Saturday, 7 June 2008

Mid Island And Chapel Island Walk, Strangford Lough

I needed to leave home early this morning for the organized National Trust walk near Greyabbey in County Down. The walk began at nine o'clock, our meeting-point being the car park just south of the village. We were, yet again, blessed with fine weather (20c).

More than a dozen turned up for the walk. Craig, the Strangford Lough warden, led the group. I only recognized one other person but it was good to meet new people with similar interests and I chatted to three or four of them.

The tide was low, so we were able to cross the foreshore easily. We strolled towards South Island first and Craig showed us various little insects, grasses and seaweeds along the way. There's a causeway linking the mainland with Mid Island and South Island. By-passing South Island, we made for Chapel Island, where we admired the view across the lough while Craig told us a bit about the island's history and its connection with Movilla Abbey. Apparently, in the middle ages, one or two monks inhabited the island and were practically self-sufficient. The remains of a modest building still exist, though they're overgrown with brambles and bracken. We spotted a buzzard hovering high above.

On the foreshore, we saw the remains of wide, stone walls which were a few hundred yards long and had been possibly five feet high. The monks from Greyabbey used these walls to entrap fish and sea-food: when the tide was high, the fish landed among the stones at the top of the wall; when the tide dropped, many fish became trapped. This was an ingenious means of catching sea-food, not only for themselves but also, ironically enough, for soldiers and warriors!

From Chapel Island, we walked over the shore to Mid Island which is wooded and has a white-washed cottage with outbuildings; it's in very good order and obviously still used, though not inhabited. I gather there's still a link with the Montgomerys of Rosemount Estate nearby. Craig led us to the remains of a five thousand year-old wooden sailing vessel several hundred yards away on the foreshore; whilst there's not that much left to see, it's still remarkable that such a vessel remains.

Most of us had packed lunches at the car park and three of us collected litter from the bay at Skillin's Point till three-thirty.

Motoring homewards, with the hood down on the two-seater, I stopped at Asda to re-fuel and they charged 114.9 pence per litre.

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