The author is a graduate of Queens University Belfast, Ireland. He deeply appreciates the natural beauty his country has to offer.
The Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve
The Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve in South Belfast is a rural oasis within a sprawling urban environment. Situated between the Lagan Towpath and Stranmillis, it is a short bus ride from the city centre. If you were to arrive at this beauty spot by chance, you may well be surprised to see cattle grazing within Belfast City limits.
Urbanites should not be afraid of any cattle they encounter in Lagan Meadows, they are harmless creatures. I have only ever encountered Jersey Cows and their calves and Bullocks in Lagan Meadows. It should be said that cows are understandably protective of their young and don't particularly appreciate dogs near them. If in the extraordinary scenario where someone manages to spook a few Bullocks that look as if they are heading your way in a mini-stampede, just wave your arms up and down and they'll avoid you. Their visual perception of depth is a lot less than humans. Don't be surprised, if you visit Lagan Meadows often, that cows approach you. They are not only curious, but they can also actually remember individuals' faces!
A Walk Fit for Both Winter and Summer
Lagan Meadows is just as attractive a spot for a walk in the winter, with or without canine company, as it is in summer. There are a variety of paths, many are surfaced, although there are some that are either gravel or merely just a grassy track.
In summer it is popular with cyclists and walkers who have strayed off the main Lagan towpath, which is a busier and much longer walk, stretching from Union Locks in Lisburn, to the Stranmillis Embankment, in 'cosmopolitan' South Belfast. Two main pathways and two minor routes through the Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve will take you to different entrance points for the Lagan tow-path, which is part of the greater Lagan Valley Regional Park and the National Cycleway.
A Walk on the Wild Side
The main entrance to Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve is via Knightsbridge Park, which can be accessed via Stranmillis Road or Malone Road. Both the Malone and Stranmillis Roads are adequately served by the city's bus services. Lagan Meadows is an approximately 45-minute walk from Belfast city centre. Dog owners are advised to keep their charges on a lead, due to the grazing cattle in Lagan Meadows.
There are picnic tables strategically placed throughout the Nature Reserve if you fancy dining al fresco with a picnic on a family day out. To the best of my knowledge, large gatherings of al fresco drinkers are not encouraged and in fact, there may very well be council bylaws prohibiting such excesses.
I'd imagine that a couple of people enjoying some wine with a picnic would not overly arouse the hackles of the notorious law-abiding 'BT9'er' set who live nearby. However, full-scale parties in celebration of Bacchus, with suitable musical accompaniment, would inflame the sensibilities of the BT9'ers to the extent that they'd feel they were reliving the Siege of Mafeking, and phones would be red hot as they dialled the police (invariably on speed dial) to apprehend the perceived ruffian element.
There are stiles providing access through fields and keeping cattle from exiting, that traverse the reserve, so one is not limited to the two main arterial pathways. Access through the less travelled fields gives the urbanite the chance to get up close and personal with the cattle grazing there.
There are few amenities such as public toilets in the Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve but this tends to add, rather than detract from the 'rustic' experience. (Show me the person who claims never to have peed outside and I'll show you a habitual liar!) Some of the pleasant pathways are partitioned by so-called Kissing Gates which despite the romantic imagery they may conjure up are actually gate devices to prevent cattle from straying from their enclosures.
Sadly during my last walk in Lagan Meadows prior to the 12th of July, one of the Kissing Gates had been treated pretty far from romantically and had been smashed to pieces, possibly for firewood for a bonfire. These gates are quite substantial structures and probably not the work of young children. Such wanton destruction truly disturbed my timid demeanour but I strived hard not to let it ruin my walk.
Read More from WanderWisdom
The Lagan Canal by Harry O'Rawe
Oh Molly Ward's, you're silent now,
Compared to days that have gone by,
When lighters lay there in a row,
To wait the day when they must go,
No engines then to drive them through,
Just line and horse and hauler too.
Through locks and bridges pretty slow,
For twenty-seven miles they go.
The men that sailed them were strong and tough,
Made of the good old Ulster stuff.
Their journey's end the Lagan through,
And Lough Neagh's shores are there in view.
A tug awaits them there at hand,
To cross the Lough into the Bann.
Nine miles up to Portadown,
With mills and factories all around.
Blackwater River runs on the fall
With Coalisland another port of call
A nice wee town, lies on its own,
Set in the county of Tyrone.
The Moy comes next then Charlemont too,
The Ulster Canal is there in view.
So peaceful, still and undisturbed,
And further on is old Benburb.
Their load discharged, they turn around,
Back again for Belfast town.
Peat or sand they may collect,
Or a load of spuds tied up in sacks.
That journey o'er their work is done,
Ready they are for another run.
Those men have gone, the lighters too,
But the Lagan still remains in view.
Lorries have come and are here to stay,
God guide them safely on their way.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.