Magical Mystery Tour to Abbey Road and beyond - 15 March 2018

We resisted pleas from our sub-aqua group to follow our traditional walk on the Thursday closest to Saint Patrick's day i.e. Saint Patrick's trail; foul weather overnight on Wednesday was expected to leave the ground even more waterlogged than usual. With the prospect of rain and wind easing off during Thursday morning we knew we were in for another perfect day for walking and we weren't disappointed.

Taking the train to Sydenham we disembarked and at the top of the stairs to the footbridge we set off in two groups - those who didn't know where they were going and those who waited to be told - it was a pattern of behaviour to be repeated later in the day. But we eventually regrouped and set off via Victoria Park, the Connswater Greenway to C.S. Lewis Square where we had a comfort stop and an unplanned cuppa for a few of the walkers.

Kathleen sat down just long enough to have her photo taken beside C.S. Lewis's wardrobe before we again set off along the Comber Greenway to Belfast's very own Abbey Road where we grabbed the chance to take some pics before heading into the grounds of the Stormont estate for 1:00pm lunch in the Mo Mowlem children's park.

Refreshed and reinvigorated, we then headed up to Stormont Buildings and despite our best efforts we were unable to detect much life about the place, so after a few more photo opportunities we made our way down to Massey Avenue and the bus back to the city centre.

Some of us decided that the walk back to the city centre might do us some good and set off at a brisk pace down the Belmont Road and Newtownards Road stopping along the way to enjoy some much needed refreshment and the paintings at Bittles Bar on Victoria Street. The walk was 18Km or 11.25miles. You can view the route of the walk (or rather the route as far as the Great Eastern Pub on the Newtownards Road) by clicking HERE

A few members of the group extended their magical mystery tour by catching the Bangor train for their return home but some helpful members of the public redirected them and it is believed they eventually made it back. Navigation lessons will be offered at a later date. Despite this, and even though we didn't get to enjoy the La Scala Menu at Stormont Hotel, a great day was had by all.

Martine B. prepares to re-enter Stormont in her new role as First Minister, leading her new multi-party coalition Brian B. maintains a dignified vigil at the foot of the steps up to Stormont after the Executive's failure to offer him a portfolio. Sir Edward Carson waves goodbye to Cedars Walkers following their visit to "Stor-mount"

Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor - 08 March 2018

Our planned walk at Slieve Croob was postponed because of difficult driving conditions anticipated in the area and instead we set off for an early start at Kilbroney Park. The forecast was for a lovely day with sunshine expected from 1:00pm; it arrived a little later than hoped for and the mountain tops were covered in mist as we approached their sumits but we nevertheless enjoyed another great day's walking.

Gordon and Ruth led two of Kilbroney's classic walks starting at Kilbroney Park. Meanwhile thirteen walkers caught the No. 39 Kilkeel bus from Kilbroney Park to the foot of Kilfeaghan Road where Mike led a 9Km mountain walk which included Knockshee (347m), Slievefadda and Slieve Martin (485m) before making the descent through the forest back to rejoin the rest of the group for refreshments and craic in Synge and Byrne's newly refurbished café at Kilbroney.

Kilfeaghan Portal Tomb

Some of Mike's group paid a visit to Kilfeaghan portal tomb, a megalithic dolmen standing on the eastern slopes of Knockshee, County Down on a farm overlooking Carlingford Lough. Early excavataions at the site, which is believed to be around 4,000 years old, unearthed various bones and pottery.

The chamber of the dolmen has an enormous capstone at least 2½ metres long by about 1½ metres thick; it weighs an estimated 35 to 40 tons and is believed to be one of the biggest in Ireland. The capstone stands on two portal stones which have partly sunk into the ground. The whole stucture sits on a cairn (now mostly disappeared) at least 15 metres long.

For more pics of the walk from Kilfeaghan to Slieve Martin click here.

North Down Coastal Path and Oxford Island - 01 March 2018

March - "In like a lion, out like a lamb"

The proverb seems to be holding true so far. The North Down Coastal walk was cancelled due to poor weather and uncertainty about public transort. John drove down to Lough Neagh Discovery Centre to check that the planned walk at Oxford Island could go ahead. Baltic temperatures and strong winds from the east had dumped snow and ice on roads and there occasional was the white out as snow was dislodged from the trees by the wind. The road down to Oxford Island was ungritted and the snow deeply rutted. Ominously, though there were some cars parked at rear of the centre, there was no evidence of cars leaving. Then just before 10:00am, as the café was about to open to serve breakfasts, staff advised that everyone had to get out as the road was to be closed. Four of us had braved the elements to get there and were determined to have a walk. Lurgan Park seemed a safer option however, as we got there, it was closing too so we had to make do with pancakes and an Ulster Fry in New Haven Café - it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Carol, Gordon, John, Barbara and friend enjoy the snow. Click to enlarge

It would take more than a bit of snow to stop these brave souls walking - Geralyn, Paddy Mac, Marian and Paddy C.

