Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Caroline greets Royalty

Prince Michael of Kent is attending the Battle of Jutland commemorations at HMS Caroline in Belfast.

His Royal Highness was greeted by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster MLA, the Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP, and Gavin Robinson MP, are among those in attendance.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Glen Walk

By Jove it was busy at Mount Stewart estate, County Down, today. The overflow car-park in the large field was almost full.

Of course the popular Jazz in the Gardens event has been taking place this afternoon.

My purpose, however, was to explore the Glen in the demesne.

The glen is off the beaten track.

It begins at a junction on the Red Trail, where there's a small bridge.

One can follow the little river along a track till we reach the estate wall or boundary, where a stone arch passes over the river.

At this point the glen terminates.

There are oblong stepping-stones here, though the river is low at the moment and they are unnecessary.

Other features include a little hump-backed bridge and a more recent bridge in need of repair.

I will return to the Glen again in order to search for a former church or chapel, which was in another field beside the Glen.

On my way back I passed the former estate piggery.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

HMS Caroline Video

HMS Caroline, a decommissioned light cruiser moored in Alexandra Dock, Belfast, will open as a museum ship on the 1st June, 2016.

Caroline was built in 1914.

Here's a fascinating video taken about five years ago:-

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

McCutcheon's Field

I spent a half-day with about eleven other National Trust volunteers at McCutcheon's Field today.

This comprises several acres of coastline near Groomsport, at Brigg's Rocks and close to Sandeel Bay, County Down.

There's a leisure park here called Windsor Holiday Park.

The field comprises 9.17 acres and was donated by North Down Borough Council in 2000.

This stretch of coastline overlooks Belfast Lough and the County Antrim coast at the other side.

This morning we were cutting off gorse stumps, a task which needs to be done to hinder future re-growth.

We treated the remaining stumps with a herbicide.

As we sat munching our lunch, lots of swallows were swooping over the field. Terns and field buntings were also spotted.

I brought along a box of little flapjacks for everybody; and lunched on the customary cheese-and-onion sandwiches.

A rather smart new "kissing gate" has been erected at the main entrance to McCutcheon's Field.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Royal Visit

The Prince of Wales has arrived in Northern Ireland.

His Royal Highness was welcomed by the Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE.

In attendance were the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP; the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Guy Spence; the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Mrs Arlene Foster MLA; and Gavin Robinson, MP for East Belfast.

The Duchess of Cornwall will join His Royal Highness in the Province on Tuesday, the 24th May.

Thereafter, TRH will undertake a joint official visit to the Irish Republic on Wednesday, the 25th May.

The visit to the Irish Republic is at the request of HM Government and follows a visit Their Royal Highnesses made there last year.

In Northern Ireland, TRH will host a musical evening at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, with the BBC Radio 3 presenter, Sean Rafferty.

Prince Charles will visit The Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at the Queen's University of Belfast.

Their Royal Highnesses will also visit a number of successful local businesses, some of which work in the food and drink sector, as 2016 is the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink.
Food and drink is Northern Ireland's single biggest industry. On May 11th, The Prince of Wales attended an event at Fortnum & Mason in London to promote the Province's produce, as part of his work in supporting the food and drink sector.
In the Irish Republic, Their Royal Highnesses will celebrate the area's heritage by visiting Magee's, a local company which has been producing tweed in Donegal for 150 years.

At the Letterkenny Institute of Technology, His Royal Highness will meet local entrepreneurs. Her Royal Highness will visit a local school.

Finally, at Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, TRH will tour the gardens and meet children who have been learning about some of the conservation work which takes place in Glenveagh National Park.

Cregagh Glen

Cregagh Glen is a spot where the city of Belfast meets the countryside.

It is a property of the National Trust.

Parking is not particularly easy from the Knockbreda end, though I managed to find a place at a road off the dual carriageway; take care, however, if you park on the other side of the ring road.

This is a linear route, which returns by way of the same path.

My walk began at the entrance on the Upper Knockbreda Road.

I followed the path uphill through beautiful Cregagh Glen.

