Monday, 29 July 2013

Walk along Lagan Tow Path

Last Saturday my church walking group boarded a train from Bangor, County Down and arrived 1 hour later in Lisburn, Country Antrim.  On the way, while we were passing Holywood, we saw 2 Egrets, Tufted and Mallard ducks and 4 Herons from the left side of the train and on the sea side were Black headed gulls.  In Lisburn, after coffee, we headed for the Lagan Tow Path and the 20 of us started our walk to Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon International Rose Gardens.

                                                                   Moorhen- Juvenile

As you can see from the photos there is a lot of weed, so it was difficult to photo the birds.

                                                                  Little Grebe

As Northern Ireland has always been famous for its Linen trade, so I did a little research on this mill below.

HILDEN Mill has a long and prestigious history in Lisburn and as the end of an era draws near many local people will be recalling their own memories of Barbour Threads.
In 1784 John Barbour, who hailed from Scotland, established a linen thread works in Lisburn.
At the same time his son, William, bought a derelict bleach green at Hilden and set up business.
Later, the thread works were transferred to Hilden and as early as 1817 it was employing 122 workers.

In 1823 William Barbour bought a former bleach mill at Hilden and built a water-powered twisting mill.
The Linen Thread Company was founded 1898 and it quickly became a large international company.
In fact it became the largest linen thread mill in the world, giving Lisburn a richly deserved international reputation.

By 1914 it employed about 2,000 people and until recently some 300 workers were still employed there, with the work-force dropping to just 85 in recent years.
Among the company's varied products were nets, which could be made into snares and fishing nets.
The company built a model village for its workforce in Hilden, which consisted of 350 houses, two schools, a community hall, children's playground and village sports ground.

Lisburn became the envy of the world thanks to its Linen and Thread industry and now the last remnant of that history has closes its doors for the last time.

The mill closed in 2006 however the good news is that in December 2009 planning permission was given for a £100 million development on the site by London based developers Galliard Homes which, according to architect Dawson Stelfox of Consarc Conservation, will create a ‘new urban mixed use village’ on the site. There is a precedent for this approach in that the Barbours created a model village linked to the mill including 350 houses.  However in this economic climate, nothing has happened and it did have  fire in 2011.

Today there is a Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum in the centre of Lisburn City.
Flax to Fabric is our main permanent exhibition tour; learn about the history of linen from the ancient Egyptians through to the period of the cottage industry and see skilled demonstrations of spinning and weaving.

 You may be interested to see my video of a Threshing machine working which was used in the linen industry.   My video can be found in my archives entitled, ‘Nature in different guises’ on Sunday 19 May 2013.

Then I came upon this wonderful meadow where I would have loved to spend more time looking for butterflies and just relaxing.

In the group was one other experienced bird watcher however the rest where people who had only an interest in nature.  As the main bird we saw at the Lagan was the Mallard and most people thought they were all males, I did try and explain how you could tell the difference at this time of year when the ducks were going into eclipse (moulting) More information on this in my post entitled Baby Eider Video on 13 July.

The Male Mallard above and the female Mallard below, at first glance look very similar.  However on closer inspection, you will see the male has a yellow bill and the female a darker one with some orange on the lower mandible.  Also the male has a slightly orange tinge on its breast.  The feathers on their backs are different although this is more difficult to detect.  You find Mallard nearly all over the world, so next time you see one in the summer, have a closer look at it.

If you only remember one things about the difference, remember the bill colours of each.  These are close up to help you.

As I said before, there was a lot of weed and I thought it might be interesting to photograph it and I have slightly edited it.

These were 2 Fungui I encountered along the way. 
Does anyone know what they are?

Now I am hoping someone will know this pretty white wild flower.  I know it is not Cow Parsley or Hog Weed.  It is even prettier than them and I managed to capture a few bees.

 The Syrphids (hoverflies), in these two photos landed on the Ragwort plant.

We finally reached Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Gardens which I will tell you more about tomorrow, however on our way in, these are a few of the flowers found in an enormous herbaceous bed.