Minibus Drivers

Congratulations to Heather and Herbie for successsfully passing the Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme (MiDAS) test, as if there was ever any doubt that they would - Heather for the second time! We are grateful to all our drivers for their valued contribution to the group.

Murlough and Bloody Bridge - Thursday 22 February 2018

We stuck to the programme promising two great walks and ended up with four. About thirty of us walked round Murlough in ideal conditions ("another perfect day" as promised) while 20 walkers headed for Bloody Bridge and the hills. The latter group were to break into three smaller groups. Chimney Rock Mountain was shrouded in cloud as we reached the col in the Bog of Donard for lunch. The decision was taken on safety grounds to stay below the clouds and we set off on the Brandy Pad towards the Castles. However, after we set off in breezy conditions, some of the party decided that they would prefer to head back to the col and as we arrived there the cloud had lifted giving a clear view of the summit so we decided to give it a try. Near the top, the cloud returned so we retraced our steps back to the col but not before Millie had taken a selfie with the lead party to prove "Cedars woz here!". Total walk ended up at over 11 Km and a good day was had by all.

For more pics of the walks click from Bloody Bridge click here.

Belfast Experience - Thursday 15 February 2018

Contrary to earlier expectations the Belfast Experience walk went ahead as per the programme led by Mike. John was enjoying a break in Glasgow and sorry to miss the walk in his home city but Heather provided this commentary, for which thanks.

We all know Mike can walk and Mike can talk so 'walking the talk' was never going to be a problem. Not for us the 'alternative route' as we were marched up the Falls and down the Shankill with not a fleg between us, though I did wonder if Millie hadn’t smuggled Gaby’s bagpipes into her oversized rucksack! From Memorial Gardens to Memorable Murals from Clonard Monastery to Crumlin Road Jail, Mike impressed us with his knowledge and enthusiasm for the troubled history of this our city. Only once was he out talked and that by an ex-prisoner who eloquently told us his personal story and it was one of hope for the future.

Seeing the Peace Wall and the huge gates still dividing the two communities is a sobering sight. We did see a Norn Iron Banksy on a step ladder outlining a gigantic hand and it wasn’t even red!! One common factor on both sides of the divide was an eye watering display of gigantic, glittering objet d'art which adorned many windows. Could this be the way forward or was it just cross community bad taste?

Continuing the historical theme, a quick pint in the Crown Bar was the perfect way to finish a most enjoyable and informative outing.

Slainte Mike

For pics of the Belfast Experience (lunch) click here.

Binnian and Loughgall - 08 February 2018

On top of the world - Binnian February 2018

For more of Raymond's pics on Binnian click here.

Two great walks on Thursday, 08 February. Mike led a walk to Slieve Binnian and our reporter Raymond was on the spot with his camera and pen.

Great day out climbing Binnian, with a dusting of snow making wonderful views. Disappointed Carrick Little Café closed. Settled for K's café, Hilltown. Good chat and refreshments on our merry way.

44 walkers opted for something a little less challenging - Loughgall Country Park and, as promised, it turned out to be another perfect day for walking. The rain stayed off until the moment we shut the door on the minibus before setting off back for Lurgan.

For pics of the walk at Loughgall click here.

Hen Track etc - 01 February 2018

Some like it cold!

I don't have details of walks on 01 February except that treacherous road conditions prevented Mike following his planned route and so the big walk was centred on Hen Track. If anyone would care to send more details (including approximate numbers) I would be grateful. For some pics of the walk click HERE.

Walks with a difference
BBC TWO Northern Ireland - 10:00pm - Monday 29th January 2018

Ulaidh Faoi Thalamh - Monday, 12 February 2018

Téann Cormac cróga Ó hÁdhmaill faoi shráideanna Bhéal Feirste le fairsinge dhochreidte an bhonneagair rúnda atá faoi thalamh ann a fheiceáil, bonneagar a choinníonn ár gcathracha agus ár mbailte móra ar obair - leithéidí­ na séarach, na lintéireach abhann agus na gcoraí.

