A Scenic Drive


Whatever happened to Flossie?

Part 2: Downhill to Downhill
Part 3: Driving to the Point
Part 4: Along the coast and up a wall
Part 5: Whatever happened to Flossie?
The Roe Mouth at sunset

Part 1: Driving up Benevenagh

Main Street - in Limavady Let's begin this epic journey in Main Street Limavady, where we join the morning traffic. We scrape past some jogging pedestrians and avoid a parade colourfully weaving its way through the chaos.  Across the road we notice a driver carefully tripple-parking his car.

We pass the old Post Office opposite Tesco's supermarket and turn left into Killane Road. From here on we have to slow down, because there are many hidden driveways - which are often hiding places for stern faced police officers waving speed-detectors.

A bridge carries us over Limavady's new bypass and we catch a splendid view of the whin-covered slopes of noble Mount Benevenagh.
Drenagh House in the Roe Valley On our right is the beautiful townland of Fruithill, with Drenagh, its ancestral home, dominating a well kept landscape dotted with ancient trees. As you can't see the house from here I include a photograph of the venerable pile. Another impressive but now ruined treasure lies hidden on the other side of the estate. Drumachose Old Church is described elsewhere in these pages.

Drenagh estate is surrounded by a Broughan wall - the endproduct of a now discredited form of 19th century unemployment benefit. During times of famine hungry men were told to build all kinds of things and were paid in broughan - a name which is still used locally to describe porridge. These days the high wall is quite a hazard because it is right beside the road and fools oncoming traffic into taking panicky evasive action right into their oncoming traffic. Luckily we only meet a single lorry and escape with a few minor scratches and a small bump.
The little bridge in the Roe Valley Soon we encounter one of those humped backed bridges - lovely to look at but the very devil to navigate. This one spans the Curly river, which winds its way from the distant Keady mountain.

The bed of this little waterway is covered with large rocks which gives its waters a 'curly' appearance, hence the name - or so they say. You will soon notice - if you read on - that they have a way with words around here.

The Curly together with the Castle river join the river Roe just a few hundred yards onwards.
The rabout in the Roe ValleyCrossing the narrow causeway with hardly a scrape we approach our next obstacle with great confidence: the 'Windyhill Rabout'. A 'rabout' is a roundabout built in such a  fashion up the side of a hill, that it is impossible to see the incoming traffic - until it is too late. 
Rabout ahead
This explains why we fail to notice a great big pile of grass some kindly farmer has dumped right in the middle of the road until we thump into it with a very satisfying 'smack'.
No harm done - if this is all the roads can throw at us this morning, it's going to be our lucky day!
We reverse from off the green, carefully circumnavigate the squashed pile of proto-hay and turn into Windyhill Road. This scenic route was originally called 'Murderhole Road', after the anti-social habits of the notorious outlaw Cushy Glen, who used to hide his evidence in a depression further up the mountain.

Cushy Glen in now as dead as those he robbed and the people in charge of such things decided that 'Murder Hole' is an unsuitable address for modern man and so the road had to be re-named.

And because there is a hill further up the road often exposed to a refreshing gale . . . . . . . . . . !

Meg and I don't mind the odd murderous hole beside or even in the road, but we dislike windy hills, so we turn left into Aghanloo Road. Aghanloo means 'The little Ford of Lewy' and just to confuse the tourist, it is pronounced 'Annaloo'. As you may have noticed by now, they have a way with words around here. The locals call this road 'The long lane' which suits it to perfection. Just then we are overtaken by a small American motorcar. It has the word 'Aghanloo' written all over its sides and we feel certain that its driver is called 'Louis'.

On our left we notice the remains of the wartime Limavady airfield. A horse and several bloodthirsty looking sheep graze amongst the military ruins.

We follow Lewy, who speeds down the road and turns into the town's industrial estate. On the other side of the road we spot a stretch of cement runway, left over from the old days, which  is crammed with hundreds of penned sheep, several dozen sturdy vehicles, twice that number of even sturdier looking men and one bored looking photographer.
It's the Aghanloo show!

