The Roe Valley Country Park

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The Country Park is basically a double line of sometimes very old and beautiful trees following the course of the River Roe. There are footpaths on both sides of the river and three bridges allow you to cross over to the other side, should you be totally fed up with your present river bank.

Its possible to spend the best part of a day walking up one side of the river and returning down the other. Some of the paths are quite steep and you would be well advised to bring plenty of food on your expedition in case you get convulsed by hunger.

A view on the river Roe Usually the river runs quietly through rocky gorges, pleasant forests and fields populated by nosey cows. In the Spring time the forest floor is covered with a carpet of bluebells and other wild flowers. Some of the mature stands of oak and birch still remind us of the way Ulster looked before the first people and their animals came and wiped out most of the trees.

After heavy rainfall however, things are dramatically different. The river becomes a spectacular sight, crashing through rocky gorges in an explosion of sound, spray and mist. Many people drive out to the Roe after heavy rainfall, just to watch the torrents of water on their way to the sea.

However, some of them take their curiosity a bit too far, in my humble opinion.  
 

A digger drowned in the Roe

The Roe in flood
On a clear Autumn day, when the coloured leaves are falling, the light from the sun just over the trees is sharp and crystal clear. This is a good time for a walk to enjoy the rich contrasts of light and shade.

The river is rich in trout and salmon - indeed, it is one of the best salmon rivers in the province. Mind you, on a busy fishing day - usually when it rains, because fisherman are masochists, it can be quite dangerous walking along the banks whilst trying to avoid the more or less inexpertly cast tackle. My dog has had several narrow escapes - as had the amateurish anglers.

Autumn colours at the Roe

The wildlife is varied. I've seen foxes, badgers, otters, herons, white dippers, sparrowhawks and occasionally the blue flash of a kingfisher. Some of my students visit the river to watch the salmon leap over the weirs. Domestic animals can also turn into wildlife. Once we spotted an escaped mink, and some of the above mentioned cows deserve a page to themselves.

Click here for an eye witness account of the Famous Limavady Cattle Stampede, but should you plan a night time expedition along the river Roe, you should maybe read the following cautionary tale first.

The park also reflects Limavady's changing industrial history. The geography of the river is ideal for the use of water power via mill races. Remains of several water wheels and linen factories can still be seen.

One of the old mill races was used by the ingenious Mr. R E Ritter in 1896 to build Ulster's first AC power station, which supplied Limavady with electricity for many years. As Mr. Ritter was an Alsatian, I like to think that he was also fond of Border Collies, a magnificent breed of dog which keeps most of the local sheep on the straight and narrow!

An old water wheel
 
A bleaching green watch tower. Painting by Margaret Lueg

Autumn in the Country Park  Oil painting by Margaret Lueg

Much older industrial relics are the bleach green watchtowers like the one on the left. The linen produced here before the days of electrical power, was spread out on large bleach greens. The rather scanty local sunlight would do its best to whiten the raw material. As people in those days were no better than the present lot and as some of them were even known to have slightly dishonest tendencies, watch-towers were built adjoining the greens. One or two bored workmen - good sprinters both - would watch the green and chase or chasten anyone coming within a few feet of their precious charge.

Two of these towers can still be seen in the park.

Visiting the old power house gives an insight into the beginnings of power generation in the valley - if you can hunt up the guy with the key, because usually the place is closed. Some of the switch gear dates back to the fifties and is fascinating for those with an interest in this subject. Come to think of it, if you are not an electrician, you might as well enjoy the beautiful scenery outside. Two or three old generators dating back to the turn of the century are well preserved and look entirely functional. (Apart from the ball bearings which could to with some grease. The commutators could also need some attention)
The old weaving shed The splendidly restored old weaving shed is also a worthy candidate for the honour of anyone's visit. It is used as a museum now and houses a collection of old machinery connected with the production of local linen as well as various items whose beauty lies in the fact that they are older than the beholder.

However, it must be said that the modern age has caught up with the place and it there is a rumour that it will be converted into some offices for people powerful enough to demand a good view while they push paper.

Apparently there is no money for staffing a museum, but lots of the stuff to fill any amount of offices. To make up for the loss the new park management has provided the astounded visitor with a bewildering array of signs which forbid various recreational activities. Fortunately most Limavady people have the good sense to ignore these intrusions.

All in all, the park is well worth a visit (apart from the mysterious offices and the signs), and it seems that lots of other people feel that way. On most summer weekends the car park is so crowded, you can hardly park a bike, never mind my very old and battered van.

All budding explorers should have a map. Feel free to use the one below.

A map of the Country Park  
 


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