Walk to explore species-rich grassland in Belfast Hills

Irish moiled cattle graze at Slievenacloy Nature Reserve to help maintain the array of wildflowers, butterflies and birds found at this unique species-rich grassland.
Irish moiled cattle graze at Slievenacloy Nature Reserve to help maintain the array of wildflowers, butterflies and birds found at this unique species-rich grassland.

Escape to Slievenacloy Nature Reserve, in the Belfast Hills, on Sunday 1 July, to experience first-hand one of the best wildlife-rich grasslands in Northern Ireland.

Led by Ulster Wildlife nature reserves manager Andy Crory and local ecologist Dermot Hughes, enjoy the profusion of traditional grassland wildflowers from tormentil and milkwort to a wide variety of orchids such as common spotted, butterfly and rarities such as small white.

The amazing variety of nectar-rich plants attracts a host of colourful pollinators including butterflies such as small heath and dark green fritillary, as well as moths such as narrow-bordered five-spot burnet and yellow shell. Birds that have declined in the wider countryside, such as skylark, meadow pipit and linnet can all be found here in healthy numbers, as a result of sympathetic land management by Ulster Wildlife. Common lizards, basking in the sun, are not uncommon but this elusive creature often prefers to hide out of sight.

And it’s not just wildlife that awaits; if it’s a clear day, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Belfast Hills and a panorama that takes in five of the six counties in Northern Ireland.

Andy Crory, Nature reserves manager with Ulster Wildlife, who looks after this special place said: “Slievenacloy is one of the Northern Ireland’s best-kept secrets and is simply brimming with wildlife in summer. Marvellous species-rich grasslands, like this, are a fragile part of our natural heritage and rely upon traditional management, such as grazing with hardy breeds like Irish Moiled cattle, to maintain the thousands of species that are found here. This guided walk is a great opportunity to enjoy and explore this unique nature reserve and experience a traditional buzzing, humming grassland at its most spectacular.”

This event is free of charge, but donations are welcome. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Booking essential – contact Ulster Wildlife on 028 9045 4094 or email events@ulsterwildlife.org.

The event will take place on uneven surfaces, so participants are advised to wear walking boots/sturdy shoes. Please check the forecast beforehand and dress suitably.