At certain points along the glen you can choose to follow the main path or a smaller path along the river Glen itself.

The path stays close to the edges of Cregagh Glen as it ascends through pools of sunlight cast by the trees.

Eventually you encounter a waterfall, and yesterday there were carpets of bluebells and wood anemones.

A sign points towards the former American military cemetery at Lisnabreeny, which is worth a detour.

At the top of the glen I crossed the busy Manse Road via a walkway and skirted the grounds of Lisnabreeny House, now a school.

A lane passes Lisnabreeny House, once the home of the Robb family; briefly a youth hostel and army headquarters; before restoration as part of Lagan College.

The old garden is now replanted with broad-leaves and a children's den in the natural play area.

I ambled for some distance further along the country lane before turning back and retracing my footsteps.

Fermanagh DLs


The Viscount Brookeborough, Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, has been pleased to appoint:- 

  • Mr Ernest Fisher, Irvinestown, County Fermanagh
  • Mr Hamish Logan, Ballinamallard, County Fermanagh
  • The Rt Hon John Henry Michael Ninian Earl of Erne, Crom Castle, Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh
  • Mr Anthony Rasdale, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
  • Dr John Graham, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
To be Deputy Lieutenants of the County, his Commission bearing date the 1st Day of June, 2016. 

Signed: Lord Lieutenant of the County

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Vegetarian Ulster Fry

The Belmont GHQ Ulster Fry, made with Quorn butcher-style sausages especially for National Vegetarian Week.

Mount Stewart: Floor Restoration

The National Trust seeks to raise funds for the restoration of the central hall floor at Mount Stewart House, County Down, ancestral seat of the Marquesses of Londonderry.

The floor was originally laid with local Scrabo stone.

Scrabo stone was also used for the portico, window surrounds, string course and balustrades of the house.

Scrabo stone fireplace at Belmont GHQ

The central section of the hall floor was arranged in a radiating pattern; whereas in the two apses it was laid in squares and octagons.

The original stone floor is beneath the black and white vinyl tiles and it remains in fair condition.

The new project will involve lifting the vinyl tiles, removing the bituminous layer below; and stabilizing or replacing any stones that require it.

The estimated cost for this task is £250,000.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Ballyquintin Day

Mount Stewart estate map

Four of us met at the old schoolhouse in Mount Stewart estate this morning for a day at Ballyquintin Point.

Traditional NT omega signs

Ballyquintin is a 64 acre farm set amid rolling drumlin countryside at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, beside the Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve.

The property is located in one of the most secluded parts of Northern Ireland and is great for walking with spectacular views across the Strangford Narrows to the Isle of Man, and of the Lecale coast stretching south towards the Mourne Mountains.

A path, suitable for wheelchair use, leads to an old 2nd World War lookout tower.

The land is let for farming and is managed to provide habitats suitable for the Irish Hare and a number of species of bird that are declining nationally.

An increase in the quality and quantity of the hedgerows is particularly important towards achieving this aim.

Our task today was to weed young hawthorn hedgerows.

Monday, 16 May 2016

M&S Response

I have received a reply from Marks and Spencer regarding my remarks about Tastes of the British Isles:-

Thanks for contacting Steve Rowe about our Tastes of the British Isles range.

I’m a member of our Executive Office, and I hope you don’t mind that I’m replying on Steve’s behalf.

I’m sorry you’ve been disappointed with the packaging and logo for this range, and I appreciate you’ve been a loyal customer of ours.

We’re very proud of the Northern Irish suppliers we work with, and all our packaging is clearly labelled with details of where each product is sourced from.

We’re actually due to make some changes to this range, and we’ve used customer feedback to help us do that.

Tastes of the British Isles products that are labelled as being sourced from Northern Ireland will soon have an amended logo featuring a shamrock alongside the rose, daffodil and thistle.

Some similar products from Northern Ireland that are recognised as inherently Irish, like Irish pancakes, will feature a Taste of Ireland shamrock logo instead.

We’re due to introduce these changes in our next printing run, so it shouldn't be too long before you notice them in our stores.

In the meantime, we’re grateful for you getting in touch with your thoughts on this range.

