Dashing for the summit of Slieve Gallion
Thursday, 25th October 2012 started off as a sunny day with almost clear blue skies, just perfect for our postponed climb up Slieve Gallion which stands alone marking the eastern edge of the Sperrin mountain range. It was to get a little duller as we approached the mountain but nevertheless we were able to enjoy glorious uninterrupted views of Lough Neagh and the surrounding counties.
We started our walk in Carndaisy Glen, parking beside the charming but rather isolated Carndaisy Baptist Church. Crossing a small stream, we set off up the glen walking a path covered with leaves, many of them the distinctive long leaves of the Sweet Chestnut otherwise known as the Spanish Chestnut - its leaves have around 20 pairs of straight parallel veins each ending in a saw shaped tooth at the edge.
Even more distinctive are the brown nuts within a green spiny case which bursts open on ripening. The nuts we found were undersized, a product of our climate which is colder than they need for maturing fully. Sweet Chestnuts are used as ingredients in soup and stuffing and are delicious roasted. The timber is more durable that oak when used outdoors and cheaper so it is commonly used for chestnut paling fences. In some areas of Kent and Sussex whole woods were planted to supply timber.
Those of us of a certain age will surely remember the very talented Johnny Morris in his TV role as "The Hot Chestnut Man", a short slot in which he was shown sitting roasting the chestnuts - he would tell a humorous yarn in a West Country accent, often ending with a moral.
When we came to the end of the lane leading from Carndaisy Glen we turned right and walked up to Carndaisy Wood where we took the laneway up its southern edge, past a basalt quarry to our right and on up through swampy upland meadow.
The ascent of Slieve Gallion
by Cedars Walking Group
Is it a golf ball
or just a wood wax?
Frog in grass
Slieve Gallion is a volcanic plug with steep sides and a flat top, formed from volcanic-derived igneous rock and also granite on the southern slopes. Animal species living in the area include the Irish hare, the curlew, and the red grouse. Otter can also be found around nearby rivers. But apart from sheep, the only animal I spotted was a frog and the most notable plant was a wood wax masquerading as a golf ball.
After a stiff climb and a short paddle we arrived crossed the mountain road which winds up and around to the western shoulder of Slieve Gallion to serve the telecommunications mast on the north-eastern summit. The mast was to be our objective for lunch which was enjoyed on the slopes outside the enclosure to the mast.
For the group led by John, the final ascent of to the cairn behind the mast was left for another day we decided to head for the distant trig point on the mountain top. A few chickens left the group and headed back to the car park citing urgent appointments as their reason for an early departure.
The mountain gets its name from the Irish: Sliabh gCallann meaning "mountain of the heights" and its southwestern peak reaches a height of 528 metres (1,732 ft) making it the 397th highest peak in Ireland. But to the Cedars Walking Group, when we reached to top, we felt like we were on top of the world. At one point it looked as though Pat was about to do a cartwheel in celebration!
My name is Joe McGarvey as you might understand
As I went a walking one morning in May
Oft times have I wandered with my dog and my gun
Oft times in the evenings and the sun in the west
It is not the want of employment at home
Farewell to old Erin, a land that is so green
Nobody broke into song during our walk but perhaps they might at Christmas if they get in a little practice. The words of the song are reproduced above and if you click on song title you can even hear Tommy Makem's version.
And finally, two pictures from Janet. The first showing John apparently in a moment of indecision about where he is, or perhaps he's just removing his glove! The second shows Pat and Robert at one of the quirky but effective home-made signs showing the way to the top.
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