 Echinops sphaerocephalus
The genus name derives from the Greek words "ekhinos" meaning "hedgehog" and "opisis" meaning "aspect", with reference to the appearance of the inflorescence, while the species name sphaerocephalus derives from the words "sphaera" meaning "round" and "kephalos" meaning head.

 In the main gardens there were not many birds, in fact of only birds I saw were numerous Magpies, 1 Robin and a handful of Wood Pigeon.  I didn't have time to explore the wonderful meadows where I may have seen more birds and butterflies.


      Allchemilla Mollis - close up


There were some wonderful very old trees with branches going in all kinds of directions, however the children were having great time climbing and playing around them so it was difficult to photograph them.  While walking through one of these area, I came across the piece of wood that had been carved into an acorn. (see above)

I loved the way the light played with the shapes of the branches and the one below I felt could be turned into black and white.

Now I am leaving you with a Rose because tomorrow I am going to show you the wonderful Roses that this garden was exhibiting.  The previous week had been the International Rose Week, so I think you are in for a feast of blossoms tomorrow.
Thank you for visiting and I hope you will call again.
THANKS TO ALL who left comments on any of my posts yesterday.


  1. A lovely and interesting post full of lovely pictures :-)

  2. Good morning to you! Just wanted to let you know that I have so enjoyed your post of this wonderful nature walk. How fascinating to go with a group of people to do this. Love the shots of your birds, and that bumble bee has a very unusual pattern on its back. Lovely walk, and thank you for sharing this great experience.

  3. An interesting read as always Margaret with some great photos from your neck of the woods :-) I am not certain about the Cow Parsley like flowers without seeing the whole plant but it looks a bit like Hemlock (did it smell unpleasant at all ?). The second fungi meanwhile looks like Dryad's Saddle but again don't take my word for it.

  4. Lots of goodies in this post. I love the photos of the old mill.

  5. You got wonderful pictures on the way, and I can't wait till the rose show! The last rose here is a knock-out rose I think. I LOVE that tree and the branches! We have many mallards here, they come int the yard and we feed them. The males spend days and days chasing the female. I love the hedgehog plant, and we have fungi like this in our neighborhood growing only on trees. I love the sweet little moorhen, and the beautiful and artistic way you edited the grassy weeds. You got such a grand shot of the bee eyes, did you use zoom or macro?

  6. Always an enjoyable visit, thank you Margaret. Your photos were wonderful as always.

  7. Margaret, your 'bees' are Syrphids (hoverflies). A very enjoyable post, nonetheless.

  8. oh, the trees are fabulous! thanks for the lesson on the mallards in eclipse! really appreciate that!

  9. my Dad taught me about ducks ;-), I hope someone can identify the white flower as I've been trying to for a couple of years now-and Syrphids/hoverflies, interesting. I hope the old mill survives.

  10. Hi, Margaret. Thanks for your visit to my blog today. You've got some wonderful pictures here. That field of wildflowers looks so inviting. I love magpies, but I've never gotten a good picture of one. They're very skittish and very fast.

  11. Amazing and interesting photos/history. I would love to sit near the meadow and read or birdwatch. Such a pretty place.

  12. Oh, wonderful pictures.
    I send greetings.

  13. It sounds as if you had a wonderful outing with your walking group. Your photos are marvelous, and found found the information about the mill to be fascinating. It would be good if a new use can be found for that great old building. I'm sorry I don't know the name of the day lily you pictured.

  14. What a great walk you shared with us!

  15. What a great walk, you shown us.

  16. So much to see! I'd say you had a wonderful day!

  17. That flower filled meadow looks absolutely lovely.Roses,for tomorrow,oh yeah! This is my favourite flower.

  18. Great blog post, Margaret. I especially enjoyed reading about the old mill. Your flowers and birds are great also. Seems as if you all had a wonderful trip!!!! I'm not sure the name of your lily --but I've seen them before... IF I find out, I'll let you know.

    Thanks for a beautiful blog post.

  19. What a lovely daytrip. Thanks for sharing. I wish you a great day!

  20. Wonderful set of pictures - the flower meadows look great.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  21. Lovely meadow and those trees look ancient! Big fan of gnarled old trees!

  22. ah, the Little Grebe is my favourite. :) And the weird tree. :)