A Walk along the River Roe

The view from the car park onto the lake in the Roe Valley Country Park
We start near the car park of the Country Park Centre and admire the ornamental lake and its ducky inhabitants. A long time ago the water supplying the old hydro electric power station - one of the first in Ireland - flowed along here on the way to doing an honest day's work. These days the generators are silent but the park people will gladly lend you a key if you want to admire what's left of the old hardware.

Recently a lot of money has been spent on refurbishing that power station, they have even built a new canal and laid huge pipes to carry water from further up-stream. We confidently expect great things to happen around here in the near future..

Alternatively you can always take a look at it via this link.

View across the large field towards the Roe in the Roe Valley Country Park

The view across the park. The trees in the distance mark the course of the river Roe.
The stretch of water in the foreground is that small ornamental lake again. It is cleaned year after year but tends to fill with mud every Autumn. It is very pretty on a sunny day.

An old building without a roof and a nice large entrance in the Roe Valley Country Park This is what's left of the old beetling mill.

Water power has always been important around here. Before the power station was built the Country Park was part of a thriving flax manufacturing centre. The tough fibres of the plants had to be beaten and thumped with wooden flails to break them. Hence this old roofless shed which shows signs of some superb brickwork.

These days all the ivy has been removed and so has some of the beauty of this old edifice.

The Roe with a half hidden fisherman to the right
Our first view of the river. Here the Roe is meandering and trying to take out the Country Park Centre. There are those who think that this is a pretty neat idea.

The scene is fairly typical. The sky is mainly overcast, the seasonal flowers are in bloom and a careless poacher stumbles into the picture near the centre right whilst his wiser friend avoids the camera by pretending to be a green bush.

A passing heron
We pretend that we don't notice the furtive characters. One of them seems to be rather clumsy and if we scare him too much he may just trip and kill a fish by falling on it, so we pointedly look the other way.
The magnificent heron flying passed us upriver - beak full of fish - is a much better poacher anyway and we rather admire him. Like our two friends, he is not likely to purchase a fishing permit, ever!

Another nice old ruin in the Roe Valley Country Park

This rather romantic looking ruin was once part of the local sewage works. A huge old underwater sewage-pipe can still be seen crossing the river here.Why the old boys thought that a beauty spot was the best place for sewage treatment I do not know.

Luckily the Roe has overcome this experience and these days it is one of the best salmon fishing rivers in Northern Ireland.

Springlight shining through green leaves in the Roe Valley Country Park

It is spring time and the light filtering through the leaves is a clear unblemished green. The air is fresh and the birds are singing.

The ditch to the right of the path is the old mill race which has only recently been drained. It was built as high above the river as possible, in order to get maximum pressure differential at the mill, where the power station looms high above the river.

The forest floor with a blue sheen in the Roe Valley Country Park

Across the mill race the forest floor is covered in a carpet of bluebells. In certain years entire mountain sides look as if they were painted blue.

The poachers seem to be digging for worms in the field yonder. Bordering the County Park you can find some of the most thoroughly dug over fields in the whole of Ulster.

The old weir, now badly repaired in the Roe Valley Country Park
Further upstream we spot an old weir. The lock in the foreground used to regulate the water access to the mill race but unfortunately it was washed away during a recent flood. It has been replaced by something so ugly, I don't dare show a picture of it.

When the salmon migrate upriver, the old weirs can be very lively places, with lovesick fish leaping high as the sky and poachers hiding all over the place.

The same old weir

This is the same weir seen from further up the river. Also imagine the sound of the running water, the songs of the birds and the whispering winds in the trees.

The taller of the two poachers has just fallen into the river. He is cursing quietly, so as not to scare away the fish. This is a futile exercise because his friend has a very hearty laugh.

Some old trees along the Roe

Another look at the Roe. The aspects of the river change quickly. Quiet stretches and racing torrents follow each other rapidly. Many of the trees are mature and very beautiful.

An old ford. This one is still used by the local farmer. Some day, when I get the courage up I plan to manoeuvre my four wheel drive car over this tempting obstacle. The map in the Country Park centre is marked: "Not recommended" at this point.
The ford near the upper car park

Meg and the dog on a bench

It is time for a well earned rest - a third of the journey is over and it is time to admire the bridge. Along the river one finds several well placed benches offering welcome rest to ancient legs. I am talking about the legs of the dog, of course.

HTudor, the border collie on the steps to the upper bridge in the Roe Valley Country Parkere we cross the river. Old Tudor hates bridges and he always makes sure that he is not the only one attempting such a major obstacle - just in case his life will need saving. He needn't have worried, we all lived to tell the tale.

View onto the Roe
The view from the bridge. Ordinarily both sides of the river are populated by shifty looking anglers, but we haven't been here for a while and they must have mistaken me for the water bailiff and hence are all hiding in - or pretending to be - bushes.

This little beauty mistook us for the source of his lunch. He ended up with a few tired blades of grass which he could have picked faster himself. Better luck next time.
Meg feeding a small brown horse

Meg on the path in the Roe Valley Country Park

We turn right at the bridge. A green path follows the river towards the townland of Carrick. To the left we see pleasant fields fully occupied with feeding cows and on the right is the river, hidden behind exuberant greenery.
Some of the bushes move suspiciously and one even has an Ulster accent.

View up the Roe
To view the river, we have to find a break in the dense thicket. Luckily it is the fishing season paths have been beaten to all suitable spots along the river. We follow one of those and clamber down the embankment to admire the view.

