Leaving the Hen car park, beside Rocky River Bridge, we made our way to the gate which provides entry to the Hen Track. This gate indicates that we are entering the Batt Estate. The Batts appear to have come originally from Cornwall - they became established in Ireland by an officer in Cromwell's army, who acquired considerable property in the county of Wexford.
A descendent, Narcissus Batt, along with his partners David Gordon, John Houston and Hugh Crawford, founded the Belfast Bank (now the Northern Bank) in 1808 - it began business at a private house on the corner of Callender Street, Belfast, almost directly opposite the White Linen Hall. Batt's Wall in the Mourne Mountains was built by Narcissus Batt, who had bought the Leitrim Estate in 1834, the year in which he built his hunting lodge.
The Batt mausoleum at Drumbo Parish Church reads:
"Here lies the body of Narcissus Batt of Purdysburn Esquire who died on the 27th January 1840 in the 79 year of his age. He was the oldest son of Robert Batt of Ozier Hill in County of Wexford here is also placed the body of Margaret his wife daughter of Thomas Gregg Esquire who died on the 29th September."
Our group made the ascent of Hen Mountain (354m), passing a large piece of granite (left) which appeared to have animal tracks or chisel marks - possibly an aborted attempt to make a mill stone. It wasn't long before we reached the summit, climbing on to the impressive tors which are popular with rock climbers. There we spent a little time (right) deciding how best to tackle Cock Mountain next door. Gordon was his usual confident self; the rest of us weren't so sure.
Leaving Hen, we were greeted by the croaks of a raven (right), a massive bird and the biggest and arguably the most intelligent member of the crow family. It is all black with long wings, a diamond-shaped tail and a large bill. We descended south-east to about 270m before starting the steeper ascent up Cock Mountain (505m). Rather than making a direct ascent, we chose a route closer to the south west corner and, when close to the top, we stopped to enjoy our lunch.
At the summit of Cock Mountain we were treated to impressive panoramic views of Spelga Dam Reservoir to the east and snow-capped mountains on three sides. Meanwhile, Millie and Dorothy, oblivious to the scenery, appear to be brushing up their Japanese bowing etiquete (see far right).
The freezing weather made for occasional slippery conditions but at it also made the ground a little firmer and provided us with some interesting photo opportunities. Our descent of Cock Mountain brought us to a tributary of Rocky River and after crossing tis we re-joined the Hen Track which led us back to our cars. Those of us who had climbed both Cock and Hen Mountains had ascended a total of approximately 450m or almost 1,500 feet.
It was a longer and more challenging walk than some of our recent outings but yet another great day out! I'll leave the final word to one of our newer members (received via email):
Just to say that was an amazing walk yesterday. I was in Reuben and Jim's group and climbed Cock and Hen Mountain. The scenery was breathtaking, the sun shone and the snow capped mountains were glorious. It was like being in another world. The Cedars has just made my retirement so special. Thanks to all the leaders and everyone who help run it.
Bowing between equals involves a 45-degree bow. Deeper (90 degree) bows are performed by people in inferior positions, for example students giving deep bows to their teachers. It is a sign of respect given by a person in an inferior position to someone else who is in a superior position. And it's not done to perform a deep bow while shaking someone's hand!
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