Darkley Forest Mountain trail.
Sunday, 10 March 2019
Today’s walk takes place at Darkley Forest Mountain trail, Co Armagh and what a great start to this year’s walking season, even with the topsy-turvy weather we are experiencing with its mix of sunshine, heavy rain, snow and the yowling wind wrapping itself around my body as I walked down the garden path.
For me, walking is all about getting back to nature and if there is one thing I love, it is to walk amongst the trees and listen to the wildlife as they go about their business. There is no place like the middle of nowhere to soothe and organise those chaotic words floating around the brain.
The last six months have been lazy months as other obstacles swapped my life and I haven’t walked as often or as far as I normally do, and my body is paying the price for my careless abandonment of its care. This year, I’m taking my health in hand and I plan to walk once more and I’m inviting you on my journey.
Despite the weather warnings of rain and snow, I rolled out of bed, pulled on my walking gear, cleaned my teeth and headed for the outdoors. A night of blustery winds and heavy, cascading rain was not going to put a damper on my mood or stop me from tackling this year’s challenge. After all, it wasn’t a long walk I had planned. In fact, the drive was about forty-five minutes, which was as long as the walk.
Today’s destination, Darkley Forest. Don’t you just love the name. It’s enough to send a shiver down your spine and to induce those creative juices in the brain. I think it is a relatively new forest as it is tiny and to anyone else; it would be more of a wood than a forest.
Here’s a little history on this new and upcoming forest.
The forest and new walking trails, officially opened October 2018 after an injection of £220,000 to create the 4.6 km walking trail, designed by Hugh Clixby. It is free to visit and offers free parking spaces. Running through the forest is Callen River. a place of outstanding beauty. The area has a linen industry production history of twenty mills between Darkley and Tassagh. Tullynawood, Lake, The Old Linen Mill, and Moss and Fungi are other places of interest are nearby to visit.
It wasn’t an easy place to find which I put down to several factors. One, there are no signposts on where to find it and how to reach it once you arrive at Darkley; a tiny village which hasn’t changed much. This might be because the forest walks are new. However, after a bit of head scratching and messing, around with the sat nav, which proved to be useless and thrown back in to the glove compartment, adding about fifteen minutes to the journey, we managed to find the forest and what a delight it is.
As mention earlier, the weather was not at its best and as we approached our destination; snow began to descend, and doubts set in about the forthcoming expedition. There’s nothing like freezing and not enjoying yourself as you hunch into yourself in an attempt to keep warm. Anyway, by the time we arrived at the forest, the snow ceased and there was just a blustery wind. As you can see from the photographs, there was not enough snow to settle. As we walked the trail, the wind dropped, and we soon warmed up and our apprehension over the weather soon faded as it turned out to be a beautiful walk with a flowing waterfall and a tumbling stream, (Callen River,) sorry no photograph, hope to remedy this error on my next visit. As we trundled through the forest at a steady pace, I stumbled upon the rear of one of the old linen mills. The only downside on this walk, was the pile of rubbish dumped behind the mill. The land may be an old landfill site. Just as we reached the car, flurries of snow began again, and as we climbed into the car, we thanked the weather for being so well mannered.
One of the surprises I came across was a horse, it was actually quite sweet to see on a desolate day. Not sure if the horse was abandoned, escaped or left there to roam by its owner. I don’t know it if it was the weather, but the forest was quite deserted and the only other person I came across, was a jogger. The forest itself was quiet of wildlife. Hopefully this will change over the months as the weather improves. Talking of improving weather, I will be returning to Darkley Forest in the next few weeks when the weather is friendlier and the bluebells and hopefully other flowers are in bloom, adding colour to spice the place up.
A note for walkers.
The trails are easy to tackle and will make a great day out for all the family. Especially as there are some great spots where you can take a pew and enjoy the sights and sounds of Darkley Forrest as you munch on your picnic. Remember to either take your rubbish home with you or dump in the many litter bins provided. Due to the man-made trails and the not too steep inclines, the forest is great for prams. I’m not sure about wheelchair access due to the narrowness of the paths and it might be ideal to contact Sport NI or Co Armagh Council for more information.
©Wynter Aodh 2019