Saturday 13th October 2018
Ness Woods Country Park – 4.0 miles
Following on the heals of Storm Callum we headed towards the Ness Woods Country Park near Claudy in County Londonderry. The forecast wasn’t great and heavy rain was predicted for later in the day.
The Country Park has 3 parking areas at Ness Wood, the Visitors Centre & Ervey Wood. We started at the Ervey Wood car park, on the north side of the Burntollet River, and started towards the visitors centre through the woods. We had no sooner entered than we were met with vibrant autumn colours. I think I got a bit carried away taking photo after photo!
After some steep descents we eventually reached level ground and a path alongside the Burntollet River took us across Brown’s Bridge towards the visitors centre. Unfortunately the visitors centre wasn’t open so we headed on our way.
However, we soon had to divert back through Ervey Wood to the car as access to the waterfall by foot was closed due to heavy floods last August having washed away a bridge and footpaths.
So we had to have our walk in 2 halves in order to see the Ness Waterfall! We didn’t have to walk too far from the Ness car park into the Ness Wood before we heard the roar of the Ness waterfall.
The waterfall is the highest in Northern Ireland at 30 feet, with 2 leaps of 8 feet and then 22 feet before entering the plunge pool below. The name ‘Ness’ is the anglicised form of the Irish ‘an eas’ meaning ‘the waterfall’.
From the waterfall viewing point we made our way down a fairly steep decline to the lower pathway, before continuing along the riverside towards the Stevenson’s Bridge.
Unfortunately, this bridge is no more and there is no access to the visitors centre at present. So we retraced our steps back towards the waterfall, this time taking the upper path high above the river, then down the steep descent to the Gorge Crossing. It’s a beautiful wooden bridge with a set of steep steps on the far side.
Again we were met with ‘no access’ signs on the south side of the river and had to turn left and uphill towards the top of the waterfall at Shane’s Bridge.
[It’s a shame this major section is closed but probably requires substantial repair work as it is mainly wooden boardwalk and steps]
The river at Shane’s Bridge was flowing at an amazing speed as it diverges into it’s narrowest point and spills out over the cliff edge. Legend has it that Shane O’Mullan, an Irish ‘Robin Hood’ style highwayman, leapt over the gap to avoid arrest but broke his leg in the process. However, he was eventually arrested, trialled and hung at The Diamond in Londonderry in 1722.
I think the heavy rain added to the Ness waterfall experience and the shear force of nature never ceases to amaze and excite the senses!