Historic north Belfast wood receives boost

Toni Wilkinson and Andrew Christie from Hazelwood Integrated Primary School pictured with  Warren Bell, Alpha Resource Management; Rosie Irwin, the Woodland Trust; and Richard Rogers, Groundwork Northern Ireland. Picture by Michael Cooper. INNT 43-836CON
Toni Wilkinson and Andrew Christie from Hazelwood Integrated Primary School pictured with Warren Bell, Alpha Resource Management; Rosie Irwin, the Woodland Trust; and Richard Rogers, Groundwork Northern Ireland. Picture by Michael Cooper. INNT 43-836CON

A wood at the foot of Cave Hill, is set for a face-lift thanks to funding of almost £48,000 from the Alpha Programme, administered by Groundwork NI.

The tranquil Throne Wood is owned by the Woodland Trust and has a history almost as colourful as its wildlife.

With a programme of works about to take place, the charity hopes that members of the public will be encouraged to visit this currently hidden treasure-trove.

Probably planted in the early 1800s, the wood belonged to a house marked on the 1830 Ordnance Survey map as ‘The Throne’. The renowned poet Sir Samuel Ferguson, revered by WB Yeats, actually lived here for a time in the 1820s.

The wood also holds heart-warming memories of Sheila the baby elephant, from nearby Belfast Zoo. During the Second World War a number of the zoo animals were shot on orders from the Ministry of Public Security, with fears for public safety if the animals should escape during bombing. Baby Sheila was spared and taken under the wing of one of the zoo keepers, Denise Austin. Without the knowledge of the head keeper, Denise walked the calf every night to her home via Throne Wood. Every morning she was returned to the zoo.

Today times are more peaceful and, while unfortunately only faint traces of Throne House remain, some magnificent veteran trees – including beech and lime – have managed to survive.

The mature trees, buffered by hundreds of recently planted native saplings, are alive with insects and birds, including the goldcrest, treecreeper, jay and sparrowhawk. Several species of bat, such as the common pipistrelle, have also been spotted.

Throne Wood can be accessed via the Antrim Road. It will officially show-off its new look next spring, when visitors will be treated to colourful displays of bluebell, lesser celandine and wood anemone.

For more information on Throne Wood, visit woodlandtrust.org.uk