On the north eastern shore of Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in Europe, lies a hidden gem called Rea’s Wood. The last time I was there I was about 10 years old , on a walk with my dad. Except then I didn’t know it was Rea’s Wood – it was just an area of woodland, rather stagnant and smelly as I recall, neglected too, used for dumping in areas and rather boring to my 10 year old mind !
Last Monday I got the chance to revisit it – this time on a gloriously sunny day, on my own, with my camera and perhaps now more observant and more appreciative than my 10 year old self. I parked the car and off I set, not expecting to see too much. I walked for about 10 mins along the lough path until I reached a gate denoting the entrance to Rea’s Wood. As it turns out, most of the area is now designated as a National Nature Reserve to protect the developing wet woodland and the wildlife that lives within it.
Maybe it was the sunny day, maybe it was a touch of nostalgia, maybe it was just the sheer beauty of the place, but I had the most wonderful hour walking through this wood. The froths of cow parsley, the birdsong, the wild flowers, glimpses of blue lough through the trees – all grabbed my attention as I meandered along. I didn’t recall it ever being this lovely !
There is a path you can walk along but there are also well trodden ‘unofficial’ little trails that lead you off into old woodland on the left and to more recent wet woodland and sandy coves on the right as you reach the lough’s edge. Over the years the lough has been drained and it’s the lowering of the water level that has revealed these sandy coves . I ventured over to many of these to look out at the lough beyond, glistening in the sunshine. So secluded were the coves, you could have sat there all day and enjoyed the tranquillity of the place. I spotted a heron and heard bird calls I’ve never heard before.
At the end of Rea’s Wood, you can either join the main road or retrace your steps back through the wood to the car park. I chose the latter and was rewarded again with lovely woodland views, as the dappled light lit up the path before me. The area is rich in alder, birch and willow trees forming a lush green canopy overhead.
As I looked across to my left, I noticed the sun had seeped through the canopy to light up a swathe of bluebells in the undergrowth. A beautiful scene that was the highlight of my walk…
I passed dog walkers and joggers on my route, but it mostly felt like I had the place to myself. Clearly, over the years some work has gone into protecting and preserving this natural resource and I got back to my car, really pleased I’d made the effort to explore this place many years later. I will be sure to return. I’m sure in autumn it must be beautiful too.
For those who live locally, Rea’s Wood is located at the Loughshore Park at Antrim. When you reach the marina, drive through the car park to the left and from there, follow the path to Rea’s Wood.
Have a lovely Thursday 🙂