My word, a Bank Holiday where the weather is nice. Might as well make the most of this.
Normally, I would go on a hike on a Saturday morning, but with this being a three day weekend, I decided to do things differently and go out on the Monday. Knowing that the weather was going to be good on all three days, I wasn’t taking a gamble.
Even better that there would be no rain preceding my visit, meaning no mud.
There was a specific reason why I didn’t go out for a ramble on the Saturday morning. You see, Linfield were playing Cliftonville, and there is a walking route I do on the morning of the match which guarantees a Linfield win. I’m not saying where in case somebody tries to sabotage it by getting part of it closed.
If you’re wondering about the 4-3 defeat in January, that was a midweek game and I was working so I couldn’t get out to do my walk.
Even though it didn’t matter in terms of the final League positions, you don’t want to end the season with one win from the last six League games.
Whilst I was on that walk, I did a Charity Shop Rummage, my first for a long time, picking up a book, The Best Of Smash Hits, from 1985 for just £2. It was compiled by one of their Journalists called Neil Tennant. Whatever happened to him?
Anyway, back to Belvoir, and this was going to be next on my Merry Go Round Of Walks.
As mentioned earlier, the weather was perfect for phototaking, something I bemoaned during my visits to Belvoir Park Forest after rediscovering it in late 2020, so I made sure I was up early.
Belvoir Park Forest, like most of Belfast, doesn’t have a Train Station anywhere near it. Which was handy, as seeing my timeline on Twitter fill up with updates from Translink about trains being full gives me a worry ahead of my proposed day trip to Whitehead. I’ll touch on that later.
This wasn’t the first time visiting Belvoir Park Forest this month.
A few weeks ago, there was a Saturday morning with a rainstorm. Not the weather for the bike or a walk, I headed to Tesco for a few things to get my step count up. By the time I got out, the rain had stopped, so I headed to Belvoir Park Forest for a quick stroll.
Not for long though, as the rain quickly returned. so I headed back to my car.
Despite the short timeframe, I discovered a few new routes that I checked out when I made this return visit.
One of those new routes I discovered was a lake surrounded by trees.
I made a mental note of that, believing that it would make a great photo, but it didn’t really turn out as I hoped whenever I returned with my camera.
Somehow, I managed to get lost, despite being, by now, familiar with my surroundings. Thankfully, I made it to Lagan Meadows Park, a small grassy area within Belvoir Park Forest, a real hidden gem.
I wasn’t that big a fan of getting some spray when walking through the wet grass. but a price worth paying.
After that, was a trip through the woods on my return to the car park.
An enjoyable day and some decent photos. One advantage of getting out early was avoiding the crowds. There was barely anybody else about.
Over the next few weeks, i’ll be taking some Annual Leave from work. Use it or lose it, and I prefer to use it.
Obviously, a lot of the places I want to visit will be a lot less busy on weekdays, let’s hope I get the weather I desire.
My hitlist includes Blackmountain, Whitehead, Colin Glen Forest Park, Mourne Mountains and North Down Coastal Path.
Although, seeing reports of overcrowded trains makes me slightly worried regarding Whitehead. Hopefully, just an anomaly due to today being a Bank Holiday.
Regular readers will know I have Bray and Brighton planned in my head.
Still no definite update, but I am leaning towards going to Bray at the end of the month. I have a hotel booked but with late cancellation so a decision will have to be made soon.
What better way to start a four day weekend, than to get up early and go for a walk through a forest.
Belvoir Park Forest was my destination, somewhere I’d been going every few weeks since November, having previously ignored it for a long time, despite it not being too far away. My loss.
During those previous visits, I got myself familiarised with the surroundings, there isn’t much there I haven’t previously covered. Or so I thought.
I arrived around 8am, and practically had the place to myself. I presume everybody else was still lying in bed after staying up late to watch live coverage of riots on Facebook.
On my previous visits, I got some ok photos, nothing spectacular. Nothing that could be described as “bloggable”. The fact that you are reading this, makes it obvious that this visit was different.
The biggest plus when I arrived was the weather, a mixture of daylight, mist and frost, which made for perfect shooting conditions.
While walking along, I stumbled into Lagan Meadows Park. I hadn’t been there before.
Liking what I saw, I ventured further into it. A very nice hidden gem.
Something I noticed, was that there was a lot of fallen or uprooted trees. Now I love trees, big fan of oxygen, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited by the photo opportunities provided by them lying on the ground.
Even though it was a nice day, it was still quiet when I was leaving in mid morning, a good time to leave before it started to fill up for the afternoon.
Though I have discovered more areas of Belvoir Park Forest I hadn’t been to before, I feel there is still more it it to explore.
Might as well start 2021 in style. Let’s face it, the first half of the year at least is going to be crap.
With time off over Christmas, i’d planned on doing three walks i’ve done regularly over the past nine months – Blackmountain, Cavehill and Cregagh Glen, as well as fully exploring a fourth trail – Belvoir Park Forest.
Cavehill was the first on the list, but the day I planned to do it, it was pissing down with rain, so I left it to a later date.
Then I went on other walks, then a few cycles, and it suddenly was saved for the last weekday off, Friday 1st January.
It was a bit tactical, as i’d checked the weather forecast and knew that this would be the best day for sunshine and daylight. It’s a bit of a waste to walk up Cavehill and not take photos.
I had hoped to be getting photos of the sunrise, but my bed was too comfy. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I was having a lovely sleep until some idiots decided to let off fireworks at midnight, and I had to reclaim what I lost.