Cormac ó hÁdhmaill, brother of the even more famous Brighdin, ventures underground in Ulster to examine the infrastructure that keeps our cities and towns going, from sewers, river culverts and weirs. Don't miss the last in this short series on Monday, 12 February or catch up with the first two eposodes on iPlayer. And please note - it's on the local, not on the HD version, of BBC TWO.

Cave Hill and Broadwater - 25 January 2018

We had two great walks at Cave Hill and Broadwater 0n 25 January. About a dozen walkers turned up for the Broadwater walk and 43 for Cave Hill. It was another perfect day for walking with none of the threatened rain.

Some happy walkers near the summit of Cave Hill - click to enlarge pic.

Drumbeg to Giant's Ring along the Lagan Tow Path - 18 January 2018

Forecast was for an icy start in the early morning and the car park at Drumbeg was indeed treacherous but the threat of sleet and snow showers before lunch didn't quite live up to our worst fears and the day was mostly dry and bright. In fact the only problem encountered was a tree which had fallen across the Giant's Ring Trail path close to the Giant's Ring itself, causing us to double back and approach the site along the Ballynahatty Road past the National Trust's Minnowburn offices. But every cloud has a silver lining - the detour extended our walk to a full 8 miles so another perfect day for walking.

For more information about the Lych Gate and Giant's Ring and directions to Drumbeg click here

Kilbroney - 11 January 2018

Cecilia Daly came up trumps for our second walk of 2018 by under-promising and over-delivering with the weather. Forecast was for another cold and murky day with persistent fog, very slow to disperse. But she did suggest there was just a chance of sunny spells too later in the day with the best weather around the coasts and over the hills.

So we put off our planned trip to Cave Hill and headed for Kilbroney which seemed to offer a more favourable location for another "perfect day for walking" i.e. Thursday. More than 50 Cedars Walkers turned up to be rewarded with wall-to-wall sunshine and two great walks. Thank you Cecilia.

In the glorious and unseasonal weather we ventured through a doorway into Narnia before climbing up past Fiddlers' Green to the Big Stone (Cloughmore) and thence to Slieve Martin and Slieve Meen before returning to the car park - a total journey of 10km or 6.25 miles.

Workers on the transmitter mast watched us as we enjoyed lunch and, at the summit of Slieve Martin, Paddy entertained us with some Irish dancing. On our way down we were given an impromptu demonstration of shadow puppetry, an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment, at the big stone. We finished off a perfect day with refreshments in "The Church" on Cloughmore Road, just below Kilbroney Park.

Shadow puppetry demo at Cloughmore - for more pics click HERE.

And a date for your diary

Saturday 27 January 2017 - Cancer Research fund raising Burns Night Supper – complete with bagpipes, haggis, kilts (not obligatory) and Scottish dancing. It’s a great night out in Portadown Golf Club and in a good cause. More information later or talk to Gordon, Carol P or Mary P to book your places. Don't miss it.

Antrim Loop - 04 January 2017

It's 2018 so our first walk of the new year had to be the Antrim Loop, our traditional route for this time of year. The day was wet but the craic was mighty. 23 intrepid walkers turned up to prove that it takes more than the remnants of storm Eleanor, Baltic temperatures and a downpour to deter a keen walker. Well done to those that made it. We even had a poet in our midst - top marks Heather!

Twas the fourth day of New Year, when all round Lough Neagh
Only swans were a-stirring, the sky was dark grey;
When out of the drizzle some 'creatures' emerged,
All hoping that no one would soon be submerged.

The walkers were nestled all snug in their coats,
While visions of hot coffee kept them afloat;
With John T and Gordon leading the way
Sure how else would you spend a wet winter’s day!

Some hooded, some shrouded like monks on retreat,
The brave Cedars athletes made good use of their feet,
Avoiding the puddles and Eleanor-downed trees
By the mighty brown river that raged like the seas.

Bedraggled and damp but with smiles on our faces,
We felt so much better being put through our paces.
The festive excesses with much Christmas cheer
Have ended and here’s to a Happy New Year!

Looking for Cedars Walks in October to December 2017? Click HERE.

There's more ...

Cedars: August to October 2017. Cedars: first half of 2017. Cedars: autumn 2016 .
XCedars: summer 2016. Cedars: spring 2016. Cedars: 2015 .