Henry, the bad-tempered heron
Instantly we have to duck and get out of the flightpath of an enraged bird who flies down-river squawking deadly insults. It is Henry, the bad-tempered heron, who has lived around here for as long as I can remember. He is probably defending his fishing rights. We squawk back and stumble on.

End of the road in the Roe Valley Country Park

After a while we reach a huge bend in the river and see the final weir, which used to divert water to the flax mill down river. This spot also marks the end of the Roe Valley Country Park. A new weir has been built here recently, though it is questionable whether it has improved the view.

Watch out for the heron
Looking across and into the trees down river, we suddenly spot our bad-tempered heron again. He must have doubled back and still seems to be very angry as he is heading for one of the tall trees. We must remember not to walk beneath those branches in case he is plotting a well aimed revenge.

A wall across the path

The path continues and leads up a very steep hill to the old Carrick Parish Church. We decide to follow it and scramble up a very steep and narrow path which offers wonderful views onto the tree obscured river.
Suddenly we come upon a large and solid looking wall! Luckily - outside the picture on the right - a small step has been provided so that our journey can continue.

Carrick Church

After climbing the wall we find ourselves in the grounds of the old church. This must be one of the most romantically positioned places of worship in all of Ireland and the people who look after it are well aware of this fact, because the grounds are beautifully kept.
This place is a credit to any religion.
 The Carrick bridge in the Roe Valley Country Park
After a short rest we move on and clamber down a rough path to the Carrick Bridge. Its cantilever construction is unique in all of Ulster and it has been well restored. The steel edifice can carry up to ten people at a time. However, its narrowness scares the living daylights out of nine of them.

The view at carrick bridge
Additionally it must be said that a bridge is a bridge, but salmon is salmon. Guess who we meet in this beautiful spot? Two green clad sportsmen carrying long rods, no fishing license and a couple of optimistically huge nets. One of them, a tall lad in squelching boots, is very wet and he carries a rather squashed looking salmon.
"That fish looks as if somebody fell on it" I comment inquiringly. The tall lad makes no reply and only glares at me. His companion giggles and looks pointedly in all directions but ours.

Up the hill

Meg calls the dog and climbs the steep incline on the other side of the river. Soon you feel that you are walking through the tops of the trees, because the path is higher than most of the forest. Henry the bad-tempered heron flies by below and I spot the blue flash of a kingfisher.
This is a very special spot.

Tudor, the border collie watching some Sheep

The scenery changes suddenly as we reach the top of the rock. Peaceful fields are all around us. The air is quiet, the sunshine is pleasant and Tudor, the border collie, contemplates what he could do, if mankind hadn't invented the fence.

'What's over there?' asks the border collie
This is a very pleasant walk indeed. The river is far below us to the left, the path is straight and the birds are singing. Tudor is somewhat distracted by his calling and leaves this promising haunt only with the greatest reluctance.

We reach the furthest point of our little walk and turn to head home. On entering the forest, which covers the rock around Carrick, we have to climb down some fairly steep paths. From time to time we see the Roe below us through the trees. It is much cooler here.

The heron

Some time later we bump into our bad tempered friend Henry again. I hope he has some luck and catches another dinner. We slink away. It is rude to watch when a heron is trying to have a picnic.

Wooden bridge in the Roe Valley Country Park

We are back at the wooden bridge and we re-examine the ford. I wonder would I look like a gomey, stuck in my car halfway across the river, which has a nasty habit of flooding quickly.

Broad stretch of river with trees

Another view over the river Roe. Some of the trees really are magnificent specimens. There is no one else to be seen. The poachers must have turned back or stumbled into the water again.

Old two-storey mill

This is one of the old mills along the river. The building used to have the remains of a waterwheel sticking into the pathway. A progressive park management has removed the wheel and filled out the path. This act of historical vandalism is a great pity.

AGolden gorse bush gorse bush in full flower. This year we had a late Spring which caused most of the flowering shrubs to hold back for as long as they could and suddenly they produced thousands of flowers.
Some of the other bushes are also full of surprises. Take the one over there, near the river. It seems to be totally wet and the smaller bush beside it is whimpering and shaking in the wind.

Meg on the path

We slowly walk homewards and reach a recently built stretch of the path. Why that fence was built is anyone's guess. The sunlight is pleasant but short-lived.

Disabled access fishing area in the Roe Valley Country Park
The bend in the river leading to the Dog Leap Bridge and the country park centre. The Roe at this time of the year is quite low.
Our two poachers seem to be back and ready for fresh deeds.

Two tonne weight limit

The Dog Leap Bridge beside the old power station is a well known site around here. Its rather romantic position above the rapids makes it a popular site.

Brochan house

View back over the bridge, which is surrounded by trees and offers a good view over the river, especially during a flood. The building at the end of the bridge used to be the old grain store, nowadays it houses some boring old offices. The Broughan house, where the workers used to get their food, is just opposite, hidden by the wall and the greenery, but you can get a good look at it above.
View back over bridge in the Roe Valley Country Park

View of gorge in river in the Roe Valley Country Park

A last look onto the Roe from under the Dog Leap bridge. It has rained heavily and the river is swollen. Our well camouflaged poachers on the left might even fall onto another fish today.
Lonely car in car park in the Roe Valley Country Park 
There is so much water in the air, that it seems as if the plants  grow out of the solid rock.
We wave good bye to our wet friends in green and make for the car park; there to dry our clothes, boots and dog and drive home.


Back to the start
Two Tudors