Lagan Towpath - 11 October 2012

Is it possible that 11th October 2012 was the wettest day on record? It certainly felt like it and John even issued a weather warning and a "duvet-day" or "stay-in-bed" option for those of a nervous or soluble disposition.

Some of our members chose to do their walking in shopping arcades but 22 brave souls turned up at the Island Centre, Lisburn where we were greeted by the rather sombre sculpture of Professor "Frank" Pantridge, MD, CBE (1916 - 2004), the noted Northern Ireland physician and cardiologist who transformed emergency services with the invention of the portable defibrillator.

Sad tree. Fortunately none of us required medical intervention during the walk but most of us were to arrive back at the car park cold and wet and hungry, some even sported new blisters on their feet as a reminder of their fortitude and resolve.

The weather was so foul at times that one could be forgiven for believing that even the trees had sad faces. But somehow we all managed to remain in good spirits and those who walked the full distance to the bridge at Drumbeg Church and back covered a creditable 8 miles, no mean feat in such dreadful conditions. Most chose to turn back - some sooner and some later - but the majority can put down 7½ miles on their personal walk log.

Barbour Threads. A poignant reminder of our proud industrial heritage is the neglected shell of what was once the Barbour linen thread works. In 1784 John Barbour, who hailed from Scotland, established a linen thread works in Lisburn. At the same time his son, William, bought a derelict bleach green at Hilden and the thread works later transferred to this site. The Linen Thread Company was founded 1898 and it quickly became a large international company and the largest linen thread mill in the world, giving Lisburn a richly deserved international reputation.

By 1914 the Linen Thread Company employed about 2,000 people but by the early 21st Century the company, now Coats Barbour, employed less than 100 and it finally closed in 2006. I recall trying to snap linen thread in my youth and only succeeded in cutting into my hands! It was strong stuff.


Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo...

I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds so dark up above
The sun's in my heart and I'm ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place
Come on with the rain I've a smile on my face
I walk down the lane With a happy refrain
Just singin', singin' in the rain

Dancin' in the rain
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
I'm happy again!
I'm singin' and dancin' in the rain!
I'm dancin' and singin' in the rain...
Never mind the weather
Never mind the weather
Starting off
Setting off
Underneath the arches
Underneath the arches
Singin' in the rain
Singing in the rain
Himalayan Balsam.

Himalayan Balsam

Along the path, Paddy took on the role of botanist and raconteur with an impromptu lecture on the reproductive cycle of Himalayan Balsam.

This attractive thug (Himalayan Balsam, not Paddy - although he drove the minibus with some gusto) was first introduced in 1839 but is now widely established as an invasive weed due to aggressive seed dispersal - the seed pods explode when disturbed spreading the seeds up to 20 feet away. In addition, its long flowering season and high nectar production attract pollinators. Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed were also introduced around the same time and all were promoted because of their fast growth and large size which enabled them to fill large Victorian gardens dramatically and quickly. But Himalayan balsam soon escaped the confines of gardens and spread along river systems. Some local wildlife trusts organise "balsam bashing" events to help control the plant. However, a recent study suggests that in some circumstances, this may cause more harm than good.

For all its faults, Himalayan Balsam, with its late flowering, must be a great favourite with bees which are having it tough these days - to know all is to forgive all, or at least some.

Himalayan Balsam.

Some more pictures of the day ...

Ann exits the tunnel
Ann exits the tunnel
Lovely weather for ducks
Lovely weather for ducks
Umbrella in tunnel
Umbrella in tunnel
Umbrella man
Pat keeps dry

And a few more with thanks to Janet who managed to find humour in the day despite the foul weather!"

Duck billed character
A walker plus duck bill
but not a Paddy plus ...
Owl, fungus or snowman?
Owl, fungus or snowman?
Useful walking accessory
Useful walking accessory
for the day!