If you want to buy a yow, or if you want to watch somebody buy a yow, or indeed if you would like to observe somebody taking a photograph of somebody watching somebody buying a yow: this is the place!
The Aghanloo show in the Roe Valley
The locals in the Roe Valley 
"Wow! That's what I call a yow!"
We linger to watch the haggling. The pens are filled with more or less strange looking beasts, who have all had a very recent hairdo and/or dye to make them look as good as possible. Apparently the judges fall for this trick every time.

It is also quite a sporting event, because whilst the judge walks amongst the sheep to do her judging, the sheep try their damnedest to escape from this dangerous looking female - which forces their owners to race about like maniacs to try and catch the escapees and chase them back into the centre.

Occasionally a lucky stumble or a humorous collision adds welcome hilarity to these slippery agricultural proceedings.
Observing all this makes us feel rather peckish, so we buy a couple of tasty looking lambs to supplement our lunch. The seller is a big farmer called Arnold. He is very helpful and even throws in a bunch of rosemary and a box of matches. We bundle the animals into the back of our brand new 4x4 and introduce Flossie and Bossie to Tudor, our faithful border collie, who guards the back of the Jeep. He herds them into a corner of the vehicle, lies down to hold them with a fixed stare and we continue our scenic drive.

A mile down the road we surprise another one of those narrow bridges. Just after we squeeze through, we have to slam on the brakes yet again because the road is blocked by a dairy herd whose members amble along in an udderly impressive fashion that makes us feel quite dizzy. One of the huge black and white beasts decides to leave the herd and squeeze between our car and the hedge. The stupid brute slips - on purpose, no doubt - and her massive head rashes onto the bonnet with an un-melodious thump, leaving a gastric whiff  and a very large dent.
Oh well, an honourable scar!

As the triumphant cow ambles on, we calm the dog and return our own livestock - which has been trying to escape via the windscreen - to the back of the car. Bossie and Flossie seem to be two very nervous lunches.

A few hundred yards further on we stop to admire Aghanloo parish church, which fits into the landscape better than any other building we have seen today. Benevenagh mountain looms behind.

"I've got to paint this" groans Meg and retrieves her oils and brushes from underneath Flossie and Bossie, sets up her easel and busies herself for the next five minutes applying paints to canvas.

Aghanloo Church in the Roe Valley 
Aghanloo Church and Benevenagh.
Bossie thinks this interlude is a good chance to escape, but Tudor rounds him up and we continue our drive up Freehall Road: a quiet tree-lined lane gently climbing the slope of the mountain. There is some rich farmland on either side of the road. We honk the horn at a mean-looking customer on a shiny tractor who suddenly gets into our way. Flossie and Bossie in the back of the jeep panic yet again when they hear the noise and Meg yells: "Hold those yows, Tudor - are you blind?"

One dog and his men in the Roe Valley 
The scoop-collie boys
The dog looks wonderfully guilty. We ascend slowly until we turn left into Bishops Road, where I have to slam on the brakes yet again because a dog and his two men are busy driving a flock of sheep to pastures new.

We try to look innocent and pretend that we have been driving very slowly all the time, though I don't think that anybody around here is fooled very easily.

Flossie gets restless again when she sees her compatriots. Tudor is so distracted by all that talent ahead that Bossie - who notices this - takes his chance and gets away through the open window.
Ah well, there goes half of our lunch.

In a field close by we spot five freshly shorn ewes - fleeceless as the day is long. Who can resist an opportunity like this? We stick our heads out of the window and yell as loudly as we can:

"Baldie!!!!!" - "Baldie!!!!" - "Baldie!!!!"

The sheep look suitably embarrassed. One of the farmers - the one with the receding hairline - gives us a very old-fashioned look, so we drive on before the situation escalates.

A few hundred yards up the road we park the car, stretch our legs, count our remaining livestock and admire the view.
Five bald sheep in the Roe Valley 
Baldie , Baldie and Baldie - and Baldie and Baldie.
The Roe Valley 
The Roe Valley with the Sperrins on the left and Lough Foyle to the right.

Limavady is just below us, the Sperrin mountains grace the horizon and Lough Foyle is just visible to the right. It's no wonder that much of the valley has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - there aren't many views like this in all of Ireland.

We begin to feel hungry and Meg gives Flossie a speculative look. However, it's early in the day, so we decide to forgo a second breakfast and drive on.


Flossie the lamb

The next hair-raising instalment