If you propose to travel by train catch the 9.15am from Portadown (9.21am from Lurgan etc.); we will dismount at Helen's Bay at 10.33am and walk to the Somme Centre. Some may prefer to travel on to Bangor, arriving at 10.43am in time to catch the 11.00am UlsterBus (Route 6) to Newtownards, getting off at the Somme Heritage Centre, Conlig just as Gordon's party is leaving.
The minibus and cars will drive to the Somme Centre - drive to Newtownards and take the Bangor Road. Somme Centre (BT23 7PH for SatNav) is on your left about one mile out of Newtownards.
For most, the walk starts in the car park adjacent to the Somme Heritage Centre - and passes through at Whitespots Country Park, an Area which was designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) by the DoE in 1998 - the Conlig area contains ancient copper mines - weapons forged with the copper have been found across Europe, The copper was traded for tin from Cornwall during the Bronze Age.
It was one of the most important sources for minerals in the United Kingdom during the 19th century when the mines were the largest such complex in Ireland - it produced around 13,500 tonnes of lead between the late 17th century until production stopped in 1900, after 50 years of declining production. There is still much evidence of earlier mining activity on the site including the north engine shaft chimney (left).
Notable former residents of Conlig are ex-Formula One racing driver Eddie Irvine who was raised on the outskirts of Conlig Village and Viscount Pirrie, who replaced Edward Harland as Chairman of Harland and Wolff - had he not become ill, he would have been on the Titanic's doomed maiden voyage.
Taking the path which leads to Helen's Bay we will arrive at Helen's Tower which lies in the woods of the Clandeboye Estate. The tower was commissioned by Lord Dufferin of Clandeboye, designed by Scottish architect William Burn and completed in October 1861. The tower was named in honour of Dufferin's mother, Helen Selina Blackwood, the Lady Dufferin.
A close replica of Helen's Tower, the Ulster Tower, was built at Thiepval in 1921 to honour the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division who fell at the Battle of the Somme. Clandeboye Estate was used for army training by the 36th (Ulster) Division during the First World War.
At least two poems have been written with Helen's Tower as the subject; one by Alfred Lord Tennyson and the other by Robert Browning. A verse from Tennyson's poem is reproduced below:
Helen's Tower, here I stand,
Dominant over sea and land.
Son's love built me, and I hold
Mother's love in letter'd gold.
Love is in and out of time,
I am mortal stone and lime.
Would my granite girth were strong
As either love, to last as long
I should wear my crown entire
To and thro' the Doomsday fire,
And be found of angel eyes
In earth's recurring Paradise.
Written at the request of my friend, Lord Dufferin
Walkers are expected to memorise this poem (not) before the walk.
Coming home: The minibus will take some walkers to Bangor for the train and proceed to Helen's Bay car park here it will pick up drivers only.