Natural heritage in the Faughan Valley

The Faughan Valley is very important in terms of natural heritage. Significant pockets of ancient semi-natural woodland are found along the Valley. Ness Wood, Ervey Wood and Bonds Glen are all designated ASSIs for the priority woodland habitats and associated rare woodland species. Ness and Ervey Woods both contain oakwood and mixed ashwood habitats, as does Derryarkin Glen, along the Castle River, Eglinton. Bonds Glen is one of the few remaining areas in Northern Ireland with an unbroken range of woodland, from wet woodland to matured dry woodland. It also contains the rare species such as the parasitic plant toothwort and the grass wood fescue. These woodlands are also important habitat for mammals such as otters, badgers, and red squirrels with records showing a number of birds present such as the cuckoo, willow warbler, the dunnock and goldcrest. There are several other notable woodlands in the district, for example the Woodland Trust sites of Killaloo Wood and Oaks Wood (both Local Nature Reserves) and the newly acquired woodland creation site of Burntollet Wood. Also there are further small pockets of privately owned semi-natural broadleaved woodlands along the Faughan and in the Sperrins in the southeast region of the district. The Landscape Partnership Board’s vision for the future of the semi-natural woodlands along the Faughan is to take a landscape approach to the management of all these woodlands and to link them, to create an uninterrupted wildlife corridor along the river.
There are also a significant number of Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) within the Landscape Partnership area, which are in urgent need of restoration. PAWS are ancient woods that have been planted with non-native species, mostly during the 20th century with the intention of providing a strategic timber reserve. Non-native conifer plantations can have a particularly negative impact on the ecology of ancient woods, firstly through the process of establishing them and subsequently from the effects of the shade and leaf litter that they cast.
Priority heathland, bog habitats and valuable grassland habitats can also be found in the Loughermore Hills, the Sperrin Foothills and Mountains. These habitats are often the areas where the most rich and unusual communities of wildlife exist and are a crucial part of our natural heritage. Upland heath occurs on steep hill slopes and as mosaics with acid grasslands and blanket bog. It is extensive in the Sperrin Foothills representing an asset of local and national importance. Heathland and bogs are important breeding sites for some priority wader species, for example lapwing and curlew. Blanket bog is widespread in the Sperrin Mountains forming a complex habitat of cutover bog and eroded peatlands. It was also widespread in the Loughermore Hills but is now mostly cut over and some has been lost to forest plantations. Upland areas of wet grasslands increase the diversity of plant life and also provide refuge for Irish hares and breeding sites for waders such as lapwing, curlew and snipe, and skylarks. Lowland raised bog is also found in the foothills of the Sperrins. The highest peak on Sawel Mountain contains montane heathland and has cowberry occurring with bilberry and heather forming a plant association which is rare and declining in Northern Ireland. The distinct features of this mountain top habitat have been greatly diminished by heavy grazing and by walkers.
The Sperrins themselves are designated as an ESA and an AONB.


Built and cultural heritage in the FaughanValley


The Faughan Valley area has a rich collection of archaeological sites and a strong cultural heritage, the variety of sites range from Neolithic megaliths, to Bronze Age and Iron Age monuments and settlements to post-medieval Plantation Bawns. A great many of these sites are located in upland regions adjacent to the valley floor. The ancient peoples who lived in the Faughan Valley would have located their religious and burial sites in upland regions overlooking the valley for religious and strategic/territorial purposes.
The Faughan Valley is significant in terms of standing stones, orthostats, liths or more commonly, megaliths, which because of their large and cumbersome size, are solitary stones set vertically in the ground and come in many different varieties. Standing stones are usually difficult to date as there can range in date from the Neolithic period through to the Iron Age. There are a number of standing stones in the Faughan Valley area, one of which is Cregg Standing Stone outside Claudy, a magnificent quartz boulder 1.8 m high.

There are also numerous raths or ringforts within the landscape of the Faughan Valley and adjacent upland regions. These raths are the remains of settlements and enclosures used by the people who settled in the area from the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age.
On Slievegore Hill, in the upland area to the east of the River Faughan, lies a remarkable concentration of prehistoric monuments, ranging in date from 4000 to 1000BC, known as the Ballygroll Prehistoric Complex. They include a court tomb, two wedge tombs, a round cairn, a barrow and two stone circles set within the remains of the pre-bog field system. This site is managed by Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and is of great archaeological significance.
At Killaloo there are the remains of Brackfield Bawn, a fortified Plantation Bawn built by Sir Edward Doddington in the early 17th century on lands granted to the Skinners' Company of London as part of the Plantation of Ulster. The house and bawn were abandoned around 1700 but remains an impressive local feature. Other significant built heritage features in the area include Learmount Castle, Cumber House and Ling House.
 