It wasn’t a total lie-in, I managed to arrive just before 9am, there were some cars already in the Car Park.
I’m not aware if a New Year’s Day trek up Cavehill is a tradition, but I might make it one for me, we shall see in 2022. It was a lot busier than it had been on my previous visits, usually arriving at the same time, although my previous visits had been on working days.
It might be a new year, but I note that Belfast folk are still thick as shit. Seriously folks, how hard is it to walk on the left?
Don’t even start me on Joggers. Quite how 60 year old men with beer bellies decked head to to in lycra get the front to act Billy Big Balls, but sticking to the left also applies to you.
That observation on Joggers is more general than this trip. But seriously, stick to the left and give people going the other way room.
I cannot emphasise this enough, but I am not prepared to walk in front of a bus because somebody won’t give me room.
Despite missing the sunrise, there was lots of nice photo opportunities.
Most of the photos included frost and ice, justifying my decision to layer up.
It was very slippy and slidey on the way down. I had a few slides but no falls thankfully. I might phone up ITV to offer my services for Dancing On Ice.
So, that is my first walk of 2021 done, although technically, this should have been my December 2020 walk up Cavehill.
Whilst there is lockdown and nothing else (ie – no concerts or football matches) to do, I make as well make Cavehill a monthly visit, as well as Blackmountain. That will be the big two.
I’m also going to sneak in Lisnabreeny Hill, Belvoir Park Forest and Minnowburn/Giant’s Ring on a rotating basis. Travel restrictions mean i’ll have to stick to Greater Belfast.
There was a story in the media last week about Stormont issuing Travel Vouchers to people. Something that hasn’t been mentioned is that anybody who has been convicted of a breach of Coronavirus Regulations should not be in receipt of any vouchers, be it shopping or travel.
There’s no point in having a reward culture that doesn’t actually reward people for doing the right thing.
If there are Travel Vouchers, and the R Number significantly reduces, I may be tempted to do Derry for Binevenagh or Fermanagh for Cuilcagh Mountain Park.
Again, dependent on getting the R Number down, i’ll see about a day trip to Mourne Mountains in the Summer.
Usually in August, I go to Edinburgh. If I do go, i’ll plan to visit Arthur’s Seat.
If normality returns, I may do a four/five day trip to Manchester for a match, and take in Saddleworth Moor or Peak District. I’ve been having my eye on the Leicecter match in May, but being realistic, that won’t happen. It might be towards the end of the year, for a match in 2021-2022.
I’ve got a few days in Bray booked for the end of June, for a match in Euro 2021. Even if the football doesn’t happen, I may still take up the booking (I have late cancellation) and go up Bray Head.
I also have flights to Gatwick booked for July, with a hotel booked in London (again, later cancellation). If London falls through, i’ve got Brighton as my back-up. I’ve already looked up hikes in Brighton, and Devil’s Dyke will be on the itinerary if I have a late change and go to Brighton instead.
Just over a week earlier, on Christmas Eve, I headed to Belvoir Park Forest.
I know what you’re thinking, but it seems it’s called Belvoir Park Forest. I’d always thought it was called Belvoir Forest Park.
I’d planned to make a visit and get some photos when I was off at Christmas, but I did make a visit in November when my bike was out of action. I didn’t have my camera with me but I had a nice walk about and got ideas of places to shoot.
It wasn’t too long, as I had slept in that day and I wanted to get out before it got busy. And it did get busy too that morning. What struck me most was the number of Good Dogs there were. About six of them came to me for hugs and cuddles, so I had this place marked down as somewhere to make a return visit to.
There were still some Good Dogs on my return visit, not as many, mainly due to there being not as many people about compared to my last visit, which was late morning on a Sunday, although I was still greeted by some Good Dogs just after parking my car.
I had only briefly been to Belvoir Park Forest before, just a brief visit, so it was good to finally chance to properly check it out. I feel quite embarrassed that I have largely ignored something that was so close to me for so long.
As with all my walks, up early and out early, arriving there just before 9am. I would have been there earlier, but I had to nip off to the shops before I left to get some last minute groceries when the shops were empty.
Weather reports had promised daylight and dryness. It was dry, and there was some daylight, not the spectacular balls of light I was hoping for, but enough to work with.
It did give me some nice reflections in the water to work with an experiment with.
I just walked about, curiously wondering where each path went to, until I somehow ended up on the Belvoir Estate, beside the entrance to Belvoir Park Forest, walking back in, but this time turning left around the back of the RSPB Offices.
From there, I walked and snapped until I ended up in Lagan Towpath. After that, I headed back to the Car Park after an enjoyable morning walking, but there is still a lot more for me to explore. That will be remedied in the early months of 2021.
Two days before I went up Cavehill, I went up Cregagh Glen into Lisnabreeny Hill. I did it a few times in the Summer but hadn’t been back since.
I got there around 9am. It was very muddy, foggy and frosty, making for some interesting photos.
It was very quiet on the way up but a lot busier on the way down, with people making the most of being off.
On New Year’s Eve, I woke up and looked outside, excitedly observing the snow that had fallen overnight. It turned out to be rather underwhelming.
Some of the photos I got of Belvoir Park Forest, Lisnabreeny Hill and Snow were ok. I’ve posted the better ones onto Instagram, but they didn’t merit a blog post on their own. I’ve included the photo albums if you wish to view them.
So, first walk of 2021 done, hopefully plenty more to come. I’ve already outlined my plans, but sadly it all depends on how other people behave.
Seriously, walk on the left, keep your distance, don’t ram up people’s arses in shops because it doesn’t make the queue go quicker.