I hope we’ll continue to see you in our stores, and I thank you again for contacting Steve.

Kind regards
George Mason
Executive Office
Your M&S Customer Service

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ardress Visit

The garden front in 2016

This is a good time of the year to visit County Armagh, Ulster's orchard county.

The apple blossom is flourishing, as I saw today at Ardress House, a property of the National Trust.

Ardress is well signposted from the M1 motorway, at junction 13 or 14; as is The Argory, only a few miles from Ardress.

I had made up a round of fresh egg and onion sandwiches and brought tea as well.

The house is having a face-lift at the moment, mainly on the east or entrance front.

I sat at a bench in front of the house and had my sandwiches, prior to passing though Reception and into the farmyard.

I don't think I've ever been to Ardress before, and it was delightful to walk into the farmyard and see the chickens contentedly wandering about.

Little packets of seed can be bought for 10p in order to feed them, as I did.

Our tour of the house began at about one forty-five and our guide today was Joan, a former schoolteacher, who was particularly informative about most items on display.

The garden front ca 1960

When the Ensors sold Ardress in 1960 they left virtually no furnishings, so the furniture and paintings are all from other properties, including a considerable number of oil-paintings on loan from the Earl Castle Stewart.

The late-18th century drawing-room has remarkably fine plasterwork by Michael Stapleton.

The dining-room, though joined by a later extension, is inaccessible from the house, so you walk outside through the courtyard in order to enter it.

A number of Lord Castle Stewart's paintings hang here.

At the conclusion of the tour we left via a sort of French window at the garden front.

Thereafter I went for a stroll through the garden and along The Ladies' Mile walk, before driving home.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Tastes of British Isles?

I cycled into central Belfast this morning in order to get some groceries in Marks and Spencer's Donegall Place store.

The food hall is in the basement and has extended considerably since the early 1970s, when M&S opened.

Indeed, Marks and Spencer are to be complimented for their loyalty to the Province throughout the worst years of The Troubles.

There's a handy separate entrance for the food hall at Donegall Place.

I happened to be browsing at the Pies aisle when I spotted several items with a little logo emblazoned Tastes of the British Isles.

We have the English Rose; the Scottish Thistle; and the Welsh Daffodil.

However, Northern Ireland and its shamrock or flax-plant is excluded.

As one of my friends has pointed out to me, the problem could be that these products are also for sale in the Irish Republic alongside those labelled as "Tastes of Ireland", aimed at an audience there which includes products produced in Northern Ireland.

My friend remarked that their advertising team really ought to have thought this one through, as obviously the island of Ireland is, geographically, part of the British Isles.

This was poorly done from a sensitivity perspective and very silly on their part.

It would be fitting for Marks and Spencer to issue an apology to the people of Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Gibb's Island Visit

About a dozen of us met at Gibb's Island this morning to complete a few tasks.

Gibb's Island is connected to the mainland by a sort of causeway.

It is about two miles south of Killyleagh in County Down and it used to be part of the Delamont estate.

Today we were cutting shoots of mostly dead gorse around the island.

We didn't burn it though; we took it away instead.

We lunched at sea-level and I enjoyed a superb, home-made, summer fruit and white chocolate scone, courtesy of NCS.

Brackenber: 1957

Malcolm Lennox has sent a photograph of Brackenber House, Belfast, my old preparatory school, in 1957.

Do you recognize anybody?

First published in January, 2010.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Killynether Visit

I spent half a day at Killynether Wood yesterday.

Killynether, comprising 42 acres of woodland, was acquired by the National Trust in 1937.

It's one of the oldest properties in Northern Ireland.

It lies roughly between Newtownards and Comber, County Down.

About ten of us were gathering and burning branches and cuttings from a hedge which runs beside Killynether Road.

There's a whitewashed house here, and a large field with three black horses.

There's also a large pond.

We lit two bonfires and burned the branches.

Tomasz and several others had brought along some food, including Nick's delicious smoked spare ribs from his own pig; and sausages with small potatoes and onions.

These were cooked in a heavy pot on the embers of the bonfire.