The Faughan Valley is very important in terms of natural heritage. Significant pockets of ancient semi-natural woodland are found along the Valley. Ness Wood, Ervey Wood and Bonds Glen are all designated ASSIs for the priority woodland habitats and associated rare woodland species. Ness and Ervey Woods both contain oakwood and mixed ashwood habitats, as does Derryarkin Glen, along the Castle River, Eglinton. Bonds Glen is one of the few remaining areas in Northern Ireland with an unbroken range of woodland, from wet woodland to matured dry woodland. It also contains the rare species such as the parasitic plant toothwort and the grass wood fescue. These woodlands are also important habitat for mammals such as otters, badgers, and red squirrels with records showing a number of birds present such as the cuckoo, willow warbler, the dunnock and goldcrest. There are several other notable woodlands in the district, for example the Woodland Trust sites of Killaloo Wood and Oaks Wood (both Local Nature Reserves) and the newly acquired woodland creation site of Burntollet Wood. Also there are further small pockets of privately owned semi-natural broadleaved woodlands along the Faughan and in the Sperrins in the southeast region of the district. The Landscape Partnership Board’s vision for the future of the semi-natural woodlands along the Faughan is to take a landscape approach to the management of all these woodlands and to link them, to create an uninterrupted wildlife corridor along the river.
There are also a significant number of Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) within the Landscape Partnership area, which are in urgent need of restoration. PAWS are ancient woods that have been planted with non-native species, mostly during the 20th century with the intention of providing a strategic timber reserve. Non-native conifer plantations can have a particularly negative impact on the ecology of ancient woods, firstly through the process of establishing them and subsequently from the effects of the shade and leaf litter that they cast.
Priority heathland, bog habitats and valuable grassland habitats can also be found in the Loughermore Hills, the Sperrin Foothills and Mountains. These habitats are often the areas where the most rich and unusual communities of wildlife exist and are a crucial part of our natural heritage. Upland heath occurs on steep hill slopes and as mosaics with acid grasslands and blanket bog. It is extensive in the Sperrin Foothills representing an asset of local and national importance. Heathland and bogs are important breeding sites for some priority wader species, for example lapwing and curlew. Blanket bog is widespread in the Sperrin Mountains forming a complex habitat of cutover bog and eroded peatlands. It was also widespread in the Loughermore Hills but is now mostly cut over and some has been lost to forest plantations. Upland areas of wet grasslands increase the diversity of plant life and also provide refuge for Irish hares and breeding sites for waders such as lapwing, curlew and snipe, and skylarks. Lowland raised bog is also found in the foothills of the Sperrins. The highest peak on Sawel Mountain contains montane heathland and has cowberry occurring with bilberry and heather forming a plant association which is rare and declining in Northern Ireland. The distinct features of this mountain top habitat have been greatly diminished by heavy grazing and by walkers.
The Sperrins themselves are designated as an ESA and an AONB.


Built and cultural heritage in the FaughanValley


The Faughan Valley area has a rich collection of archaeological sites and a strong cultural heritage, the variety of sites range from Neolithic megaliths, to Bronze Age and Iron Age monuments and settlements to post-medieval Plantation Bawns. A great many of these sites are located in upland regions adjacent to the valley floor. The ancient peoples who lived in the Faughan Valley would have located their religious and burial sites in upland regions overlooking the valley for religious and strategic/territorial purposes.
The Faughan Valley is significant in terms of standing stones, orthostats, liths or more commonly, megaliths, which because of their large and cumbersome size, are solitary stones set vertically in the ground and come in many different varieties. Standing stones are usually difficult to date as there can range in date from the Neolithic period through to the Iron Age. There are a number of standing stones in the Faughan Valley area, one of which is Cregg Standing Stone outside Claudy, a magnificent quartz boulder 1.8 m high.

There are also numerous raths or ringforts within the landscape of the Faughan Valley and adjacent upland regions. These raths are the remains of settlements and enclosures used by the people who settled in the area from the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age.
On Slievegore Hill, in the upland area to the east of the River Faughan, lies a remarkable concentration of prehistoric monuments, ranging in date from 4000 to 1000BC, known as the Ballygroll Prehistoric Complex. They include a court tomb, two wedge tombs, a round cairn, a barrow and two stone circles set within the remains of the pre-bog field system. This site is managed by Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and is of great archaeological significance.
At Killaloo there are the remains of Brackfield Bawn, a fortified Plantation Bawn built by Sir Edward Doddington in the early 17th century on lands granted to the Skinners' Company of London as part of the Plantation of Ulster. The house and bawn were abandoned around 1700 but remains an impressive local feature. Other significant built heritage features in the area include Learmount Castle, Cumber House and Ling House.