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Wandering through Ancient Woodlands 

Saturday 8th July 2017

Banagher Glen & Reservoir (9 miles)

After an indifferent week weather wise the forecast looked promising for a good Saturday & it didn’t disappoint – we were blessed with blue skies & plenty of sunshine!

We soon reached Banagher Old Church, just outside Dungiven off the Feeny Road.  Built around 1121, but believed to date back to 474, we decided it was worth a wee look at this ancient church. The townland Banagher is Gaelic for “the spiked palisade surrounding a monastery”.

Banagher Old Graveyard

An inscription on the west door claims that the church was built “ye year of God 474”.

Inscription on the west door

Inside the ruins did not disappoint. The site is beautifully maintained by NIEA and it was a looking well in the morning sunshine.

Remains of Banagher Old Church

The views from the windows were amazing & very inspirational for our planned walk around Banagher Glen.

View through old window

The mortuary house is believed to be the tomb of Saint Muiredach O’Heaney, founder of the church, and sand from the tomb, ‘Banagher Sands’, is thought to bring good luck!

Mortuary House, tomb of Saint Muiredach O’Heaney

The ancient cross is one of two remaining which would have marked the church boundary. Amazing to think they have been standing on the site for almost 1000 years!

Cross marking the church boundary

Further along the road we reached the car park for Banagher Glen & Altnaheglish Reservoir.  After a short uphill walk we reached the upper car park. It was relatively quiet although we did meet some dog walkers.

The old filter house had been demolished since our last visit almost 3 years ago as we continued our uphill climb. It was a pleasant rest bite to stop at the stone bridge over the Glenedra Water to admire the waterfall.

Deep pool where Altnaheglish & Glenedra waters meet

Legend ‘Lig na Paiste’ has it that a serpent monster lives here after a battle of wits between the last serpent of Ireland and St O’Heaney (a snake that St Patrick missed!)

Then onwards and upwards, through the nature reserve of Banagher Glen & the ancient oak woodlands. I got carried away taking photos of foxglove and other wildflowers!

Delicate Foxglove

Leaving the woods the dam and reservoir came in sight. Altnaheglish is Gaelic for “valley of the church”. The dam was built in 1935, holds 500 million gallons of water, & has a height of 42 metres! It seemed pretty full but far from overflowing.

Altnaheglish Dam 

Passing the dam we entered the Banagher Forest and followed the banks of the reservoir.

Altnaheglish Reservoir

The reservoir is an impressive 110 metres in length. The path became muddier and we had to dodge a few puddles before we reached the end of the path. By then we were ready for a very welcome lunchbreak.

After lunch we had another uphill climb as we entered the pines & sitka spruce plantations. The ascent rewarded us with some amazing views towards Binevenagh & Donegal.

Views of Binevenagh in the distance
Paths lined with red seed heads
Seed head

Soon we started to descend towards the Glenedra Water, which is Gaelic for “the valley in between”.

Glenedra Water
Crystal clear

Leaving the forest plantation we returned to the car park via a narrow path above the Glenedra Water and through native woodlands again.

A great days walk with friends, covering about 9 miles while enjoying the history & ecology of the area.

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