.Otters, kingfishers and dabchicks have been seen at the lakes. Silver Washed Fritillaries, Wall Butterflies and Wood Whites are among the less common butterflies seen in the well established Butterfly Garden, although the latter two have absent for some years . Drum Manor has an exceptional fungal flora for such a small area, probably due to such a wide range of tree species,some of considerable age . The lawns running downwards towards the lakes have been established for almost two centuries, they are not fertilized and kept reasonably short. This has allowed a wide range of wax-caps (good indicators of old unfertilized grassland) to establish themselvesLough Fea is a cold lake, formed during the ice age (a kettle hole), and lying about 800ft. above sea level. The lough is surrounded by glacial sands and gravels deposited by melt waters from an ice sheet at the end of the last ice age. These provide material for the building industry. Lough Fea has a weather station and provides the water supply for Cookstown area . In recent years Cookstown District Council have established a popular scenic walk of about 4-5 kilometres around the lough. Car parking and a children's play area have also been provided . Cranberry, a wild aster and Water Lobelia are the most interesting plants found around the Lough. Click pic for slideshowWellbrook Beetling Mill ( National Trust), a few miles northwest of Cookstown sits close to a fast flowing stretch of the Ballinderry river. A short ribbon of woodland with paths, runs on either side of the river. There is also a mill-race. The stretch of woodland contains a few interesting fungi and a small patch of Common Cow-wheat. The river contains uncommon Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus penicillatus) found only in fairly fast flowing rivers, and a short distance downstream, fresh water mussels are found. Click pic for slideshowCabin Wood lies south of Cookstown, alongside the Ballinderry, and almost directly opposite Killymoon estate. Much improved due to tree planting by “Woodland Trust”, the area is an improving Nature Reserve. Cabin Wood is rich in the variety of decidious tree species growing close to the river. Common butterflies species are frequent ,dippers occasionally perch on rocks looking for fish and sometimes the blue-green flash of a kingfisher is seen. Oak, willow, beech, alder ,birch and aspen saplings planted a few years ago are restoring the area as an important wildlife corridor . We will not have the great oak forest which once flourished in the Ballinderry valley- but attempts to restore the woodland are proving worthwhile.Click pic for slideshowLissan House, a few miles north of Cookstown, is set in extensive grounds, much of it farmland, but with a considerable amount of both deciduous and coniferous woodland.. It belonged to the Staples family. Lady Staples, a woman of considerable character, lived on the estate until her death some years ago. It was her express wish that the House and grounds should be preserved and kept as a unit. The house itself was sadly in disrepair, however a group of trustees obtained funding for refurbishment,and Lissan House is now open to visitors. Lissan Water, a tributary of the Ballinderry with its source on Slieve Gallion flows through the estate. Otters are believed to be present.The lawns in front of the house are considered as old grassland and have a number of interesting plants, including Butterfly orchids. The estate has a good fungal flora. Click pic for slideshowIan McNeill discovered a thriving colony of Greater Butterfly Orchids at a reservoir roughly five miles southeast of Pomeroy. Ian gave instructions on its location and I headed off on a pleasant Saturday afternoon to take some pictures. After a few wrong turns I located the reservoir, parked the car and walked down a lane towards the reservoir. There were Greater Butterfly Orchids on the banks of the lane, as Ian had indicated. At the reservoir,the retaining bank was covered in thin grass and a gravelly soil with an impressive colony of orchids in full bloom. Ian has an uncanny ability to discover these hidden places.The reservoir and the beautiful butterfly orchids are pictured alongside.Click pic for slideshowThis recently examined site is perhaps the best natural history area in Mid-Ulster with a rich orchid flora including Bee Orchids and Purple Marsh Orchids .There are thriving colonies of Common Blue butterflies, Six Spot Burnet Moths and Speckled Heath moths,and no doubt much more.time will tell.Somehow it must be preserved,but there is a suspicion that the site may be under threat.